Creative Teaching Strategies: Macbeth
Tips for teachers - teaching resources
Looking for some fun teaching resources and tips for Macbeth? You might need them! Let's face it: Most high school students had rather suffer through a root canal than endure a typical lecture on Shakespeare. It doesn't have to be that way, however. A creative teacher can come up with innovative ways to teach Macbeth that the students will actually find enjoyable.
I'm retired now, but I taught British Literature for years. I loved it, but I was diappointed to discover that few of my high school students appreciated the bard in quite the same way I did...and still do. I thought to myself, "Okay. I'm smart. I'm creative. There has to be a way to get these kids excited about Macbeth!" I tried several strategies and turned to numerous teaching resources, but the one I'm about to describe worked the best.
After my introductory lecture about the real Macbeth and a little history behind the play, I divided the class into four groups. In each group, I tried to include a very good student, a creative student, a shy student, and an unmotivated student. I assigned each group an act of the play, except for Act I, which we read together in class. The students had to read the rest of the play for homework.
Each group had to teach their act to the class - in any way they chose. It didn't have to be word-for-word. They just had to get the basic plot and main ideas across to their classmates. They had several days, including a weekend, to work on their project. The group members got the phone numbers of their fellow members, and they met at a local park, the football field, the public library, or at a member's home to work together. I gave the grade for this assignment A LOT of weight to encourage participation and hard work.
The students never ceased to amaze me! I've had groups present puppet shows, radio shows, videos, and musicals. More than one group made arrangements with the drama teacher and booked the performing arts stage to present their act, complete with costumes from the Drama Club. Another group performed Macbeth as a rap, complete with background "music."
A group that had the act with the banquet scene included the whole class in on their presentation. They went to the principal to ask permission to use the faculty dining room, and he okayed it. Then they researched medieval foods and banquets and listed the foods on a sign-up sheet so that everyone could bring something for our class banquet. Only dishes they had in medieval Scotland were allowed. They even sent "parchment scroll" invitations to all the administrators. While we feasted, they performed their act. We all had a ball, including a couple of assistant principals!
One of the most creative presentations was "Macbeth Does Survivor," based on the then-popular TV show. Scotland was the island, and the victims who were murdered in the play were the ones who were voted off the island. They filmed the action in the park and showed the video to the class.
One of the funniest presentations was "Macbeth Does the Jerry Springer Show." It was hilarious! Macbeth was a "guest" and he was blaming all the other "guests" for his downfall. One of the witches "phoned into" the show. The entire class laughed so hard that tears were running down our faces.
We always had a great time with Macbeth. It gave students who weren't particularly studious to show off their creativity or other skills. The students had to use speaking skills, organizational skills, and team work to be successful. And you know what? The kids actually learned about the play and understood it. It was rare for anyone to fail the Macbeth test. All the students were actively engaged and were enjoying the learning process. In my opinion, that's how learning should be!
For a wealth of information and ideas about teaching strategies for Macbeth, consider the books below. For information about making simple costumes, click the link below the books and guides.
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