Creating A Unified Piece

Shakespeare Lesson #5

Creating A Unified Piece


Lesson Objective: Students will demonstrate understanding of unifying the elements within a piece by outlining the theme for their scene or monologue as well as design choices.




Toxic Waste Activity [20 mins]

  • Hook student’s interest by taking them outside
    • Have rope set out in circle shape (8ft diameter) on the ground, (this is the “Toxic waste radiation zone”)
    • Have small bucket/cup placed in middle of zone filled w/ water (aka-Toxic Waste!)
    • Have large bucket set up 15ish ft away (this is the neutralization zone)
    • Have bungee cords piled near the radiation zone
  • Explain Challenge
    • “The challenge is for the group to work out how to transfer the toxic waste from the small bucket into the large bucket where it will be “neutralized”, using only the equipment provided and within a time frame.  The waste will blow up and destroy the world after 20 minutes if it is not neutralized.
    • Anyone who ventures into the radiation zone will suffer injury and possibly even death, and spillage will create partial death and destruction.  Therefore, the group should aim to save the world and do so without injury to any group members.
    • The rope circle represents the radiation zone emanating from the toxic waste in the bucket.  Emphasize that everyone must maintain a distance (circle radius) from the toxic waste wherever it goes, otherwise they will suffer severe injury, such as loss of a limb or even death.
    • Give the group some planning time with no action e.g. 3 mins.  Then start the clock and indicate it is time for action, e.g., 15 or 20 mins.” (From
  • Facilitate Activity
    • Give students 10-15 mins to work through the activity
    • “The solution involves attaching the cords to the bungee loop, then guiding the bungee with the strings to sit around and grab the toxic waste bucket. Then with everyone pulling on their cord and with good coordination and care, the toxic waste bucket can be lifted, moved and tipped into the empty neutralizing bucket
    • If someone breaches the toxic waste zone, indicated by the circle, enforce an appropriate penalty e.g., loss of limbs (hand behind back) or function (e.g., blindfolds if a head enters the zone) that lasts for the rest of the game.  If a whole person enters the zone, they die and must then sit out for the rest of the activity.” (From
    • Allow students to struggle with activity for a while
    • If they spill, or loose people in the radiation zone, provide small hints and coaching to help spark a unifying idea that they can follow
  • At completion of activity, take students back inside for processing/talk back session


Processing Discussion [5 mins]

  • Get a volunteer to be the scribe and jot down key info on the board, lead discussion on following topics:
    • How was success defined in this activity?
      • (ex- Completing activity under time limit, team work, staying out of danger zone, etc..)
    • By these terms how successful were you as a team?
    • What led to this success/caused you to struggle?


Compare Team Unity to Importance of Creating a Unified Piece [5 mins]

  • In the team activity, each person needed to be unified in the goal and action for success. Likewise, if a piece is unified, elements of design, acting, etc…will work together toward theme, to successfully tell story
  • Use clip from The Lord Protector to demonstrate a baaad example of consistency/unity
  • Use clip from The Fellowship of the Ring to demonstrate a pretty freakin awesome example


Review elements of Given Circumstances [10 mins]

  • Give students the handout w/elements of Given Circumstances listed
  • Ask them to give brief definition of each term (they’ll have covered this in a previous unit, this is a review)
    • Time, Place, Society,  Economics, Politics and Law, Learning and the Arts, Spirituality, The World of the Play, Given Circumstances
  • What kind of performance and design decisions do these help us make?


Analysis Practice [25-30 mins]

  • Split whiteboard in half, list elements of Given Circumstances on each half
  • Watch a couple clips, have students analyze them, list acting and design choices that were made for each category on the white board. 
    • Party Scene from Zeffirelli’s Romeo & Juliet
    • Party Scene from Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet
  • Afterward, discuss the choices that students listed in the different categories.
  • What evidence in the text/the lines spoken helped support these decisions?
  • Was each version successful in their presentation? Why or why not?
  • Use their answers to explain that with production choices consistency is important


Memorization Assessment [10 mins]

  • Have students choose a partner, remind students that this is to check for memorization, it is the only thing that will be graded in this performance
  • They will perform their piece for partner, and vice versa.  Each student will need to have a copy of their text for their partner to follow along with.
  • Each will give themselves a score (how they feel they did on memorization) and will score their partner’s memorization using the evaluation slip.


Wrap up [5 mins]


**Students’ assignment is to create a 1page write up where they outline their theme and their design ideas for their individual pieces.  Give them copy of instructions. They can use the Given Circumstances sheet to springboard thought by listing the evidences of each in their text, etc…


How do you want to stage your piece? What design decisions do you want to make?  If this was a fully realized production, what would your scene be like (w/Costume, Set Pieces, Props, Lights, Music, etc.) How are you going to set the scene for actual performance? Remind them that simple choices are often most effective.