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Lesson Plan

Analyzing Advice as an Introduction to Shakespeare

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Analyzing Advice as an Introduction to Shakespeare

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Jacqueline Podolski

Milwaukee, Wisconsin


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



Students read and analyze the advice given in Mary Schmich's 1997 Chicago Tribune column "Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young," which inspired the popular recording "Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)" by Baz Luhrmann. Exploring the column and its recording, students focus on both content and style through the following central questions: What advice is being given? To whom is it given? How good is this advice? Using similar analytical techniques, students then explore the advice that Polonius gives to Laertes in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Based on this exploration, students write their own advice poems as a final activity.

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Advice Text Rubric: Use this rubric to assess students' advice poems.

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In their article "Shakespeare through the Lens of a New Age," Linda Tabers-Kwak and Timothy U. Kaufman explain, "English teachers constantly seek to bring relevance to Shakespeare's works, and if we agree with Rosenblatt that our role is to help students ‘gain a broader and deeper insight through literature itself' (107), then we must utilize ways to take the best that literature can offer-Shakespeare, for instance-and help students truly embrace the text in a way that they deem relevant and worthwhile to the age in which they live" (73). Music and advice columns provide, according to Tabers-Kwak and Kaufman, a gateway to Shakespeare that allows students to focus "a perspective about Elizabethan drama through a twenty-first century lens" (71). This popular-culture lens ultimately "remov[es] Shakespeare's ‘unapproachable' stigma . . . and promises to open more investigative doors for student exploration among all levels" (73).

This lesson plan focuses on connecting popular culture (music and advice columns) to a short passage from Hamlet, giving students the opportunity to investigate Shakespeare's language and ideas in a concentrated and specific situation. As Michael Milburn explains, "tackling an entire play, trying to elucidate language, plot, and historical context all at once" can be overwhelming to students (76). Middle school students, he suggests, can have a more positive experience with Shakespeare's language by studying a specific Shakespearean speech, removed from plot and historical context. Students can then focus on interpreting the structure and language of Shakespeare in a concentrated exploration.

Further Reading

Milburn, Michael. "Selling Shakespeare." English Journal 92.1 (September 2002): 274-79.


Tabers-Kwak, Linda, and Timothy U. Kaufman. "Shakespeare through the Lens of a New Age." English Journal 92.1 (September 2002): 69-73.

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