30 Second "Macbeth": Constructing Questions and Predictions--Just Like the Weird Sisters

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SWBAT generate questions and predictions about "Macbeth" after performing the "30 Second Macbeth."

Big Idea

"Two truths are told as happy prologues."

Teacher to Teacher: Teaching Macbeth Using Performance Pedagogy from The Folger Shakespeare Library

In the previous lesson, "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow," I introduced students to Macbeth with Macbeth's final soliloquy and explain my teaching philosophy, which is performance methodology from the Folger Shakespeare Library. 

Today, students will get a sense of Macbeth's tone and mood as well as the plot by

  • Discussing an image of Macbeth and the three witches,
  • Performing a "30-Second Macbeth,"
  • Working through 1.3 in small groups, and
  • Generating questions and predictions about the tragedy. 

Macbeth Meets the Witches: Setting the Tone with an Image from the Folger Collection

5 minutes

To set the tone for The Tragedy of Macbeth, I showed students an image from the Folger digital collection titled "Macbeth Meets the Weird Sisters." I asked students to tell me what they see in the image? What mood does the image suggest? 

I want students to see the movement in the image, so I ask if they notice anything about the lines i the image. 

Students noted

  • movement in the picture,
  • women with beards,
  • darkness,
  • etc.

The image appealed to their visual proclivities and generated a lively discussion. At one point I asked a student to show me something in the picture, which was a third woman. As the students noticed details from the image, other students picked up on their observations and added their own. This, in turn, led to very "close readings" of the image. 

Performing "30-Second Macbeth"

15 minutes

Next, I distributed the "30-Second Macbeth" document to students and asked them to form a circle. 30 SecMacbeth from the Folger Shakespeare Library. This version is slightly different from the one I used in the lesson.

I told students that the document is a shrunken version of Macbeth that gives a pretty good overview of the play. I then explained that we would take turns reading with each student reading to a hard stop. Then we reviewed the definition of a hard stop: a period, an exclamation point, a semicolon, and a colon. This is important because students often think commas are hard stops, but they are not. Reviewing the hard stops allows an opportunity for review. For example, I often remind students that a semicolon can do the job of a period and that a colon says, "something follows." 

The first reading is a little slow and rough. Some students needed prompting with the lines, both in terms of pronunciation and learning that an apostrophe is Shakespeare's way of tweaking meter by changing the pronunciation of words. 

Next, I asked students what they observed about setting, characters, etc. Several mentioned details from the script. 

Since not all students had the opportunity to read the first run-through, I invite them to read again and begin with the next student. 

Again, we followed the reading w/ more discussion about what students learned about the play. 

A colleague was visiting, and gave us our time, which was over 40 seconds. This perceived failure to meet the 30-second benchmark prompted students to want to try again, which we did. 

I then asked if any student wanted to try one more time, and we succeeded in getting two students to do another run-through. It was fast and fun but not quite 30 seconds. 

Read Around 1.3: Small Group Performance

20 minutes

Next, I distribute copies of 1.3  (Act 1 SCENE III) and tell students they need to read the scene in small groups and each needs to generate a question, write it on a post-it note (which I distribute), and be prepared to share the questions with the class. 

I begin w/ 1.3 because it's at this point that Macbeth meets the witches and begins to make some bad decisions. It's the scene that has a direct tie to the "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" soliloquy in Act 5, and it's a scene that ties into the image we began the lesson with. 

I remind students that they will have a short amount of time for their reading and then set the timer for 15 minutes. 

As the students read, I circulate around the room and respond to their questions, help them with vocabulary, etc. 

Generating Questions and Predictions in Act 1.3

20 minutes

After students have a chance to read, it's time to share our questions. To accomplish this, I gave each a post-it on which to compose their questions.

Since I want to focus on the students, I enlist a student volunteer to write the questions on the board. Student Generated Questions shows the list of questions my volunteered transcribed onto the white board. 

The students posed some excellent questions, which I invite them to jot down in their notes. I tell them that these will become questions for which we can seek answers as we read. I try not to give them the answers at this time, and I enjoy saying, "I don't know" when they press me for a response.