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TeachNet NYC  |  Lesson Plans  |  Teachnet

Interpreting Shakespeare's Macbeth

Project URL:   http://teachersnetwork.org/teachnet-lab/fklane/pmaslow/macbeth/teacher.htm

How it works:
This program's emphasis on Macbeth helps and motivates students to understand William Shakespeare's language. Using the computer and the Internet lets students post their work to a wide audience that includes students in their class, school, and the world beyond. So it isn't just the teacher who sees their work, but anyone and everyone who is interested.

The first assignment, which the students do on their own, is to choose a character from Macbeth and describe, in the form of a journal or letter, what has happened to that character in a specific scene. Their work is also shared when students read the completed assignments aloud in class. The students work in groups to answer questions about the scenes, and then put their answers on the blackboard and explain them. Many of the questions require them to examine Shakespeare's language closely.

In the computer lab, once or twice a week,  students can work on one of three projects. I start with an Inquiry project and have them create a simple table using Microsoft FrontPage Editor. They then choose a question they want to answer by going to the Inquiry Web site and copying and pasting it into FrontPage. The students learn to change the fonts and the background color. They can then look for images in the background page or go to AltaVista or Google for a more extensive search. During the first lesson or two, they also learn how to do a hotlink. Students write on the bottom of their Web page  "Link For Students Work" and I show them how to link to the showcase page where we will link the best Web pages.

As we come close to finishing the reading of Macbeth in class and at home, the students write essays in class answering the question that they choose. The essay can be improved upon when they get to the computer room. I show them how to copy and paste from the hypertext links so they don't have to type the quotes. They are also responsible for explaining the quotes they use in their essay and putting in the relevant act, scene, and lines. The quotes really stand out when students use different colors for their writing. Students learn to use an FTP program and upload their Web page onto the Internet. I link the best work to the showcase page. Students are also required to evaluate each other's work. They also get a chance to do a second draft after looking at a checklist of how to improve their Inquiry essay Web page.

Another project, called Background, has students use the Internet to do a short research essay. In another project, students draw their own pictures based on a quote they choose.  The last project has them divided into groups and creating a newspaper page based on Macbeth. These can also be uploaded as an online newspaper or printed as a conventional newspaper.

Standards addressed:
Students navigate the Internet efficiently to locate relevant sites and employ the computer and Internet as research tools and resources. They compile, analyze, and evaluate the data collected while visiting a Web site; develop word-processing skills to express, gather, organize, and synthesize information; develop research skills appropriate to computer usage (collecting, organizing, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating data); and express information with accuracy, precision, and creativity. They weave graphics and artistic expression appropriately into their computer work; use critical thinking and research skills to evaluate the credibility and appropriateness of Web sites, the time required on the sites, and the validity of the available information. Finally, they design a Web page and upload it to an Internet site.
Students produce a report that includes appropriate facts and details; develop several main points relating to a single thesis; analyze and  revise work to make it more effective in communicating the intended message or thought; respond to drama using interpretive, critical, and evaluative processes; and produce a response to literature that advances a judgment that is interpretive, analytic, evaluative, or reflective.

Materials used:
In order to use this program, you need an Internet connection and  Microsoft FrontPage Editor. A scanner is useful, as is a digital camera,  but they aren't necessary. They can be used to upload student photos or artwork to their Inquiry Web site and to their newspaper on Macbeth if you are putting it online.

The students:
My students happen to be 12th graders who passed the New York State Regents. They had fairly good writing and reading skills and understood the concept of a literary essay.  However, I did have several foreign-born students who struggled with the language of Shakespeare.

Overall value:
When my classes started this unit, many of them had difficulty with the language in Macbeth. It has been so rewarding to see their improved ability to understand the language when they read the play and see a videotape of it. Not only are they able to understand the language of Macbeth, but they will also have increased comprehension of Shakespeare's other works. This, of course,  was one of my main goals. Another was to introduce them to technology of computers, the Internet, and web making. The use of technology also helps with the first goal. Students post their literary essays on the Internet and learn from each other's work. It is also rewarding to see students who had no technological skills become comfortable with computers and the Internet.

Tips for the teacher:
I have all the directions and much of the material available both on the Internet and in hard or printed copy. It makes it easier for some students to follow a sheet in their hands rather than find it on the Internet. Most of my students were rather slow when they began making Web pages. The concept seemed very foreign to them, which surprised me because most of them have been to many Web pages to look up information. Also, many students who have never read Shakespeare before struggle with the language and need to be encouraged that it will become easier with practice.



Peggy Maslow has been teaching for 25 years in New York City schools, 17 years of which have been in high school. She started using computers with students in 1985 and continues to take courses and run workshops in the use of technology with academic subjects. She teaches English literature, journalism, and reading.


Subject Areas:                          English

Grade Level:



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