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Adapted from the classroom strategy posted under “Teaching Strategies” Facing History’s website: www.facing.org. Performance technique is borrowed from Caleen Jennings and Michael Tolaydo’s instruction at the Teaching Shakespeare Institute 2006.
Cathlin Goulding teaches Sophomore English and Poetry at Newark Memorial High School, a socio-economically diverse public school in the San Francisco Bay Area.
This lesson can be used with any of the Shakespearean sonnets; in this lesson, the modeling of this analytical technique uses Sonnet 133. Suggested sonnets for this activity include: 3, 9, 11, 16, 22, 25, 27, 42, 51, 57 97, 102, 126, 127, 131, 133, 138, 143.
NCTE Standards Covered:
Standards 2, 4, 6
What’s On For Today and Why:
Today, students will learn how to use SOAPSTone—a strategy that helps students break down a text for point of view and audience—in order to analyze Shakespeare’s sonnets. After analyzing the sonnets, students will “physicalize” the audience and point of view through a dramatic performance. This lesson is not intended to teach or introduce the sonnet form; therefore, students may need a brief introduction to sonnet structure before this lesson. This lesson will take three to four 50-minute class periods.
What To Do:
1. Introducing SOAPSTone: (Day One): Put a transparency of a photograph on the overhead—you can use a range of photographs; current news photographs work quite well with this activity.
Ask students to identify, the subject, occasion, audience, purpose, speaker, and tone for the photograph, briefly defining each term as you discuss (see SOAPSTone Definitions handout below). Have each of the SOAPSTone elements charted on the board; a student can make notes on the board as the students volunteer responses.
2. Putting SOAPSTone to Work (Day One): Pass out copies of SOAPSTone Definitions and copies/overhead of Sonnet 133. Tell students they will each analyze a Shakespearean Sonnet for the elements they just applied to the photograph.
Do a “read-around” of the sonnet in which each student takes a line. Ask students to circle words they aren’t familiar with and to underline parts of the text where they see someone being addressed or spoken to.
Debrief the sonnet first for comprehension: what words are confusing (have The Shakespeare Glossary or a copy of Folger Edition of The Sonnets available)? Have student volunteers look up the words and define them for the class.
Then, ask students: What do you know about the speaker of the poem? How does he/she feel? Who is he/she talking to? What specific parts of the play made the students think this? Why is he/she writing the poem? What occasion inspired the writing of this poem—who is “the friend”? What is going on between the speaker’s lover and the friend? What is the feeling you get when reading the poem? Does the speaker seem angry, sad, upset?
Again, have a student volunteer writing responses up on the board under SOAPSTone Chart.
3. Practicing SOAPSTone with a partner (Day Two): Break students into pairs. Give each pair a sonnet; each pair in the class should have a different sonnet to analyze and perform.
Pairs will read their sonnet aloud, circling words they do not know, underlining parts of the text where they find out information about the audience or speaker. Pairs should read their sonnet several times over and look up any unfamiliar words.
As students are busily reading their sonnet, pass out the “SOAPSTone Graphic Organizer” (see below) on which students will take notes to more fully digest the sonnet. They will determine the SOAPSTone for the poem, and note specific lines or words that led them to their conclusions.
Encourage students to think outside the box, to imagine the life of the speaker and the person he/she addresses: how old are they, where do they live, what are their professions?
Tell students to leave the very right-hand “Movement” column blank for now.
4. “Mirroring” A Shakespearean Sonnet (Day Two): After students have analyzed their sonnet for SOAPSTone, check off or stamp their work. They can now begin to plan a “physicalization” of the sonnet, meaning that the students will use movement and voice to create a dramatic scene. One student will take on the role of “Speaker” and the other student will play the “Audience,” or the person to whom they determined the poem was written.
The “Speaker” will read the sonnet aloud, using dramatic movement, gestures, and voice to represent their character, their tone, and occasion. For example, if the speaker says, “”O how I faint,” then the speaker should find a gesture to represent this action. You may want to try a few practice physicalizations with students, reading aloud lines and asking all students in the class to mime the action together.
The “Audience,” in turn, must “mirror” the words of the sonnet’s speaker, non-verbally reacting in kind to each line/word using only movement, facial expression, etc. Students may use props, entrance/exits, and music to enhance their performance.
To prepare for the mirroring, students should block the performance on their copy of the sonnet, as well as take notes on appropriate movements on their graphic organizers. By the end of the period, students should be on their feet, practicing their movements and reading.
5. Performances (Day Three): Have a sign up sheet ready for students to pick their performance slots. Each pair will perform their mirror. After each performance, encourage thunderous applause! Quickly debrief what the students noticed about who the speaker was, the occasion, the tone, the audience to whom the poem was written. When all are finished, collect their Graphic Organizers and their copies of the poem that they blocked.
What You Need:
How Did It Go?
Did each pairing have a unique way of presenting each sonnet? Was it clear, through their performances, that students understood the nature of the speaker and the audience, the tone of the poem? At the end of the performance day, have each student to complete an “exit card” in which they write a short paragraph about which performance they liked the best and why, or which pair best showed the relationship between speaker and audience. Collect these cards as their “ticket out of the door.” Exit cards help us to see how much or what each individual student took from the assignment.