Study guide for Macbeth, by William Shakespeare. Detailed reading, including all answer keys and discussion on many of the finer points.
PLEASE REMEMBER THIS: I NEVER HAVE MY KIDS DO CLOSE READING OF AN ENTIRE NOVEL. THEY NEVER ANSWER ALL OF THESE QUESTIONS. I SELECT PORTIONS OF THE NOVEL FOR CLOSE READING.
(Photo by Gary Warren, 1973)
46 pages of questions; 17 pages of answers and discussion
Why the photo?
It's an attempt to connect with the bloody story. America's obsession for the game of football is so like the Anglo-Saxon passion for war and violence illustrated in Macbeth. Like an Anglo-Saxon, I too appreciated, yea, loved passionately, this violent game! Like Macbeth himself, I decided to "catch the nearest way" in an effort to obtain the status I so longed for. My friend Gary snapped this photo of me in the fall of 1973 while I stood on the sidelines during a game, waiting to get back on offense. Ten minutes later, I was stretched out in agony on the gridiron with a blown out left knee.
Easy to administer and correct, educationally sound, easily transferable to many other activities, and best of all, it MAKES KIDS READ.
THIS IS NOT JUST A STUDY GUIDE. IT'S AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT APPROACH TO TEACHING LITERATURE.
Look closely through this information. It will show you how to make the students' experience more worthwhile and it will save you lots of time.
[TO GET A COMPLETE PICTURE OF HOW MY PROGRAM OF CLOSE-READING WORKS, PLEASE DOWNLOAD MY FREE PRODUCT, "Study Guides: Reading Fearfully Close."]
HERE'S HOW IT'S DONE:
Hand out only select pages of the study guide at any given time. For example, if you're going to quiz the first four chapters of a novel or the first act of a play on Monday, hand out the first page or two of the study guide on Wednesday of the week prior. Perhaps that material covers just the first two chapters of your story, or only the first half of Act I. That's exactly what you want them to have. It will give kids a good, solid basis for comprehending the story, but it will also force them to read the rest of that portion actively on their own. Encourage kids to help one another outside of class. Make it clear that they must have the last available page of the study guide complete by class time on the quiz day. Encourage them also to formulate their own active reading questions as they move beyond the material covered by the study guide. You can give them standard lists of questions such as this one:
Who is the main character? What are the character's strengths and weaknesses? Does the identity of the main character seem to shift? Is the story told in first, second, or third person? What is the level of the narrator's presence? Does the narrator have a personality of his or her own, or does the storyteller seem to sink back into the scenery? What complications and conflicts are developing, and how are they developing? What choices are being made by the various characters, and how are those decisions affecting the chain of events? Speculate constantly about why things happen. Speculate about the future course of the plot. Speculate as to how consequences might vary if different choices were made by various characters.
The point of a constant stream of questions is the focusing of attention. THIS EDUCATIONAL TOOL WILL HELP YOU TRAIN KIDS HOW TO FOCUS ATTENTION. Active readers need to formulate their own questions as they read. With practice over time, this sort of internal dialogue will become almost automatic and even somewhat subconscious. Good readers don't always answer their own questions; in fact, they will discover that it is impossible to do so. But most of us will never successfully read complex literary works without learning how to conduct this sort of active probing.
On the day of the quiz, have students complete and hand in the quiz on all of the assigned reading (all of Act I, or the first four chapters of the novel, in our example). This part of their work is closed book, of course.
Then have them copy some of the answers to previously assigned study guide items onto a prepared answer sheet. (I have them copy the last 15-20 items from the last page they were given. (If quiz day arrives and they aren't ready to copy them because their work isn't finished, they'll learn to be ready next time, for reasons that will now become apparent.)
Hand out the next page of study guide questions. If they haven't prepared their answers to the old questions, it's too late for getting help from friends. They may open their books now and look them up, but the time for collaborating is over. Make it clear that this is test time, a continuation of the quiz process. They may use their books to complete questions they have not yet answered, but they must do all their work independently.
Have students complete a number of the "new questions" from the new study guide pages, making certain the total number of questions can be finished during the class period. Students who have actually prepared their assigned study guide questions outside of class should be able to re-read and research this part of the story (which they should have already read at least once), answer the new questions pretty easily, and finish in plenty of time.
Now go around the room and help kids find the reading passages they need to locate. At first, you'll be very busy. We teachers seldom hold students accountable, to this extent, for reading. Some of them will be literally lost because they've never had to do this sort of thing before. Some of them, unfortunately, will be so indignant about having to actually read and answer questions that they will blatantly object to the activity. But a month or two later, if you keep this up, they will come to understand what is expected of them, and you will be amazed at the growth. They will recognize the value of reading the story itself and preparing their study guide answers ahead of time.
I always have students copy study guide answers to a separate answer sheet. It makes my correcting process much simpler. Later on during the class period on quiz day, I of course hand out a page or two more of study guide questions, taking them farther into the story, but not entirely through the next portion of their reading. Once again, I remind them to get together outside of class and help one another to finish the items on the last page handed out in preparation for the next quiz and study guide session.
