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Machiavelli's THE PRINCE

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Keywords: History, Government, Social Studies, the Renaissance, annotating text,
Subject(s): Civics, Social Studies, History
Grades 11 through 12
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
View Full Text of Standards
School: Ovey Comeaux High School, Lafayette, LA
Planned By: Mel Didier
Original Author: Mel Didier, Lafayette
1. There are 26 chapters in Machiavelli's THE PRINCE. With each group of 3 students getting 3 chapters (one of the groups would only have 2 chapters: I suggest choosing chapters 10 and 11 for one group because the first 11 chapters are similar and concern one strain of thought (that is the types of principalities that exist).
2. Each group gets 3 copies of the page(s) of each of the chapters assigned to the group. Be sure when copying the chapters to use 1.5 or double spacing so the students can "annotate" their copy of the text. They do this by highlighting new vocabulary and certain passages which help to explicate the text. (An alternate method would be to use normal spacing but printing it with a 2 to 3 inch right margin.)
NOTE: This prepares students for the extensive use of original documents and readings in college and how to deconstruct the ideas found in those documents.
3. After 2 days of working on the assignment in class and preparing their "lucid and succinct" 3 point analysis of their chapter the students would, in order, summarize the entire book in one class period. Their explanations would not be challenged until all of the chapters have been presented.
4. Each group would forward their 3 points per chapter to my google docs account which I could then print out for further analysis by the entire class.
5. After all of the chapters are explicated and reduced to 3 points each, making a total of 78 points, the students must then find 5 points they think are still viable in today's world and write a one-page analysis as to why they think they're still relevant and provide examples where possible.
6. An additional critical thinking element to this assignment would be that each group would have to reduce the ideas of each of their chapters to a slogan and/or a bumper sticker. This requires a true understanding of the "intent" of Machiavelli.
7. A differentiation activity that could be added to this assignment would be for each group to create a poster that summarizes the main point(s) for one of the three chapters assigned to them. They would also include their slogans/bumper stickers on their poster.
8. Rubrics would be created for creating their 3 points, for their writing assignment and for the poster. I suggest using RubiStar for ease and simplicity for each of these elements.
This is a great way to analyze the period of Renaissance history that spawned this critical look at the necessary elements of leadership. It could also spark an intense discussion of the pros and cons of a republican form of government. Especially relevant would be a discussion of the Machiavellian "cliche" "the end justifies the means."
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
This brings in 4 different subject areas: history, English (analyzing, annotating and explicating text), writing, government and art.
Students could bring in articles, downloaded from any of the news agencies, that validate or repute the ideas of Machiavelli. This would keep the students alert to the local, national and world news that are each day bombarding their lives.
Links: www.cnn.com
Materials: Art Tools, Printers, Word Processor