Tag Archives: english lesson plan

Perez Shakespeare

On the first day of my Merchant of Venice unit, I asked had my Grade 9s to do a graffiti wall and answer a bunch of questions. One of them was, “What scares you about Shakespeare?” I got the classic answers, mostly having to do with unfamiliar language, challenging new vocabulary and boredom. One student wrote, “dudes in tights,” and yet another admitted being afraid of Shakespeare’s moustache.

While I can’t do anything about the Bard’s ‘stache, my overall objective over the next month is to make Shakespeare a bit less scary for my students. We started with a round of Shakespearean balderdash, a game introduced to me by my English prof at OISE last year. Now we’re on I.ii, the scene where Portia and Nerissa gossip about the suitors. I created a little activity to help the students see the humour in the scene: Shakespeare meets Perez Hilton. It gets them to apply their own language to the text, and it will be a good opportunity for formative assessment, as our unit summative is a teen magazine.

William Shakespeare meets Perez Hilton

Lady Gaga wears a dress made of Q-Tips!

Brangelina adopt quintuplets from East Timor!

Miley Cyrus spotted binging on pickled eggs!

Celebrity gossip is everywhere these days, but it’s nothing new. In Act I, scene ii of Merchant of Venice the wealthy heiress Portia and her lady in waiting, Nerissa, are discussing the potential suitors who are competing for Portia’s hand in marriage. The two women gossip about the suitors – their clothes, their manners, their habits, and their personalities.

Your task is to be an Elizabethan celebrity gossip blogger. Write a creative blog post about any of the suitors in this scene, or about one of the other characters we have met in Merchant of Venice.

  • Your post must contain accurate and specific references to the character
  • Use your imagination – fill in the details as though the character is a contemporary celebrity
  • Include a creative headline
  • Write in a playful, casual tone but use correct spelling and grammar

Example:

Portia Dishes the Dirt on Oprah

It girl Portia sat in Queen O’s chair yesterday and dished the dirt about the stable of international suitors who have been knocking themselves out trying to woo her. Oprah’s audience was treated to some juicy gossip about the Neapolitan prince’s – ahem – “horse.” Apparently Miss P.  would rather gallop through the countryside with the Venetian scenester Bassanio. TMZ spotted the blonde beauty checking out Bassanio’s assets at a recent masquerade. Yesterday, @Bassan_YO tweeted, “Move over Jake Gyllenhaal! B dog’s going to Belmont 2 find the golden fleece!” Is it true love, or true lust?

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Lesson Plan – Poetry as Art & Activism

Centered around Gil Scott Heron’s classic performance poem, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” this lesson plan explores the history and conventions of spoken word poetry, teaches that poetry can be a powerful form of activism, and examines “The Revolution” as a pop-cultural meme. By the end of the lesson, students will create and have the opportunity to perform their own “My Revolution” poem reflecting their everyday experiences, personal histories, ideas and beliefs.


I wrote this lesson plan as an assignment for my English class at OISE. It was one of my first exercises in formal lesson planning, but it earned me a 10/10! I think much more can be done with this topic – students can make their own videos, perform their pieces, and learn more about the conventions – and social purposes – of spoken word poetry.

The lesson plan and student handouts are below:

Poetry as Art & Activism Lesson Plan

Handout 1

Handout 2

Handout 3

Handout 4

I especially like Handout 4…it traces the influence of the Gil Scott Heron poem. The iconic phrase shows up everywhere from articles about the tweeting revolution surrounding the Iranian elections to hip hop songs.

My favourite take on the poem is spoken word artist Sarah Jones’ piece,  “Your Revolution,” wherein Jones calls out the misogyny in the hip hop music industry. Might not be entirely appropriate for the high school classroom – although when the FCC tried to ban it for indecency, Jones successfully sued the FCC for censorship. Here she is, doin’ it and doin’ it and doin’ it well…