Author’s Craft: The Poetry of the Play | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M2B:U1:L12

Author’s Craft: The Poetry of the Play

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can analyze the development of a theme or central idea throughout the text (including its relationship to supporting ideas). (RL.8.2)
  • I can analyze the impact of word choice on meaning and tone (analogies or allusions). (RL.8.4)

Supporting Targets

  • I can analyze the theme of control in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  • I can analyze the poetic language or verse in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Ongoing Assessment

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream structured notes, 1.2.1-107 (from homework)


AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

     A.  Engaging the Reader: Discussing the Focus Question (3 minutes)

     B.  Reviewing Learning Targets (1 minute)

2.  Work Time

     A.  Feeling Shakespeare's Rhythm (25 minutes)

     B.  Drama Circle: Act 2, Scene 1, Part 1 (15 minutes)

3.  Closing and Assessment

      A.  Previewing Homework (1 minute)

4.  Homework

     A.  Reread 2.1.33-60 and 2.1.153-194 and complete the structured notes. 

  • In this lesson, students begin reading Act 2, Scene 1 of A Midsummer Night's Dream. In the first half of the lesson, students participate in a full-class read-aloud designed to help them "feel" the rhythm of Shakespeare's poetry in the play. In the second half of the lesson, students read the play using the Drama Circle routine they are familiar with from previous lessons.
  • This lesson's focus on poetic language aims to introduce students to the fact that Shakespeare deliberately set up rhyme, rhythm, and meter in this play. In Lesson 14, students will analyze how Shakespeare used this language to differentiate his characters and set certain tones throughout the play.
  • Students continue to study the play's thematic concept of control. They will track this thematic concept throughout the rest of this module, practicing argumentative writing about control in their End of Unit 2 Assessment (Argumentative Essay: Controlling Others in A Midsummer Night's Dream) and narrative writing in this module's final performance task (Character Confessions essay).
  • Parts of this lesson draw inspiration from Lesson 5 on A Midsummer Night's Dream in Shakespeare Set Free; refer to that book for more details and additional activities.
  • Students skip some lines in this scene, in order to focus their attention on the lines that propel the plot forward and that develop the characters and themes in the play.
  • In advance: Review Act 2, Scene 1 Teacher's Guide, Part 1.
  • Post: Learning targets.


verse; rhythm, meter, stressed syllable, iambic pentameter; jest (2.1.46), lurk (2.1.49), civil (2.1.157), madly (2.1.177), pursue (2.1.189)


  • Evidence of Control note-catcher (from Lesson 10; one per student)
  • Play Map (from Lesson 8; one per student)
  • Tips for Reading Shakespeare handout (from Lesson 9; one per student)
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream (book; one per student)
  • Act 2, Scene 1 Teacher's Guide, Part 1 (for teacher reference)
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream structured notes, 2.1.33-60, 153-194 (one per student)
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream supported structured notes, 2.1.33-60, 153-194 (optional; for students who need additional support)
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream Structured Notes Teacher's Guide, 2.1.33-60, 153-194 (for teacher reference) 



A. Engaging the Reader: Discussing the Focus Question (3 minutes)

  • Invite students to sit with their Albany discussion partners to discuss the focus question from last night's structured notes:

*   "Who controls this scene? How do you know?"

  • After 2 minutes, cold call one or two pairs to share out. Students may have different answers; some may say Bottom controls the scene, others may say Quince, and others may argue that no one is in control. Each of these answers can be supported with evidence from the text.
  • Invite students to add to their Evidence of Control note-catchers.
  • Tell students that they will begin reading Act 2 today, and they will be introduced to a new character, Robin Goodfellow, who causes a lot of trouble for everyone else in this play. 

B. Reviewing Learning Targets (1 minute)

  • Read the learning targets aloud as students follow along silently:

*   "I can analyze the theme of control in A Midsummer Night's Dream."

*   "I can analyze the poetic language or verse in A Midsummer Night's Dream."

  • Tell students that in this lesson, they will look more closely at the way Shakespeare used poetry within this play.
  • Have students take out their Play Maps (from Lesson 8) and Tips for Reading Shakespeare handout (from Lesson 9) to use as references.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Feeling Shakespeare's Rhythm (25 minutes)