Next day in class, we might do group work with the questions not yet covered. We might finish off the first segment of the reading and start the new. Sometimes, we're busy with a writing workshop in class. I hold many of these. Our emphasis on such days is their essay writing or their research papers. But those who get caught up with their writing can read ahead, work together, and help prepare study guides for the next quiz date, as they wish.
Some study guide questions just never get answered. Sometimes, I use questions, answers, and the analysis notes for class discussion. I never have time to close read everything, so I touch on the important developments in the story and skip to the next area of the novel or play where I want to explore (or where I want to have them explore) more deeply. They always close read on quiz days, so all students will need to prepare for those sessions by answering the questions on the last page handed out and reading very closely the text of the story that follows.
Correct the quizzes. That will go fast. Correct the study guides also. It is easier than you might think. If you have assigned thirty study guide items, select ten or twelve or fifteen of those items to correct. Count any blanks anywhere as errors.
You need to warn students that the grade scale will be tough, and that blanks will be counted as errors. I also tell kids that if they write flippant, careless answers, those will be counted the same as open blanks. (For example, a student of mine once guessed that, toward the end of the novel, Dimmesdale and Hester plan to leave Boston on a Harley.) Even if I have not selected that item to correct, I will mark it wrong. If they have guessed incorrectly on other study guide items, but have made reasonable guesses as to what might actually happen within the realm of the story, I will not count those wrong. There are good reasons for correcting the work in this manner. Anticipation, extrapolation, and speculation on the part of a reader are legitimate processes in active reading.
I tell kids that, since I'm only correcting 10 - 15 items, I reserve the right to impose this scale:
none wrong: A
one wrong: A
two wrong: B
three wrong: C
four wrong: D
five or more wrong: F
Again, all blanks and ridiculous answers are counted as errors. I weight quiz grades more heavily than those for study guides, but I never give the study guides such little weight that kids can pass the course without doing them.
Within a few weeks of starting this program, about 80% of my kids get it. They prepare for quiz days and score "B's" or better on their close reading study guides. The study guides actually become grade enhancers.
Some of my kids, not many, but some, start looking forward to the activity. I think they enjoy it because it provides them with what I call "cognitive nourishment." They just can't wait to get started and find out what new and wonderful experiences will come to light in their exploration of the literature. It is so much fun to watch them, open-mouthed in awe, clutching the book, turning pages, smiling, wondering, responding viscerally to the literature.
This plan allows kids to work together on study guides. It promotes reading both inside and outside of class. It eliminates the teacher's concerns about cheating, since collaboration is encouraged instead of discouraged. The correcting load, particularly on study guides, is greatly reduced, and the importance of the study guides is enhanced in the minds of the students. Students absolutely must read.
Students who object at first will eventually comply with the standards and begin opening the actual book and reading it. Some kids will be "grabbed" by the author at some point, and they will be on their way. Whenever kids beg for the study guide pages on a whole assigned portion of reading, you can have that conversation again about the real purpose behind all of this: It helps them to begin developing their own internal dialogue as they read.
Special needs instructors also like this plan. When kids with learning problems leave my class to work with their specialists, I make it clear that the study guides and the quizzes must be done in their presence, that the session is "like a test," and that, as long as the student performs the work with the specialist, and all the work comes back to me from the specialist, the student will receive full credit. Those students can use extra time, as needed, to finish the work. With my permission, special needs students are allowed to finish all the study guide work first and to take the quiz afterward, under the supervision of the specialist, of course.
For reading disability students using abridged versions of novels, cross off questions that students cannot answer, or select and highlight those that they should be capable of answering. Yes, I know it's work, but it's worth it, and those kids will benefit greatly.
Please download my free product, "Reading Fearfully Close," for more information on my close reading study guides:
If you're interested in how I teach writing, consider purchasing my product titled "Dealing with Writing" (250+ pages, $1.95):
These Macbeth study guides contain nearly 900 questions on the play. I've included all answers and discussion of key events.
I refer to specific lines of the play in my questioning. Standard line references were difficult to establish, since the play has been abridged and reassembled in many forms and in many places. I believe the text I used is a pretty accurate reproduction of the original verse form. I have checked it against a number of sources I've located on the internet. Specific line references will still vary from one source to the next.
Here is a table accounting for the distribution of questions through the play:
Scene 1 8
Scene 2 46
Scene 3 49
Scene 4 35
Scene 5 35
Scene 6 7
Scene 7 57
Scene 1 21
Scene 2 39
Scene 3 51
Scene 4 19
Scene 1 66
Scene 2 35
Scene 3 33
Scene 4 33
Scene 5 17
Scene 6 21
Scene 1 73
Scene 2 32
Scene 3 77
Scene 1 32
Scene 2 20
Scene 3 19
Scene 4 10
Scene 5 16
Scene 6 4
Scene 7 7
Scene 8 21
Macbeth Study Guide by Gene Wohlsdorf is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License