Who's Who in Padua? A Visual Quiz for Acts 1-2 of "The Taming of the Shrew"

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SWBAT create a visual representation of Acts 1 and 2 of "The Taming of the Shrew" that shows the character traits and relationships among them.

Big Idea

Visual analysis of a text supports close reading.

Teacher to Teacher: Lesson Overview and Context

Traditionally teachers teach Shakespeare's plays much as we teach novels and short stories: Students read the text, analyze and discuss it, take quizzes and tests, and write a paper. What happens when we approach Shakespeare's plays through performance pedagogy and pay homage to the Bard's original intent? 

Here the lesson is part of a unit emphasizing fresh approaches to literary analysis and showcases my pedagogical  philosophy that students learn best when actively engaged in learning.

In its unit context, this is 

Lesson 6 for The Taming of the Shrew

In this lesson, students complete a formative assessment, which takes the form of a visual quiz.

The quiz follows completion of Act 2 tasks but may also be used as an assessment for Act 1 once it has been finished.

Assigning a Visual Quiz

10 minutes

Tell a class of students they're taking a quiz, and the announcement will be accompanied by "wailing and gnashing of teeth." Tell students they're taking a visual quiz and that for this quiz they may

  • work with a partner,
  • use a script of the play,
  • use notes,
  • and draw pictures

and by the end of the period the teacher may hear, "I really like doing things like this." 

I assigned today's visual quiz for several reasons:

  • I'm interested in creating a "mind fake" that gets students to reread the acts we've studied so far.
  • I'm interested in seeing what students know rather than in having them think I'm tricking them into missing questions of a test.
  • I am pedagogical opposed to the overemphasis on standardized testing and its reductive tendency to reduce learning to bubble sheets and writing to twenty-minute time frames that require students to rely on unsound tricks. 
  • A visual quiz emphasizes critical thinking, which is the most important reason for choosing this format. 


  • Hand out the quiz assignment and paper. Who’s Who in Padua.docx
  • Review the handout.
  • Show the students an example. For this I created a visual based on the first eight lines of the Induction. I used the Induction rather than Act 1 or 2 since they are the basis of the quiz. 
  • Monitor student work. 

Working in Pairs

50 minutes

Since this type of quiz is new to students, it's important to monitor their work throughout the period. 

One pair kept asking questions that made me think they were taking a "less is more" approach to the task. For example, "Do we have to put the servants from Act 1 into our drawing." To answer, I posed a question: "Do the servants have a relationship with any of the characters in the act?" The pair asked several such questions, so after about the third one, I told them that their questions made me think they're looking for ways to avoid work rather than for ways to show me their understanding of the act. 

Interestingly, the students, for the most part, took a very linear approach to the quiz. Student Work Act 1I'm not sure why yet, but I was both curious and a little concerned. I wander if students have been forced into linear thinking or if a linear presentation helps them organize complex tasks. 

Those who incorporated both visual representations as well as textual ones produced a more thorough analysis of the text. Student Analysis Act 1


Finishing Up

Students who did not finish were allowed to stay into lunch and continue working. I did not allow students to take the quiz home or offer to let anyone return later to continue working on it since it is, after all, a quiz.