Students tend to approach any Shakespearean play with reluctance and many of them do not appreciate Shakespeare’s works. The language is certainly the first factor they blame but they also believe that the message is obsolete and so distant from their present life. This unit major goal is to change this negative attitude and lead students to appreciate the tragedy of
Students learn when they feel motivated and when they have personal interest in what they study. Societal issues raise their interest because they feel to have something to say and this can be a powerful vehicle to appreciate Shakespeare’s work. One issue that students like to discuss is gender and its authority in personality, and
presents very interesting characters, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Malcolm, or Macduff, who struggle with their own gender expectations. Students will certainly have a positive reaction if the unit starts with questions that focus on the identity issues of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. They will be challenged with concepts of masculinity and femininity and asked to discuss what it means to be an alternative man – whether masculinity means being bloody and ruthless, or whether the presence of an apparently strong and merciless Lady Macbeth contributes to Macbeth’s cruelty and greed. They will also try to find an answer to why Shakespeare introduces the witches and the role that their feminine presence plays in Macbeth’s masculinity. For instance, they could discuss whether Macbeth’s masculinity enables him to escape the female power of his wife and of the witches. The students read the text with the specific goal to investigate the identity of the character and this will give them the opportunity to appreciate Shakespeare’s work because this different perspective will give them the incentive they need. All lessons, however, will include the traditional tasks to understand, interpret, analyze, and evaluate written texts but these lessons will be presented as gender investigation. Since the District Curriculum requires the reading and analysis of a variety of texts that include fictional and informational works, the students will also read some theoretical texts.
My own students reflect a very diverse population with different needs. They all need a strong connection between the text and their reality and this is the main reason for studying gender in this play. At the same time, their specific needs require a highly differentiated instruction and teaching plans. All students can reach the objective of the unit but they have to follow different pathways. Therefore, the unit contains a specific teaching plan and strategies for the AP students who will also read more complex theoretical text and a different one for the sophomores and juniors who lack motivation and need continuous modeling and scaffolding – a useful combination of “I do” (the teacher shows them how to write or what strategy they need to follow for reading and understanding), “we do” (the teacher and the students repeat the same writing or reading together so it becomes more familiar), and “they do” (the students have learned and can write or read proficiently.