MACBETH: Unpacking Characters and Central Ideas Day Four

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SWBAT demonstrate understanding of characterization and central ideas in MACBETH through project-based learning and collaborative discussion.

Big Idea

"Character develops in the stream of life." ---Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Note to Teachers: Brief Outline of Preceding Lessons

To provide you with context for today's lesson, here's a brief outline of preceding lessons: 

Day One (Narration: Unpacking Characters Day One): students created questions on central ideas from Macbeth for future discussion (Assignment: Warm-Up Central Ideas MACBETH) and created slideshows and self-generated videos on assigned characters on assigned characters in Macbeth for the Unpacking Characters Assignment (Assignment: Unpacking Characters). 

Day Two: students continue working on their slideshows and videos, and they work with me and a teacher-colleague to identify significant questions for discussion (Student Work: Central Ideas Warm-Up) on Day Three and today, Day Four.

Day Three: students present their slideshows and self-generated videos for the Unpacking Characters Assignment.  Then we move to the Unpacking Central Ideas discussion (Assignment: Central Ideas Discussion). We start the activity with each group discussing questions as readers then as their characters, using a double-entry journal to record their responses (Student Work: Collaborative Discussion Central Ideas) and debrief on the Macbeth group responses due to time constraints.  


Lesson Overview and Rationale

My classes are held in 100-minute block sessions.  The activities in this lesson are a follow-up to three previous lessons on Unpacking Characters and Central Ideas. 

Unpacking characters goes hand-in-hand with exploring central ideas from the play.  Shakespeare's design of individual characters and their interactions function to drive the plot, and to convey mood and meaning to the reader.  While completing the unpacking characters performance task on Days One through Three, students engaged in analysis, interpretation, and articulation of how Shakespeare uses language to develop character.  Beginning the collaborative discussion last class demonstrated my deliberate practice that in tandem, the unpacking characters and central ideas activities provide students with opportunities to parcel out their evaluation of characters and build upon them to explore broader issues in Macbeth.

Today, we finish the collaborative discussion, debrief, and reflect on our learning. The lesson below outlines Day Four of activities, which takes about 75 minutes to complete.

Unpacking Central Ideas - Collaborative Discussion Part Two

70 minutes

I explain to students that today we will conclude our collaborative discussion of central ideas in Macbeth.  Students get back into their established groups:

  • Group One - Macbeth
  • Group Two - Banquo
  • Group Three - Lady Macbeth
  • Group Four - The Witches
  • Group Five - The Macbeth Marriage.


We review the assignment (Assignment: Central Ideas Discussion) to ensure everyone understands the directions due to its highly complex nature. First, groups answer each question as readers and record their answers in the left column of the double-entry journal. Next, groups (1) revisit the question as their characters; (2) determine how much information their character has about events in the play to answer the question; and (3) evaluate whether or not their character can fully answer the question given this knowledge.

After students complete their discussion in groups (Student Work: Central Ideas Discussion - Double-Entry Journal), we debrief as a class with group spokespersons sharing their answers.  Students notice that they have a deeper understanding of characters' points of view and how Shakespeare designs character interactions to create mood and facilitate meaning-making.  During the discussion, students talk about the lessons they have learned from Macbeth so far, such as the following:

  • Manipulation may lead to one's demise. 
  • Power can corrupt individuals if they lose sight of who they are. 
  • Fate will take its course regardless of people trying to change it.
  • Free will and the desire for power temper fate.

Students are eager to see how Macbeth's downfall takes place as we explore the play's resolution next class.

Ticket Out: Reflection

5 minutes

To check student understanding, I ask students to write down what they learned from our collaborative discussion of central ideas in Macbeth as a ticket out (Student Work: Reflection on Central Ideas Discussion).  One student's reflection strikes a chord with me: "From our class discussions, I believe that in life people can make their own decisions, and those decisions can change the outcome.  In Macbeth, I believe that power can change people and make people do things they normally wouldn't do." This reflection shows me that students are not only learning lessons about literature and language, but they are learning lessons about life.