  • Invite students to set their chairs up for today's Drama Circle. Make sure they have their text, A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  • Tell them that today's Drama Circle will work a little bit differently than usual. First, students will participate in a full-class read-aloud to get a feel for how Shakespeare used poetry in this play. Then, they will segue into the Drama Circle routine they are used to, with different students playing the various roles in the scene.
  • Tell students that they will skip the beginning of this scene in order to have more time to focus specifically on the rhythm of Shakespeare's language, which is one reasons Shakespeare's writing has such universal appeal. Be sure to set the stage by giving them a brief summary of the skipped lines: Robin Goodfellow, a mischievous fairy, meets up with another unnamed fairy in the woods. They talk about the fact that the king and queen of the fairies (Oberon and Titania) are fighting because they both want custody of a boy that Titania stole from an Indian king.
  • Finally, tell students that although Robin Goodfellow is never actually called "Puck" in this play, many people know him by that name, and the class will use both names interchangeably. (Consider reading the explanatory note on page 34 of Shakespeare Set Free in lieu of this explanation.) Tell students that the lines you are about to read sum up the kinds of trouble Puck likes to cause. 
  • Invite students to follow along silently as you read lines 33-60 aloud, starting on page 37 (2.1.33) and ending on page 39 (2.1.60).
  • Ask students what they noticed about how the words sounded. Listen for them to recognize that there is a rhyme scheme in the lines, and possibly for them to say that there is a beat to the lines.
  • Explain that the poetry in this play contains rhyme, rhythm (what students might think of as the "beat" of the poetry), and meter (the patterns in the poetry). One way to "feel" the rhythm and meter of the poetry is to read it aloud.
  • Have students reread lines 33-60 aloud, in unison, as you lead. Have them stomp one foot or slap their knees on each stressed syllable (the part of each word that is emphasized). The first four lines of stressed syllables are italicized below:

"Eith-er I mis-take your shape and ma-king quite,

Or else you are that shrewd and kna-vish sprite

Called Ro-bin Good-fel-low. Are not you he

That frights the mai-dens of the vil-la-gery ..."

  • Have students move  their seats to form the Drama Circle.
  • Ask students what they notice about the rhythm, or beat, of these lines. Some guiding questions might be:

*   "How often is there a stressed syllable in each line?"

*   "How many syllables are in each line?"

*   "What is the meter, or pattern, of stressed syllables in these lines?"

  • Listen for students to say that every other syllable is stressed in these lines, that there are generally 10 syllables per line, and that the pattern is five repetitions of the "not stressed, stressed" beat.
  • Explain that this meter (five repetitions of the "not stressed, stressed" beat) is called iambic pentameter and is used by many English-speaking poets. (Some people even think that iambic pentameter is the natural meter of a human heartbeat.) Help students understand this meter by explaining that penta means "five," and there are five beats in the line. You might also tell students that one way to remember this meter is to say: "I am, I am, I am" out loud, placing the stress on the word "am."
  • Share that Shakespeare deliberately chose the words in this part of the play for the rhythm and rhyme they would create. This is poetic language or verse.
  • Explain that students will have a chance to look more closely at why Shakespeare used iambic pentameter and other meters in this play in a few days.
  • After students have read through the scene to line 194 for the second time, ask:

*   "Why does Oberon want to control Titania?"

  • Listen for them to say that he wants to take the Indian boy from her.
  • Ask students to name other characters who attempt to control others in the play. Listen for them to say that Bottom tries to control the other tradesmen during the play rehearsal or that Egeus tries to control who Hermia will marry.
  • Explain that the idea of controlling others comes up over and over again in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and students will continue to analyze that theme in the next lesson.
  • If you have many kinesthetic learners in your class, have students walk around the room with their books during the choral read, taking a step for each syllable, stomping hard on the stressed syllables.
  • You may need to read lines 33-60 two or three times as a class before everyone feels the rhythm smoothly

B. Drama Circle: Act 2, Scene 1, Part 1 (15 minutes)

  • Tell students that they will skip the next section of this scene, in which Titania and Oberon argue about the Indian boy, and move straight into a conversation between Robin and Oberon.
  • Assign roles for this reading: Oberon and Robin.
  • Before beginning the Drama Circle reading, review the conflict between Oberon and Titania to be sure students understand why they are fighting.
  • Preview for the class that Oberon has a plan to resolve this conflict, and he explains it to Robin in this passage. Challenge students to listen for Oberon's plan during the Drama Circle.
  • Have students read this scene aloud, starting on page 45 (2.1.153) and ending on page 47 (2.1.194).
  • After this first read, have students read the scene again. Consider switching roles. Explain that this time you will have them pause to answer questions about what they read. (Refer to the Act 2, Scene 1 Teacher's Guide, Part 1 for detailed notes on guiding students through this scene.)
  • Consider splitting up the roles (Robin 1, Robin 2, etc.) so more students can participate. This also allows you to differentiate.
  • Consider creating a nametag for each character to wear during the Drama Circle.
  • Consider appointing several students to act as "interpreters." When the Drama Circle read-aloud hits a particularly challenging bit of language, the interpreters are charged with referring to the left-hand page for explanatory notes, then reading or paraphrasing those notes for the class.

Closing & Assessments


A. Previewing Homework (1 minute)

  • Distribute the A Midsummer Night's Dream structured notes, 2.1.33-60, 153-194. Tell students that they will reread the same passages from today's Drama Circle for tonight's homework. Remind them to use the Play Map and Tips for Reading Shakespeare handout to help them.


HomeworkMeeting Students' Needs
  • Reread 2.1.33-60 and 153-194 and complete the structured notes.
  • Provide struggling learners with the supported structured notes for additional scaffolding as they read the play.

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