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Much Ado About Nothing Pre-Reading Activities & Questions

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Shakespeare's ~'Much Ado About Nothing~' can be an exciting and entertaining play to encounter with your students. This lesson offers some pre-reading activities and questions that prepare your class for the play.

Pre-Reading for Comprehension

If you are getting ready to read Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare with your class, you are in for some fun and excitement. This comedy offers an amusing, intricate plot, compelling characters, and important themes such as the relevancy of politeness, deception, honor, shame, and loss. If you want your students to get as much as possible out of the play, it can help to do some pre-reading activities with them. Pre-reading activities are oriented toward activating students' prior knowledge as it is relevant to the play and supplementing it so that they are well poised for strong comprehension. The activities and questions in this lesson will help your students enjoy and explore Much Ado About Nothing.

Pre-Reading Activities

These activities use different learning styles to get students thinking actively about the themes, concepts, and ideas they will encounter as they work through Much Ado About Nothing.

Shakespearean Theater

This activity is especially helpful if your students have not read Shakespeare before, but it can be useful as a reminder anyway. Break your students into small groups, and ask each group to work online or in the library to research what Shakespearean theater looked like in its original form. They will research the Globe theater and the social context of Shakespeare's writing. Bring students back together and ask them to share what they learned. As a class, help them construct a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting Shakespearean original theater with contemporary theater. This will help them envision the play as it was originally intended while they read.

Social Graces

One of the things Shakespeare pokes fun at specifically in Much Ado About Nothing is social graces. Ask your students what social graces are, and help them understand that you are referring to the ways people can act polite and even put on airs just for the sake of convention. Then, ask each student to draw a picture of the image that comes to mind for them when they talk about social graces. Give students a chance to share their art, and facilitate a discussion about whether they believe social graces are ultimately important or futile and why. It will be interesting to see their thoughts on this topic evolve as they move through the play.

Dramatized Vocabulary

Reading Shakespeare can sometimes be challenging for contemporary students because of the vocabulary. Break your students into small groups for this activity. Give each group a set of five to ten vocabulary words from Much Ado About Nothing. Words might include 'troth', 'slander', 'rime', 'flout', or 'catechize', among others. The group is in charge of coming up with a short gesture or action that showcases the meaning of the word. Let your students share what they have come up with others, then create a class vocabulary chart that students can reference as they work through the play.

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