Synthesis Essay: "The Taming of the Shrew"

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SWBAT synthesize their learning into an argumentative essay that articulates their position on an essential question raised in "The Taming of the Shrew."

Big Idea

A synthesis essay based on primary texts empowers students' writing in substantive ways.

Teacher to Teacher: Lesson Context and Time Frame

How should we study and teach Shakespeare's plays? From the earliest days of my career, this question has echoed in my mind. Yet despite my drama certification, I allowed myself to be influenced by prevailing pedagogy and for years eschewed what I knew in my heart, soul, and mind: Plays are meant to be performed. This is how actors study a play, by blocking and close oral reading of lines.

Not until I studied with the Folger Shakespeare library did I return to my roots. Thus, this unit showcases my pedagogical philosophy that performance pedagogy represents best practices for teaching Shakespeare in ELA classrooms. 

A note on the text: I use the Folger Shakespeare Library edition of The Taming of the Shrew; consequently, all textual references correspond to that text. It's available online as a digital edition (free) from the Folger Shakespeare Library. 

Lesson 16 of The Taming of the Shrew

This is 3-day lesson in which students will 

  • Draft a synthesis essay. (Day 1, the lesson featured here)
  • Peer evaluate their synthesis essays using Way to Go/Way to Grow or RADaR revision. (Day 2) For the RADaR revision technique, see the lesson "Revising with RADaR Revision")
  • Revise the synthesis essay. (Day 3, which is a lab day when students work on their final drafts and hand them in to me)

On day 1, students will accomplish the following:

  • Set their papers up for drafting.
  • Use the resources from class to find evidence for their essays.
  • Compose a synthesis essay.

This lesson uses resources from several previous lessons:

  • "The Good and the Badde"
  • Carousel Discussion: The Taming of the Shrew
  • Unmasking Kate in "The Taming of the Shrew": An Interview with Professors Jay Halio and Stephen Dickey 
  • "The Taming of the Shrew: A Modern Perspective (an essay in the Folger Shakespeare Library edition of The Taming of the Shrew but that is not in this unit. However, the lesson "Unmasking Kate" has resources for teaching GIST summarizing, and I have included student GIST summaries from their reading of "The Taming of the Shrew: A Modern Perspective" by Karen Newman).

A word on assessment of student writing:

There is no traditional rubric included in this lesson. I don't use rubrics. Rethinking Rubrics in Writing Assessment cover is a book that has informed and validated my thinking about rubrics. I comment on this in the reflection and include an interview with Maja Wilson, author of Rethinking Rubrics in Writing Assessment.


Introduce the Essay Assignment

10 minutes

As students enter the lab, I give them a copy of the essay assignment, Taming of the Shrew Essay, which we have already discussed in terms of generating a thesis using the Thesis Generator handout designed by Jim Burke but with the example I composed. 

The handout gives information about the three-day schedule, formatting, resources, etc. and assures students they know what to do for this assignment. This is important because many have told me, "I'm really nervous about this essay." 

My response to them is, "You have ideas that you have shared with me and your peers throughout the unit. You have many writing samples that you can use in your paper, and you know how to format the paper. There is no need to worry, especially because we'll peer evaluate the paper, do RADaR revision, and have a conference together so that you know how to revise the paper." 

Taking Time to Write

60 minutes

During this class period, students have a large chunk of time to begin composing the first draft of their papers. 

During this time, my job is to circulate around the lab and assist students w/ mundane tasks such as formatting the paper, saving to their school drive or uploading to Google Drive, which I prefer they do, or emailing the essay to themselves at the end of the period so that they can continue working on it at home. 

Most importantly, I check to see that students have all their resources available, beginning with their scripts of the play and continuing with their copies of The Good and the Badde, their two GIST summaries and notes, their carousel discussion notes, and their classroom notes and any other materials we used or produced in class. GIST summary "A Modern Perspective", for example, is one resource students have available to use. 

I do not allow students to search the internet for information and assure students I'll know when they use sources other than those from class. 

The lesson image shows a student using the Folger Digital text for The Taming of the Shrew, which I showed them early in the unit and encouraged them to use. This student also has a hard copy of the play, but the digital text makes searching easier and allow him to put his essay side by side with the digital text. 

Michael Whitmore, the director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, shares the Folger vision for digitizing all 37 of Shakespeare's plays:

After this first day of three, students will have a draft of the essay that they can ten revise: Student essay draft w/ markup and Revising essay using Word commenting and markup both show two students' revision processes. 

Don't Forget to Save!

5 minutes

I remind students to save their papers to the school drive and email them so that they can continue working at home. Students may also print a copy so they have it in class the next day. 

Students may also choose to upload the essay to Google Drive or Dropbox, as this student does: Uploading to Google Drive.