Pre-Assessment and Sonnet Work

Lesson 1 – Pre-Assessment and Sonnet Work


Objective: Students will prepare for the Second Circle unit by working on a Shakespearean Sonnet and completing a written pre-assessment


Essential Questions

  • How can script analysis help you be present in performance?
  • How can pre-assessments help you as a performer?


National Standards

  • TH:Cr3.1.II.b. Use research and script analysis to revise physical, vocal, and physiological choices impacting the believability and relevance of a drama/ theatre work. 

State Standards

  • Standard L2.T.CR.5: Explore physical, vocal, and emotional choices to develop a performance that is believable, authentic, and relevant in a drama/ theatre work.



  • Copies of Sonnet 18 by Shakespeare
  • A cut up version of Sonnet 18 so each student gets one line of text
  • Written Pre-Assessment for the Unit (For this unit, the written assignments/assessments were completed on an online learning management system, but they can be formatted for a hard-copy written submission)
  • Projector, computer, video clip –
  • “The Second Circle” by Patsy Rodenburg (It will be necessary for the instructor to own a copy of this book in order to teach this unit)


The purpose of this lesson is to give students a greater understanding of a Shakespearean Sonnet. It is easier to be present while performing when you understand the text. Patsy Rodenburg, the pedagogue that wrote “The Second Circle” typically works with Shakespeare.



Watching Shakespeare

  • Inform students that they will watch a clip of Sir Ian McKellen performing Shakespeare. Invite them to be prepared to share observations about his performance after they watch it
  • Discussion
    • What did you observe about his performance?
    • What made his performance great?
    • How did he speak, stand, breathe? Was it natural or performative?



Tell students that they will participate in various activities to help them understand a Shakespearean sonnet. These activities will prepare them to perform the sonnet next class period. At the end of the lesson, the students will need to complete a written pre-assessment for the unit.



(These activities come from “Creative Shakespeare” by Fiona Banks)

Four Word Soliloquy

  • Ask students to sit in a circle
  • Give each student a line from the sonnet in order
    • Some students may get two if there are more lines than students
    • Give the lines out in order so they can be read around the circle in order
      • If a student gets two, make sure they are lines that are together (1st student gets lines 1 and 2, 2nd student gets lines 3 and 4, etc)
  • Ask them to imagine that they can only speak 4 words, so they have to choose the 4 most important words in the line. The 4 words do not need to be in right next to each other. It is important that the words convey what the line is about.
  • Read through the sonnet as a class with only 4 words being spoken for each line
    • What seemed to be most important to the story?
    • Were the words similar throughout or were different words chosen?
  • Now choose 1 word per line that is the most important
  • Read through the sonnet as a class with one word per line
  • Repeat the one word sonnet, but add a gesture (a simple movement that communicate meaning)
    • What kinds of words and gestures were chosen?
    • What kind of feel does this give to the sonnet?
    • What kind of images are evoked?
  • Clearly send your word and gesture. Play with the words and gestures! Find creative ways to pass your word! The students will send their word across the circle.
    • The words do not need to be spoken in a particular order anymore. Some words may be repeated multiple times
    • Play this for a couple minutes
  • The next step is to not only pass the word, but receive it as well. So when someone sends you their word, repeat it before you send your word to someone. So receive, send, receive, send.
    • When you receive a word, react physically to the word! Let it inform how you say your word.
    • Play this for a couple minutes
  • Discussion
    • What are you discovering about the sonnet?


Small Group Story

  • Divide the class in half (1st part of the sonnet, 2nd part)
  • Ask each group to create a short performance that tells the story of the sonnet. Each student can only use the 1 important word they chose, but they can use it as many times as they need and in any order with their group to help tell the story. This performance should use movement to help tell the story.
    • The groups can spread out for this activity
  • Give groups 5 minutes to create their short performances.
  • Have each group perform in order.
  • Discussion
    • What did you discover about the sonnet in these performances?
      • What did you learn about the emotional journey of the speaker?
      • What did you discover about the imagery in the sonnet?


The Sonnet

  • Bring the students back into a circle and have them sit in order
  • Tell the students that you will read through the full sonnet as a class. On each line, the student needs to perform their gesture for the entire line.
    • Invite them to allow their performance of the lines to be influenced by the discoveries they made throughout all of the activities.
  • Read through the sonnet
  • Discussion
    • What changes are in the speech and where do they occur?
    • Where is the speech lighter or darker in mood and content?
  • Read through the sonnet again
    • At what points do the character’s thoughts progress? Why do you think they happen in that moment?
    • Are there any final discoveries you’ve made after reading through the sonnet fully?
  • Give students a full copy of the sonnet and inform them that they will perform it next class. It does not need to be memorized


Written Pre-Assessment

Inform students that they will need to complete a written pre-assessment. This can be done in class or given as out-of-class work.  See link above in ‘Materials.’