Today I started our unit on Shakespearean comedy with grade 10. When I was a newish teacher, I used to start the Shakespeare units with loads of social and cultural context. I killed it. Basically I was saying that Shakespeare is technical and difficult and you need to know oh-so-much to appreciate it. These days I take a more affective approach.
We read Much Ado About Nothing, and I start by giving the this Love Quiz:
I have them choose 2-3 responses in which they are especially interested, and they prepare to defend their answer. The class discussion that comes out of this is fascinating; in past years, the conversation continues between students for days afterward outside of class and on Facebook. The range of ideas about love and marriage is amazing, from the very idealistic to the very cynical.
My goal is to engage them emotionally so they have a personal interest in the content of the play, and it works. I follow it up with a very quick presentation (about 20 minutes) to give a little context and technical vocabulary. We watch the Branagh version, read it and do quick performance activities an act at a time.
One of my goals is to help them see that they can understand the language in short doses, so this year I've stuck A4 pages with these questions on the wall, and when we come across passages that relate we'll print them off and put them up.