Before and After Reading Macbeth: From Write-Around to a Post-It Note Gallery Walk Around Provocative Statements

In early January, my seniors participated in a write-around as a modified anticipation guide to introduce themes of Macbeth with a series of 10 provocative statements.  At the end of the write-around, students received a copy of all 10 statements and were asked to do some written reflections on those statements.  We finished Macbeth last Friday, so I wanted a way for students to revisit those students invidually and collaboratively.

I held onto to that work until this past Monday when I returned them to the students.  Each student received a set of 10 colored/lined sticky notes and was asked to do the following:

Students were required to include their names on their work and to provide textual evidence to support their responses.  Monday is our “skinny” day of our modified block, so we only meet about 48 minutes or so; we used the entire period to work on our responses, and I gave students an additional 20 minutes today in our normal block session of 90 minutes (this class meets Wednesdays and Fridays).

For our next steps, students received a gallery walk notetaking sheet, and we reviewed the following instructions:

Students then visited the 10 stations in whatever order they preferred and jotted down their notes.


Yes, I spend my own money on the sticky notes and colored paper, but they are a wonderful investment!

As students finished, they received a reflection handout to help them process their notes from the gallery walk:

We’ll talk through their ideas and reflections as a class on Friday before we take our unit assessment on the play.  The primary goal of this activity was to give students a chance to revisit the statements that kicked off our study of Macbeth and to think about how the reading of the play changed (or didn’t change!) our perceptions and reactions to the provocative statements that tie into the themes and big ideas of Macbeth.  I love being able to do “before” and “after” activities around a common text or activity with longer works of literature and nonfiction, and I’m excited to read and hear what the students have to say in our class discussion on Friday.

On an individual level, I read the sticky notes after class on Monday and used them as a formative assessment in progress so that I could help students today who were coming up short on specifics and/or textual evidence in their responses as they moved forward with finishing their work today.

Using the Write-Around Structure as a Collaborative Anticipation Guide

Those of you who have followed my work in the past five years know I am a huge fan of Harvey Daniels’ written conversation strategies.  Today I decided to take anticipation guide prompts/quotes and incorporate them into a write-around with my 12th ELA Honors seniors as a fun way to kick off our first day back from winter break plus introduce some of the major themes of Macbeth focused on power, tyranny, and ambition.  Because I have not taught Macbeth nearly ten years, I used this wonderful set of thought-provoking quotes  as my “prompts” for the write-around.

I printed and taped my quotes into my handy manuscript tablets and then placed them on tables and table groups around the room; there were ten stations in all.  I then introduced the concept of a write-around to my students and reviewed the protocols with them:

Once we reviewed the procedures, students wrote silently and made approximately three passes at every station for about 23-25 minutes.






I then assigned groups of 2 and 3 students to each station.  Each pair or group of three had these six questions to answer:

  • Step 1: What do you and your group members think the statement/quote means?
  • Step 2: Do you and your group members agree or disagree with the quote? Why? If you cannot come to an agreement, record each group member’s response.
  • Step 3: Look at all the responses at your station. If you had to categorize or summarize them into three categories, what would they be?


  • Step 4: What is the most interesting response written at your station? Why?
  • Step 5: What is one question your group has about the quote?
  • Step 6: What is one connection you and group can make between this quote and either modern society/current events or something you have studied or read about?


Students took about 15 minutes to discuss and record their responses to these six questions with their partner or partners.  We then did a large group share out with each pair or small group presenting their reflections to the entire class.

The activity generated some terrific discussion and was a wonderful “re-entry” into the new semester.  After all groups had presented, each student received a copy of all 10 quotes from the write-around silent conversation stations and then completed individual questions using these prompts:

As we move through the play, we’ll revisit these quotes and periodically reflect on how our interpretations of the statements may change based on the events in Macbeth.  As always, I find the write-around one of the most flexible and meaningful learning structures I’ve used in the last five years and in my 25 years of teaching.    If you are interested or want to learn more, you can read Harvey’s book as well as my extensive series of blog posts that feature how I’ve used the strategies across different learning contexts and subject areas.