Focus on "Henry V":

Navigating Digital Text, Performance, & Historical Resources

Tennis Balls and Adaptations (Eighth Grade Lesson Plan)

Page Two Audio File


ELAGSE8RL7 Analyze the extent to which a filmed or live production of a story or drama stays faithful to or departs from the text or script, evaluating the choices made by the director or actors. 

Choose a scene for the students to closely study through text. For the purpose of this lesson, we will use 1.2 of Shakespeare’s Henry V as an example. To begin, give a brief background of the play and Shakespeare’s life. Here is a list of helpful resources to show your students or use as guidance when explaining this history:  After this brief introduction, print out copies of 1.2 and distribute them among your students. Have students read aloud in groups for the class. As they read, encourage them to highlight, circle, or underline words they don’t understand. At this point, you can ask a number of them to perform the scene or you can move onto discussion.  

After the reading or acting has concluded, ask your students questions to spark discussion. Such questioning will get them thinking about the play, helping them digest what they have just read or acted. Make sure they have a clear understanding of the scene’s theme and tone before moving on, even if they don’t quite understand everything being said. 

Sample Questions: 

Once the class has a clearer understanding of the scene, play different clips of the “tennis ball” scene from different adaptations. The two adaptations we will be using in this lesson plan will be The Hollow Crown: Henry V and Branagh’s Henry V. While playing the clips, have students write notes on a sheet of paper or a worksheet to note what they find interesting. 

While playing The Hollow Crown clip, tell the students to pay close attention to the actors’ body language and tone of voice, with close emphasis on Henry. After playing the scene, have them explain what they thought of the clip, the characters, and the themes. Ask them how they think Henry feels when responding to the French’s gesture – angry? Annoyed? Is he a stern and just king? Then, have them explain how they came to that conclusion – “What made you think that?” Encourage them to look back at their notes and prod them with more questions if they have trouble. Write their answers on the board in one column, saving the other column for the next clip. After this, play the scene from Branagh's Henry V. Remind them to focus on the body language and cinematic details of the performance.

"Henry V (Hollow Crown) - Tennis Ball" Video Transcript
"Henry V (Branagh) - Tennis Balls" Video Transcript

Once the clip finishes playing, have them tell you the differences between the two. An example of a difference could be the shift to such dark lighting and how the camera focuses on Henry’s face often. Next, narrow their focus to Henry’s character. How does this Henry seem? Angry? Hungry for revenge on the French for mocking them? Intimidating? Have them explain to you why they think that, using body language and other cinematic details as their textual evidence. Write their answers on the board in the second column. 

To bring everything together, lead a discussion where you ask the students to ponder why they think the director/actors chose to include these details. You can have them write a journal assignment discussing this or cover it in class discussion. How do the adaptations differ from the original scene they read or acted? How do these separate portrayals affect their understanding of Henry V’s character? This will serve as great preparation for this unit's optional assignment.

Optional Assignment 

Have your students use the databases your school has access to and have them research a historical figure. After having them research a figure of their choice (or from a list that you give them), have them write a short story of their own adapting the history of their figure. 

Encourage them to pick a purpose for their story (To highlight the good the person has done, to tell a story that many may not know about this person, etc.). You can have them read the story aloud and present it to their peers to strengthen their presentation skills, as well. 

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