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I use the guided note handout and accompanying PowerPoint to help my students get a handle on the various character groups BEFORE we begin reading the play. I find that they get really confused without it. It’s easy to understand why the play is confusing at first because there are so many characters and various plots going on simultaneously.
I also like to give students a short summary of the Pyramus and Thisbe play before we read, as well. Otherwise, it takes them a while to sort out what the play-within-a-play is about. It also offers an opportunity for me to talk about where Shakespeare got his inspiration and to connect it to Romeo and Juliet, which most of them have already read or are at least familiar with the plot. Shakespeare wrote Midsummer shortly after he wrote Romeo and Juliet, and it is easy for students to make the connection that both plays draw somewhat from similar sources.
Students simply watch the PowerPoint and fill in the blanks.