This lesson is an adaption of a lesson designed to engage reluctant readers and is found in Reading, Writing, and Rising Up: Teaching about Social Justice and the Power of the Written Word. The original lesson is for Their Eyes are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I changed the the lesson to Othello and modified it to meet the needs of my students.
Christensen, Linda. Reading, Writing, and Rising Up: Teaching about Social Justice and the Power ofthe Written Word. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, 2000. Print.
Sophomores at Tucson High take world history. My students are divided among AP World, Honors World and standard World History. So, their knowledge about 16th century Europe varies based on interest and exposure. So to establish common ground, I ask them to discuss in their groups the following topics. The topics are stated on the first slide of the PowerPoint called let's get the party started.
After about 10 minutes of discussion, I ask for volunteers to teach the class about topics. I call on a student, s/he comes to the front of the room to explain what s/he knows about the subject. When s/he finishes, I ask if anyone has a question or something to add. Once everyone is satisfied we move onto the next topic.
For the 5th topic, I simply explain that a five act Shakespearean play follows the plot map. Act I is exposition, Act II is rising action etc.
Now, it is time to really get the party started. I have the students line up in the hall--one girls' line and one boys' line. As each student enters the room I give him/her a color coded slip of paper. The information on the slips are characters from Othello. Each student is someone on the Othello's guest list for the bon voyage party for the Venetians leaving to battle the Turks. The students sit at a table that is marked with the same color paper as their character slip. I tell them that they can read their slip but ask that they do not show it to anyone else.
The following invitation to the party is on the board.
The goal is to have at least five characters at each party. Each student reads his/her character description and completes the first two party questions on their handout.
1. Read your role—do not share it with anyone else. Paraphrase the key points about your character.
2. What are some questions you may have about your character? (This ensures that there are no yes/no questions, but rather good discussion questions)
The group that they work in for this party project, is their primary reading and discussion group for Othello so I want them to get comfortable with each other. I have them engage in this activity because as we read the play, I want to hear them defend their assigned character, be shocked at the behavior of the character, and feel remorse for their character. In other words, I want them to own the character and be able to explain the evolution of the character from the beginning to the end of Othello (CCSS RL 9-10 3).
It is time to start the party. Each student takes on the role of the character. They have to ask and answer questions from the rest of the guests at the party to determine how each person at the party is connected to the others. As they get to know the other characters, they write the information on their party questions handout.
I circulate the room helping students formulate questions and listening to character descriptions. The more students get into the role-playing for the party the more likely they are to embrace their characters. For example, here is a student talking about Emilia's connection to Desdemona and another student talking about Othello and Desdemona's marriage.
The party is over. Now the students have an opportunity to reflect on the characters, ask questions and make predictions.
After they finish writing, I ask them to share some predictions with the class. Most of the predictions center on the male characters such as this prediction about Cassio. They also focus on Othello and Iago.
I collect their papers. When we finish the play, I will return them and they have to answer their own questions and correct any errors in their predictions.
Finally I pass out the act 1 character chart. I remind them that characterization is based on what a character says and does and what other characters say about him/her. We begin reading in our groups. Their homework is to read Act I and complete the character chart.