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Teacher Resources by Grade
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Becoming History Detectives Using Shakespeare’s Secret
|Grades||6 – 8|
|Lesson Plan Type||Standard Lesson|
|Estimated Time||Five 60-minute sessions|
- Access prior knowledge by summarizing the novel
- Use skimming techniques to identify historical details featured in the novel
- Use brainstorming to identify inquiry questions
- Conduct research into a specified topic by using a variety of online resources
- Extend and synthesize what they have learned by working in cooperative groups to plan, write, and perform a short dramatic skit
|1.||Introduce the lesson by saying, "We're going to start working on a new project that draws from the historical details found in Shakespeare's Secret. You will become history detectives." Invite a few volunteers to briefly summarize the novel as a quick refresher for everyone. Plot points will vary and will likely include references to Hero's experiences at school, interactions with her family, time spent with Danny and Mrs. Roth, and so on. Accept all correct observations, making sure that the following points are mentioned:
|2.||Explain to students that they will be using the book as a springboard for further inquiry into an issue that scholars are debating in real life. Ask students to brainstorm what that issue might be, leading them to the question of who really wrote William Shakespeare's works. Tell students that at the end of the unit they will also develop and perform short dramatic skits related to their research.
|3.||Give students a few minutes to scan the book, particularly Chapter 5, for the historical details the author includes. Discuss students' findings and recollections, listing them on chart paper as you go. Help students focus the discussion on the points they think might be the most useful to them.
Sample Points from Shakespeare's Secret
|4.||Demonstrate the ReadWriteThink Notetaker tool by working through the online tutorial, which follows after the opening screen. The tutorial also provides natural opportunities to briefly review notetaking techniques with your students. As you conduct the tutorial, insert sample topics relevant to the assignment students will be working on. Topics can vary, but examples may include:
I. Why the authorship issue was raised
II. Information that supports Shakespeare as the author
III. Information that supports de Vere as the author
IV. My thoughts about the authorship issue
|5.||Tell students that they will use the Notetaker tool to take notes while conducting their research online. You may wish to allow each individual to choose his or her organizational format (bullets, Roman numerals, or letters), or you can assign a single format to your class.
Homework: Students should make individual lists of the main topics they want to research in their quest to learn more about whether Shakespeare wrote the works attributed to him.
|1.||Begin this session by asking students to share research ideas from their homework assignment. Focus on what students feel are the most important topics to research. These topics may include:
|2.||Extend students' inquiry by asking them whether other questions come to mind, particularly regarding the importance of this issue. For example, "How important is it to know for sure who wrote the works?" or "What kinds of things might happen if we found out Shakespeare did not write what we thought he did?" Prompt students for other questions they may have, accepting all reasonable responses and encouraging students to jot them down. Questions may include:
|3.||Give students the rest of the session to work as history detectives, conducting their research using the recommended websites and any others you have selected (see Preparation, Step 4). Be sure to provide some guidance about efficiently accessing the most relevant information on the sites. Remind them to keep careful notes using the ReadWriteThink Notetaker tool. They should also transfer any relevant notes they have already made to the Notetaker tool. Check on students' progress as they are working, making sure you are available to answer questions about the task or the Notetaker tool.
|4.||In closing, tell students that in the next session they will work in groups to write short dramatic skits related to the Shakespeare-de Vere question.
Homework: Any students who have not completed their online research should do so before Session 3. Each student should also complete the History Detective Notetaker: Checklist and Reflections sheet.
|1.||Ask students about their experiences as history detectives. First, find out whether students have any questions about what they found during their online research or about using the ReadWriteThink Notetaker. Then, ask whether they were able to gather lots of interesting and varied information about Shakespeare and de Vere.
|2.||Tell students that in this session they will work together to write skits. Spend a few minutes going over a simple format they can use for writing the script. Write examples of the format on chart paper, adding to each element as you go.
Little Girl: "May I have some ice cream?"
Little Girl: "May I have some ice cream?" (She tugs on her mother's arm)
|3.||Assign students to groups of four to five, and explain the scriptwriting task. Each group will plan, write, and perform a short creative skit about the authorship question discussed in Shakespeare's Secret using the novel and the research they conducted in Session 2. Each skit should last no longer than five minutes. Characters in the skit should be characters from the novel. Make sure students understand that anyone mentioned in the book, real or fictional, is fair game. Have students brainstorm characters they might feature in their skits including:
|4.||Emphasize to students that the skit can be about anything they want-as long as the characters are in some way talking about or addressing the Shakespeare authorship question. Encourage them to be creative and incorporate what they have learned from their research. Ask volunteers to share a few possible concepts for the skit, such as:
|5.||Make sure that each group divides up the work among its members. Although students will discuss and plan the skit as a group, individual tasks may include writing or typing the script, incorporating research information into the dialogue, performing, directing, and gathering any simple props.
|6.||Give students the remainder of the session to work on their skits. Stop by each group's workspace to observe and offer guidance.
Homework: Encourage groups to get together outside class, as needed, to work on finalizing their scripts before Session 4.
|1.||This entire session should be dedicated to allowing groups to polish their scripts and rehearse the final versions several times from start to finish. (It is not necessary for students to memorize their parts, but they should be comfortable with the content.)
|2.||Check in with each group to see how they are doing and watch at least one run-through of their performance. Offer encouragement and suggestions for improvement as necessary. Remind students of the five-minute time limit for the skit and encourage them to track their performance time during rehearsal.
|1.||Have each group present their skit to the class, allowing for a brief round of audience appreciation and commentary after each performance. Have a volunteer time each skit with a stopwatch to keep everyone on schedule.
|2.||Distribute the History Detective: Skit Assessment sheets and have students assess their performance on the project using the scoring key at the bottom.
|3.||Conclude the lesson with a class discussion about the lesson experience, posing some or all of the following questions:
- Challenge interested students to read Much Ado About Nothing. They can read it online using a public domain literature database such as Project Gutenberg. Encourage them to write and perform a skit that ties events or characters in the play to the Shakespeare-de Vere question they have been studying. Alternately, they can create a skit that compares the Beatrice and Hero characters in both the play and the novel Shakespeare's Secret.
- Invite students to do additional research on the historical details found in Shakespeare's Secret. For example, instead of focusing on the authorship question, they can explore de Vere's relationships with Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn. Have them use the ReadWriteThink Notetaker tool to organize their findings. Then encourage them to present what they have learned to the class in an interesting way.
- Once students have studied some of the details of Shakespeare's life, challenge them to complete a crossword puzzle. Visit the online Crossword Puzzle tool and select Play One of Ours and the 9-12 tab. In the drop-down menu you will find a puzzle titled An Introduction to William Shakespeare. Students can solve the puzzle online or you can print it off and give them blank copies. For more information about the puzzle, see Playing Puzzles: A Guide for Teachers.
- Observe students during class discussions and while working on their online research and skits to ensure that they understand the assignments and are keeping pace with the individual tasks. Provide any additional guidance as needed.
- Review the completed History Detective Notetaker: Checklist and Reflections sheets to ensure that students made effective use of the ReadWriteThink Notetaker tool.
- Review the completed History Detective: Skit Assessment sheets and add your own scoring of each student’s performance to provide feedback on the quality of his or her work on the skit project.
- Conduct the final class discussion in Session 5 to synthesize what students have learned, draw connections to current events or their own lives, and reflect on their final conclusions.