Editing as Close-Reading: Cutting and Performing Complex Texts

TM19 - Cutting & Performing Complex Text.jpg

replica printing press

Replica Printing Press. © Enche Tjin, Bucknell University.

Author: Scott O'Neil teaches at North Harford High School, Pylesville, MD

Editor: Greta Brasgalla, Folger National Teacher Corps and Curriculum Specialist at El Dorado High School, El Paso, TX

Common Core Anchor Standards: R.1, R.3, R.4, SL.1

Texts: Any complex text, Shakespeare or non-Shakespeare.

Lesson Overview

Students will perform a close reading of a scene from Shakespeare (or another complex text). Students will evaluate the more important elements of a scene including plot, tone, and movement.

Time: One to two 45-minute class periods



What To Do

Day One

  1. Have students discuss the main criteria for editing or cutting a scene:
    • What does the audience HAVE to know?
    • Does the scene still make logical sense after the cuts?
    • Is the storyline still clear?
    • Are there any key words/phrases that must be retained?
  2. Divide students into groups of four or five and distribute copies of a scene with which students are familiar.
  3. Have students read through the scene together aloud and discuss options for where cuts could occur. Give the students a percentage of text to cut: 20 lines, 50%, etc.
  4. You can also have the students add a certain number of tone words, stage movements, and stage business to the prompt book.
  5. Students can also add one of the following: a moment of laughter, a moment of crying, a ten second pause, a tableau, a modern prop, a whisper, a line spoken directly to the audience, or a line spoken chorally.
  6. Students can also add one costume change (a hat, a scarf, etc) and one prop.
  7. All movements, tone words, extras must be written into the prompt book. Colored pens and highlighters make this easier to read.
  8. Allow students time to practice after they have made their scene cuts.

Day Two

  1. Allow students some time to finalize their rehearsals.
  2. Have students perform their cut scenes to each other and discuss their editing choices.


  • Have students evaluate the other group’s performance. Did you understand the cuts the group made? Was the scene understandable? What was your favorite part?
  • Groups will hand in completed prompt book for the teacher to assess.