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Teaching Guide

Teaching Macbeth

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Macbeth and McDonald’s have both been adapted for different cultures all over the world, but Shakespeare’s play is no Happy Meal. The good news is that Shakespeare sits much better than a dozen chicken nuggets…and has more nutritional value.

In this guide you will find

  • a glossary of terms for students confounded and perturbed by this beguiling text.
  • a close-reading activity of Act 3, Scene 4, also known as the Banquet Scene. Dun dun dun.
  • pop culture connections including Macbeth adaptations from around the globe (the world, not the theater).

There’s no prize inside our teaching guide, but knowledge is a much better reward.

What's Inside Shmoop's Literature Teaching Guides

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring literature to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: Macbeth is one of those plays that gives us so much to think about that it could easily get overwhelming. Shmoop has the remedy. In this one-day discussion activity, students will bounce out of their seats to answer our thought-provoking questions. Hands will be raised so fast you won’t even know if they are connected to a body. It will be amazing! It will be fabulous! Prepare yourself for an awesome discussion.

(Hint: This assignment works best as a review of the play after Act 3.)

Length of Lesson: This activity will take one class period.

Materials Needed:

  • Text of Macbeth
  • An envelope for each student with slips of paper numbered 1-10 inside.

Step 1: So you have finished reading Act 3 of Macbeth. You want to know if your students understand the text thus far, but the class is not responding to your questions like the Elizabethan scholars you know they could be. Some are probably even drowning in the Bard’s words. What is the easiest, quickest, best way to solve this?

Talk!

To fully prepare for our Shmoop discussion, we need to explain to the class what an ideal discussion looks like. Here are some simple rules to divvy out:

Ground Rules:

  1. Each student gets an envelope with ten slips of paper inside. 
  2. Each piece of paper is numbered 1-10. 
  3. You (the teacher) will either read a statement aloud or post one up on the board. Depending on whether your students strongly agree with or strongly disagree with the statement you just read, they will choose a slip with a number on it and raise their hands. (If they completely agree with the statement, they will raise the number 10; if they strongly disagree with the statement, they will choose the number 1; if they are ambivalent, they will choose the number 5, and so forth.)

(Hint: In order to prepare your students for this activity, you could have them review the characters from Macbeth for homework. Shmoop’s character guide might be helpful!)

Step 2: Now this is the fun part! Either say or post the following statements for the class:

  • All of Macbeth’s problems stem from the influence of Lady Macbeth.
  • The witches can’t really predict the future. They just want to mess with people.
  • Macbeth’s life is fated. There is nothing he could have done to change it.
  • Malcolm and Donalbain have no ambition.
  • The scene with Hecate is pointless and doesn’t show us anything new about the characters or plot.
  • Banquo would have been a better choice for King.

Remember to stop after each statement and get the low-down from the students. “Why did you pick a five? Who agrees? Who disagrees? Anybody want to change your answer?” If you are really struggling to get them to talk, have the kids question each other.

It’s easy! You could also choose one student and make her defend her choice—it might be especially fun to choose a student who has an unusual opinion. You could even put up the main points from her argument on the board. Then have the students vote on whether she managed to convince them, or ask for a volunteer to provide a rebuttal, or to play devil’s advocate to the popular choice.

Plus, if you want to add to the conversation, you could get the students to discuss why a certain argument worked, or what could have made it more effective. Get students to understand that good arguments use evidence, support, and are organized.

Step 3: For homework, students will take all the stuff they learned about Macbeth and put it down in an essay. You could use this prompt:

“People have been reading Macbeth for hundreds of years, and each person has his/her own opinion about the play’s characters. Pick one of the following and say why YOU think he/she/they is/are the most fascinating character(s) in the play: Macbeth; Lady Macbeth; The witches; Banquo.”

Sometimes, students have trouble knowing where to start. Essays can be scary and overwhelming. Using Shmoop’s Essay Lab, the students can walk themselves through an essay based on your discussion.

(Common Core Standards Met: 11-12 grade; Speaking & Listening SL.11-12.1, SL.11-12.4; Reading: Literature RL.11-12.10)

TEKS Standards: §110.34. English Language Arts and Reading, English IV b: 4, 5B, 5D, 13A, 13B, 13C, 16A, 16C, 16D, 17B, 18, 19, 24A, 24B

Instructions for Your Students

Sure, Shakespeare is undoubtedly the man. But that doesn't mean you have to like the way he did everything. Do you hate Macbeth but love his wife? Do you think Banquo should have just come right out and accused Macbeth of being a murderer? Here’s your chance to get your two-cents in. In this one-day discussion, no character is safe.

Step 1: The first step is easy...but you do have to follow some guidelines. Because our Shmoop-style discussion is like nothing you have ever seen, here are some ground rules:

  1. Your teacher will give you an envelope with ten slips of paper inside. 
  2. Each piece of paper will have a number on it, from 1-10. 
  3. Your teacher will either read a statement out loud, or post it up on the board. Depending on whether you strongly agree with or strongly disagree with the statement, you will choose a slip with a number on it and raise your hands. (If you completely agree with the statement, raise the number 10; if you strongly disagree with the statement, you will choose the number 1; if you are ambivalent, you will choose the number 5; if you disagree but not very strongly, you will raise the number 3, and so forth.)

Step 2: Now for the fun part! With those slips of paper, respond to the statements your teacher provides. Don’t forget to jump, scream, and draw TONS of attention to yourself. You have an opinion -- it is time you were heard!

And as you speak and listen to your classmates speaking, pay attention to how you can make your arguments convincing. Do you need to add evidence from the text? Unusual insights? Structure your thoughts?

Step 3: For homework, you will take all the ideas you discussed in class, and put it down in an essay.

Here's your prompt:

People have been reading Macbeth for hundreds of years, and each person has his/her own opinion about the play’s characters. Pick one of the following and say why YOU think he/she/they is/are the most fascinating character(s) in the play: Macbeth; Lady Macbeth; the witches; Banquo.

Feel free to use Shmoop’s Essay Lab, for any help you need with getting started or organizing your thoughts into an essay. Use all those wonderful vocabulary words you know! Include some of the Bard’s quotes from the play! Bedazzle your teacher with your rhetoric skills! In other words, use all the good writing tools in your arsenal to get your opinions about the characters across.

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Common Core Standards  

The following standards are covered in this course:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.2

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING MACBETH?

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Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Photos    Quizzes    Flashcards    Movie    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
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