Choosing Pieces and Reviewing Diction

Choosing Pieces and Reviewing Diction

Shakespeare Lesson #2

Choosing Pieces and Reviewing Diction


Lesson Objective: Students will demonstrate understanding of how clear diction, and voice work enhance the performer’s experience as well as the audiences’ of Shakespeare works by participating in Shakespeare Slam and doing a worksheet.


(Students will be graded on their participation in this activity, and the vowel study that follows.  The worksheet will also be handed in as a more formal assessment if it is used)




Focus Hook [5 mins]

  • As students enter the room, notice how they’re acting. If they are overly hyped up do relaxation activity to get them chilled out and focused.  If students are dull and unenergetic, start a quick game to get them alive and thinking again so that they can be thoughtful and focused when they choose their pieces.
  • Get them started, while they are playing/engaged in activity, set out the different stacks of monologues and scenes along the back of the class.


Choosing Pieces [25 mins]

  • Wrap up the activity, explain that for the next little bit the time is theirs to look through the selection of pieces and choose a couple that stand out to them to read over.  Students should then select one piece that interests them, this will be used for their final performance.
  • Have the students take their seats again and get ready to transition to a diction review!


Racing/Wailing Through The Text [10 mins]

  • Ask for two volunteers (select a male and female), pull them aside and give them each a small cutting from Much Ado About Nothing (Act 4, Scene 1)
    • Instruct “Benedict” to read through his lines as fast as he possibly can, emphasize that speed is his #1 goal.  Ask “Beatrice” to take her emotions to the extreme.  The goal is show as much raw emotion as possible through her voice (can cry, sob, wail, whatever)
  • Explain to the class that the two will be performing a short piece.  Ask the rest of the class to listen for clues in the text that will tell us what is going on/being said.
  • Have the volunteers perform
  • Calmly ask the class to explain what they saw in the scene, and what was happening.
    • Student’s will probably protest and hopefully say that they couldn’t understand what was going on.


Reviewing Diction/Mini-Discussion [5 mins]

  • Ask them to take a second and think about why it was difficult to understand what was going on in the piece, and to think of a way that the performance could be improved (based on their reflection) so that an audience could better understand what was happening in the scene
  • Have them write their ideas and feedback on the board
  • Briefly review the different ideas on the board
    • Look for ideas like: slow down, annunciate, breath, don’t drown words with emotion, etc…
  • Explain that many of the responses they came up with have to do with improving diction.
  • Ask the class to come up with a definition for diction, to check for their understanding
  • If they struggle, allow them to look it up in a dictionary really quick or on a smart phone
  • Use their definition to explain that with Shakespeare’s text, it is crazy important to have proper diction and projection for the audience to understand what is being said and why. 
  • Explain that now they will be practicing diction w/Shakespeare words


Getting In “The Zone!” [5 mins]

  • Get the class on their feet and in a big circle
  • Lead them through a quick series of vocal warm up exercises (at this point they should be pretty familiar with some of them)
    • “Red Leather Yellow Leather, Good Blood Bad Blood”
      • Have them focus on using their tongue, lips, teeth to define their consonants
      • Remind them to allow their face and body to relax, move, and express with the words


Consonants and Vowels [20 mins]

  • Hand out Shakespearean Insults Page
  • Explain the process of creating a Shakespearean Insult (choose phrase from each column, preface with “Thou” or “Thou art a/an”
  • Give students a few moments to play around with them, then divide class in half, and have them form two parallel lines. 
  • Explain process of a “Shakespeare Slam”
    • The two heads of each line will come center stage (or…room) and exchange insults.   The two slammers will then go to the back of the line and the next two will take center stage, etc…
    • The goal is to be as expressive and more importantly as articulate as they can in delivering their insults. 
    • Remind them to think about involving tempo and pitch to carry and convey expression as they focus on articulation.
    • Model what this might sound like with the taunt “Thou rank, rough-hewn, maggot pie!”
    • Say a couple insults as a group to experiment with tempo, pitch, and articulation
    • Let the Slamming Begin!


Reflection/Assessment Work [15 mins]

  • Hand out the Consonants & Vowels reflection/assessment worksheet and the cutting from R&J balcony scene and ask students to get with a partner.
    • Have each partnership do a quick reading of the piece, focusing on the use of vowels w/in the text.
    •  Ask the partnerships to take a moment to discuss the role that vowels played within the piece that you read.  Have them work on worksheet together.
  • **If pressed for time, can modify this study of vowel/consonants by skipping the worksheet and R&J reading.  Instead, have the students say the words “Love” and “Hate” explain that both words sound like what they mean because of the hard consonants at work in “Hate” and the long, soft vowels in “Love.”


Wrap Up [5 mins]

  • Students need to start memorizing their pieces.  They will be graded on memorization at the end of the next week, plus it becomes easier (and more fun!) to start internalizing and playing with other character elements once they are memorized!


As their memorization gets more solid, students should also begin experimenting w/ using different levels of pitch and tempo in their pieces while working on keeping consonants and vowels articulated.