Launching A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Identifying the Characters, Settings, and Conflicts. | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M2B:U1:L8

Launching A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Identifying the Characters, Settings, and Conflicts.

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can analyze how specific dialogue or incidents in a plot propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision. (RL.8.3)
  • I can cite text-based evidence that provides the strongest support for an analysis of literary text. (RI.8.1)

Supporting Targets

  • I can name the main characters, settings, and conflicts in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  • I can get the gist of Shakespeare's writing in a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  • I can cite evidence from A Midsummer Night's Dream to support my ideas.

Ongoing Assessment

  • QuickWrite 3 (from homework)
  • Act 1, Scene 2 summary 


AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

     A.  Engaging the Reader: Play Map (10 minutes)

     B.  Reviewing Learning Targets (1 minute)

2.  Work Time

     A.  Introduction to Drama Circle (33 minutes)

3.  Closing and Assessment

     A.  Previewing Homework (1 minute)

4.  Homework

     A.  Write the gist of the scene we read in class today.

  • Now that students have built some background knowledge about Shakespeare, they begin reading A Midsummer Night's Dream in today's lesson. To start, students examine the detailed Play Map provided in the Folger Shakespeare Library's Shakespeare Set Free, which orients them to the main characters, settings, and conflicts of the play in an accessible, engaging graphic format.
  • After studying the Play Map, students make initial predictions about the play, such as whether it is a comedy or a tragedy. They will probably have many different ideas about the play. Some of these ideas may accurately capture the spirit of the play, and others will be inaccurate. Encourage all responses that are based on evidence from the Play Map. The point of this discussion is to build excitement and curiosity about the play before students encounter its challenging language and style.
  • Once they understand some of the basic components of the story, students begin reading by jumping in to Act 1, Scene 2. The choice to begin with this second scene is intentional: It is a fast-paced, engaging scene featuring Bottom and the other "clowns." Read aloud as a class, this scene quickly introduces students to the language, structure, and humor of the play. They return to Scene 1 in Lesson 9.
  • Students do not receive the book in this lesson; rather they read an excerpt of the scene.  This is intentional since providing the reading selection in a smaller section and with larger print gives students a chance to focus on getting acclimated to Shakespeare's language by engaging with a short, friendly text on this first day. Students will receive the books in Lesson 9, and will read directly from the book during all future lessons.
  • Throughout this module, students will read scenes from A Midsummer Night's Dream in a Drama Circle. (For a detailed description of this type of structure, see Shakespeare Set Free, pages 27-31). Drama Circle is a whole group activity: the class sits in a large circle and reads the play out loud, with different students playing each part. Drama Circles allow students to experience the play closer to the way it was meant to be experienced: aloud. Hearing the play read aloud--and participating in reading it aloud--helps them understand both the language and the content of the play more clearly.
  • The goal of today's lesson is to build students' confidence in reading and understanding Shakespeare's writing; do not worry too much if they are missing rich vocabulary words or layers of meaning. Students will reread this scene in Lesson 10 and will more closely examine Shakespeare's use of language then.
  • This lesson draws from Lesson 1 in Shakespeare Set Free; see that resource for more ideas for tackling the text with students for the first time.
  • Post: Learning targets; directions for the Engaging the Reader: Play Map activity (see Opening A).


comedy, tragedy


  • Highlighters (one per student)
  • Play Map from page 43 of Shakespeare Set Free (one per student)
  • Act 1, Scene 2 script (one per student)
  • Act 1, Scene 2 Teacher's Guide (for teacher reference) 



A. Engaging the Reader: Play Map (10 minutes)

  • Distribute highlighters and the Play Map and draw students' attention to these directions, posted on the board:
  1. Read over this map of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  2. Circle the setting(s) of the play.
  3. Highlight the names of the main characters in the play.
  4. On the back, make a list of the different conflicts in the play.
  5. On the back, write one sentence explaining what you think this play might be about.
  • Give students 5 minutes to work independently on completing these tasks.
  • Refocus students whole group. Invite them to turn and talk with a partner about what they wrote down.
  • After a minute, cold call several pairs to share their ideas about what A Midsummer Night's Dream is about, based on the Play Map. Listen for them to say that the play might be about love, another play, or jealousy. Encourage students to support their ideas with evidence from the Play Map.
  • Ask:

*   "Based on this map, what are some parts of the play you are curious about?"

  • Students might say that they are curious about the questions and hints in the Play Map, such as "Who follows them?" and "Guess who she loves?"
  • Explain that Shakespeare was known for writing both comedies and tragedies. Write both terms on the board and ask for a volunteer to explain the difference. Listen for: Comedy is a funny play meant to make the audience laugh (and usually, everything turns out okay in the end), and a tragedy is a play based on human suffering (and, although there isn't a happy ending, the characters have usually learned something). Write short definitions on the board beneath each word, then ask:

*   "Based on this map, do you think this play is a comedy or a tragedy?"

  • Listen for students to say that A Midsummer Night's Dream is a comedy, since the Play Map says the workmen are "very funny." They might also cite other hints in the Play Map, such as the complicated relationship among the four lovers or the existence of "magic potion" in the play.
  • Explain that, as the Play Map shows, A Midsummer Night's Dream can be a complicated play, since it has several intertwined storylines and many characters.
  • Have students keep the Play Map out so they can refer to it during class today.

B. Reviewing Learning Targets (1 minute)

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

*   "I can name the main characters, settings, and conflicts in A Midsummer Night's Dream."

*   "I can get the gist of Shakespeare's writing in a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream."

*   "I can cite evidence from A Midsummer Night's Dream to support my ideas."

  • Tell students that they will begin reading A Midsummer Night's Dream together in class today. 

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

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.

Closing & Assessments


A. Previewing Homework (1 minute)

  • Explain that because A Midsummer Night's Dream is a complex, difficult text, students' homework will often involve going back over a passage they read in class that day. For tonight's homework, students should try to write the gist of the scene they read in today's class without looking back at the script. 


  • Write the gist of the scene we read in class today. Try not to look back at the script as you're writing.

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