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Students have been reading "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" aloud in class to prepare for a full production performed by Montana Shakespeare in the Schools. Each student reads a different role in play, with large roles divided between two or three students. In this lesson which is part of the larger unit, students employ listening strategies to keep a double-entry journal recording observations for a later class discussion.
We begin class by wrapping up the last part of Act I. Students have their character roles firmly established now and are focused on cues and developing their character. The students who are sitting down and watching keep double-entry journals to better understand what is happening. A double-entry journal is simply a piece of paper with a line down the middle. On the left side is a short quite, no more than two lines of dialogue; on the right side are students' recorded reactions to the text. These reactions should be short notations students use later for class discussion. I ask students to make a goal of recording at least four entries per class. Double-entry journals are a great way for students to develop skills for recording textual evidence. Students know they will have to discuss the scene at several points during class and they will be expected to use the text in their responses. A double-entry journal is a way for them to record their thoughts and confusions for later use.
The scene we left off at yesterday featured Julia and Lucetta. Julia has a letter from Proteus, but in a fit of contrariness she rips it up. To encourage students' active participation and to see how Shakespeare timed his stage directions, I give my students a piece of paper to rip up and instruct them to try to act out the physical humor as best they can while holding a copy of the play in one hand. When Lucetta comes back in, I instruct that student to pick up the bits of paper when Lucetta does in the play.
We discuss how the physical actions make Julia and Lucetta's emotional states more real and though there are few physical stage directions, the importance of action during the play. We briefly touch on the improvisations that actors might bring to each character and the variety of tone and emotion they could give the scene.
The opening scene of Act II when Valentine sees Silvia's glove is a great place to discuss motives and appearances.
I begin this scene by asking students: "Have you ever been out with your friends and you point your crush out to your friend and then he says her name really loud?"
Most of the kids have had that happen to them, or they've been the friend.
"Let's see if that happens in this scene and what Valentine does?"
The student who reads for Valentine takes the hint and begins the scene by whispering, his classmate gets into the ideas as well, and yells "Madam, Silvia!" in a comic falsetto.
We read their exchange back and forth and then I ask the students what's changed about Valentine. They agree that falling in love has made him a little stupid.
This introduction to Launce and Crabbe is rather long, but also one of the funniest scenes in the play. Again, I walk the student through the lines first, and we discuss where exactly it would be the most humorous for Launce to take off his shoe and what part of the shoe he should talk to. The text gives some ideas, but the student who reads Launce's part wants to speak into the opening of the shoe, all the while, grimacing. It can be quite funny to see a student holding a show up to his face while trying to read Launce's lower-class Londoner's dialect.