How to be Machiavellian and Other Useful Techniques for Taking Over the World: Reading and Analysis (Day 1 of 4)

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SWBAT demonstrate their ability to analyze how an author's ideas or claims are developed by reading, objectively summarizing, and responding to quotes and excerpted chapters of Machiavelli's The Prince.

Big Idea

Defining Machiavelli's strategies for world domination can provide a great foundation for evaluation of world leaders.


10 minutes

We will give the students their choice reading time. I will remind them, as many of them should be getting close to the end of their book, that they will need to make a trip to the library to get a new book so they are prepared for coming weeks.

Machiavelli Quote Gallery Walk

10 minutes

Today we will be moving from Japan and the Middle East to Europe, where we will be camping out for awhile.

Our first text, which is a joint text for Social Studies and English, is Machiavelli's The Prince. Not only is this a fantastic text for introducing students to the mindset and political climate of Renaissance Europe, it is hands down one of my two favorite texts for teaching the impact of rhetoric (the other is Julius Caesar, but there isn't time for both this year). Machiavelli is a master of manipulation through language and rhetorical appeal and I am hoping that my students will master their rhetorical analysis by diving into his craft. We will also be discussing the idea of Machiavellian leaders later in this unit, so it is essential for my students to recognize what characteristics he embodied to make his name an adjective for describing cunning and powerful men. 

To begin our study of the author and his work, I will post quotes by Machiavelli around the classroom and have students choose five of the 20 to paraphrase/translate/objectively summarize into their own words (L.9-10.3 and RI.9-10.2). I will have them take notes on these quotes so that when they return to their seats, we can talk about what kind of person Machiavelli is based on what he wrote/said (RI.9-10.1).

While the students are wandering around the room, I will wander with them to answer questions about vocabulary and push them to look for context clues so that we can begin to build that standards-based skill in a less formal way (L.9-10.4a).

Machiavelli Background Notes

10 minutes

After the quote walk, I will have students return to their seats and ask them to share observations about Machiavelli's philosophies. I will also make sure that they understand the main theme of his writing "the ends justify the means" (RI.9-10.2).

After we have read more of the text, I will expect students to do some rhetorical analysis of his ideas. As such, it is important to set up the contextual understanding for our reading. Even though I generally dislike lecturing (I think students have a hard time engaging with a talking head), I will give a few overview notes about Machiavelli's Italy and life using a simple power point presentation.

Machiavelli Reading Strategies/Assignment

20 minutes

Once we've had a chance to get to know the author, we will move on to spend some time with his writing. 

I will ask students to read the first section of text with me so that we can discuss reading strategies for this text. Machiavelli includes very specific details for his Renaissance Italian audience, which my students don't need to spend much time with. I will show them how to identify passages that they can skim/scan so that they can spend the bulk of their attention on passages that inform us about Machiavelli's philosophy.

I find that students need guidance to read informational texts, especially their history textbooks and/or primary source documents, as they have a hard time identifying what is essential information. I don't always want to have to give them a reading guide. Though I will provide this today, I'm hoping that teaching them ways to identify what information they need and then how to read for this information will be a skill they can transfer to multiple disciplines. 

After we read, objectively summarize (RI.9-10.2), and analyze the first passage together, I will ask the students to continue this work on their own with the remaining chunks of text in order to determine how Machiavelli develops his claims (RI.9-10.5). Each student will be assigned one chapter to read, summarize and analyze using the reading guide provided. I will assign each student a chapter based on his or her reading ability, which I will ascertain from their state reading scores. 

Wrap up and Next Steps

5 minutes

After they have had some time to read on their own, I will pull them back together to ask any final questions. I will then remind them that they have to have their chapter read with the notes on characteristics and actions a prince should have and take ready for Monday's class.