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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern


Through this creative activity, inspired by Burke’s The English Teacher’s Companion (1998), students reimagine a story through the perspective of minor characters. This process can help students to gain new insight into the action and meaning of the story, and the motivation of all of the characters.

Learning Strategies 

  • Inferring
  • Questioning
  • Synthesizing
Character Analysis, Experience A Text, Making Meaning

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Launching Into New Content
  • Synthesis

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Reading
  • Writing

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Balancing Informative and Literary Texts
  • Staircase of Complexity
  • Text-Based Answers


Consider identifying a set of appropriate books that model this type of activity, such as the Tom Stoppard play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which pairs with Shakespeare’s Hamlet; Jo Baker’s Longbourn, which pairs with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; or Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, which pairs with L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Or for a lower level class consider The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith which is told through the eyes of the wolf. Identify excerpts of appropriate texts that can serve as a model for students. Identify the target text, which students should have already read. Create a list of minor characters in the text.

Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher guides students in a discussion of the characters of the text, and students fill out a T-chart listing the major characters in one column and the minor characters in another column.

    You can prepare this ahead of time if you want to skip this step. You can also skip it by simply providing a list of minor characters.

  2. Each student selects a minor character from whose point of view she or he wants to retell the story (or part of the story) of the text.
  3. Students write a short story that retells the story of the text (or a portion of it) from the chosen minor character’s point of view.

    This writing assignment can be completed over one class period or a single night of homework, but can also be extended for a week or longer through a focus on the writing process including brainstorming, outlining, and multiple drafts and revisions.

  4. Students share their stories with a partner or a small group, and give feedback to a peer.

    Students often benefit from scaffolds for their feedback such as sentence stems or a clear protocol for feedback. You can also consider binding these stories together in a class book, or posting them together in an electronic document linked to the original text.

  5. Alone or in a group, in talking or writing, students reflect on their learning process. They should respond to questions including: · How did this activity affect your understanding of the original story? · How did this activity change the way you under

    Guide students by listening to and expanding their thinking in journal responses, conferences, or class discussion.

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