"Yes, And" and "Yes, But": Using Improvisation to Construct Argument in "The Taming of the Shrew" Act 4

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SWBAT argue about whether or not "The Taming of the Shrew" is a sexist text by playing the improvisational games "Yes, And" and "Yes, But."

Big Idea

Improvisation encourages logical argument and close reading.

Teacher to Teacher: Lesson Overview and Context

The lessons in this unit showcase my pedagogic philosophy that students learn best when they are actively engaged. Traditionally teachers teach Shakespeare's plays much as we teach novels and short stories: Students read the text, analyze and discuss it, take quizzes and tests, and write a paper. What happens when we approach Shakespeare's plays through performance pedagogy and pay homage to the Bard's original intent? 

The lessons in this unit emphasize fresh approaches to literary analysis.This lesson is part of a larger unit on William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. In its unit context, this is 

Lesson 16 for The Taming of the Shrew

This lesson is #16 on the Act 4 handout and follows completion of the other Act 4 tasks. Those students who have read Act 5 will have an advantage over those who have not, but the game is one that students can play at various points in the unit. 

In this lesson students will do the following:

  • Learn the rules for two improvisational games: "Yes But" and "Yes And."
  • Prepare evidence to support their position for the question: "Is Kate tamed?"
  • Play "Yes But" to flesh out evidence to support the claim "Kate has been tamed." or "Kate has not been tamed." 
  • Prepare evidence to support their position for the question: "Is the Taming of the Shrew a Sexist text?
  • Play "Yes And" to flesh out evidence to support the claim "The Taming of the Shrew is a sexist play" or "The Taming of the Shrew is not a sexist play." 

"Yes But" and "Yes And" Tutorial

10 minutes

To introduce students to the improvisational games "Yes And" and "Yes But" I show a tutorial from Improve for Everyone. Rather than showing the tutorial all the way through, I break it into two parts. First, I show "Yes But" and then have students prepare for and play the game. Then I show them the "Yes And" section and have them prepare for and play the game. 

Preparing to Argue Using "Yes, But"

15 minutes

I put two essential questions on the board:

  • Has Kate been tamed?
  • Is The Taming of the Shrew a sexist text?

Next, I remind students that asking a question gives us a direction by pointing us toward finding an answer. Our answers become our controlling idea. Thus, we can answer the first question one of two ways:

  • No, Kate has not been tamed.
  • Yes, Kate has been tamed.

Similarly, we can answer the second question one of two ways:

  • No, The Taming of the Shrew is not a sexist play.
  • Yes, The Taming of the Shrew is a sexist play.

Now students are prepared to search the play for evidence to support their positions. I gave each student a note card on which to record notes for both questions.

Then, I gave students ten minutes on the timer to look for supporting ideas, lines, events for the first question: Has Kate been tamed. Student Notes: Has Kate Been Tamed? shows the notes one student took for "Yes But."

Has Kate Been Tamed? Arguing Using "Yes But"

10 minutes

First students played "Yes But." I decided to allow students to pair up and play the game simultaneously rather than have them take turns. Either way works, but when time is limited, and when the teacher wants all students to have a turn, and to guarantee each student is working to identify supporting information, having students discuss simultaneously works. 

The teacher circulates around the room as students play "Yes But." Since "Yes But" is about finding exceptions or refutation for a point, it's arguably more difficult to play than is "Yes And." 

As I circulate, I listen to hear whether or not students are doing several things:

  • Beginning with "Yes But" with each turn.
  • Citing specific lines and events from the play.
  • Staying on task.

When students struggle, as they will, I remind them of their task and reinforce the idea that "Yes But" both acknowledges their partner's point while taking issue with it. Students Playing "Yes But"

After students discuss (play the game) for three minutes, I have them take more notes on their note cards. I remind them that these notes will prove valuable when they write their papers. 

Fleshing Out Evidence Using "Yes And"

10 minutes

After students play "Yes But," I return to the tutorial and have them listen to the example of "Yes And." In contrast to "Yes But," the "Yes And" game builds on a claim by having both students compile evidence that supports only one position. 

Next, I invite students to take 10 minutes and find evidence to support their position on the question: Is the play sexist? Student Notes: Is TTotS Sexist? shows one student's note card in preparation of playing "Yes And."

Is "The Taming of the Shrew" Sexist? Extending Argument Using "Yes And"

15 minutes

Once students have had time to flesh out their arguments and evidence to support the claim that Kate has been tamed or the claim that Kate has not been tamed, it's time to play "Yes And." Students Playing "Yes And" shows the game in progress as students pair up and play simultaneously. Again, I put three minutes on the clock and had students add to their note cards once they finished the round. 

The clip shows two students making specific references to TTotS to support their positions. Their ability to cite the text both in terms of making and supporting claims shows the effectiveness of the "Yes And" game for fleshing out arguments: