A. Introduction to Drama Circle (33 minutes)
- Have students rearrange the desks so they are sitting in one large circle. Explain that this is the setup for a Drama Circle, which is how you will read A Midsummer Night's Dream aloud in class.
- Ask a student to explain why he or she thinks you have decided to read A Midsummer Night's Dream aloud in class, rather than assigning it for homework. Listen for: "A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play, so having multiple people read the parts aloud will be more like what Shakespeare intended and will help everyone tell the different characters apart." Tell students that another reason they will read this play aloud is that it was written about 400 years ago, and the English language has changed a lot since then. It is easier to understand Shakespeare's language when we hear it read out loud.
- Tell students that, instead of starting to read the play at the very beginning, they are going to jump into the second scene of the play, which focuses on the workmen described in the lower right-hand corner of the Play Map. This scene will really give them a sense of this play as a comedy.
- Distribute the Act 1, Scene 2 script and assign students to read the parts in this scene: Bottom, Quince, Snug, Snout, Starveling, and Flute. Explain that students should try not to worry about pronunciation of unfamiliar words; they should do the best they can. The overall gist of the scene is more important than perfect pronunciation of every word. (You might reassure students that even you do not know exactly how Shakespeare intended for each of the words in this scene to be pronounced.)
- Have students read the scene aloud, focusing on reading with strong voices rather than trying to act out the scene.
- After this initial reading, have students turn and talk about the gist of the scene.
- Cold call several pairs to share their thinking. Listen for them to say that this scene features a group of men who are talking about a play they are going to put on. If students are struggling to come up with this, remind them that they have the Play Map to help them.
- Explain that, as with all difficult texts, students will now read the scene aloud again to gain a better understanding of the text. Assign new students to read each part and have them read the scene aloud again.
- After students finish reading the scene aloud for the second time, ask them what was difficult about understanding this script. Listen for them to say that the vocabulary is unfamiliar or the language is confusing.
- Tell students that you think they probably understand a lot more about this scene than they think they do. Choose from the questions listed on the Act 1, Scene 2 Teacher's Guide and ask as many as time permits, encouraging students to support their answers using evidence from the text.
- When there are 2 minutes remaining, celebrate the fact that, although the language of the play is quite difficult, students have just proved that they understand at least a little bit of Shakespeare's writing. Reassure them that, if they don't get too caught up in worrying about everything they don't understand about the play, they will discover that there is a lot that they do understand, just like they did with this scene.
- Explain that students will receive their copy of A Midsummer Night's Dream in the next lesson and will begin reading the play from the beginning.
- Have students put their copies of the Play Map in a safe place so they can refer back to it and clear up confusion as they read the play.
- This scene contains two large parts (Bottom and Quince) and four small parts (Flute, Snug, Snout, and Starveling, who have from one to three lines each). To include the most students in this Drama Circle, consider assigning the parts of Bottom and Quince to several different students each (a new reader for every page of the script). The smaller parts are ideal for including struggling readers or students who do not like to read aloud.
- Consider reading aloud Bottom's part yourself, since it is a rather large part of the scene students will be reading.
- For a class with many struggling readers, consider reading aloud the selected scene yourself before students reread it in Drama Circle. This teacher read-aloud strategy should be reserved for extreme situations, however. The design of this lesson as a student-led read-aloud is intentional and allows students to dive in and experience success reading Shakespeare immediately.