Making Shakespeare Fun
Who Goes There?
The Old Bard of England is not just something to fill up an English Literature Curriculum, his rich language and complex plots provide ample meat for substantial higher order thinking. However, it is often difficult to hook someone, particularly children, and draw them into the magic. Shakespeare, fun? Surely, you jest! But alas, I do not.
Studies show that the study of literature and poetry exercise the brain, allowing for deeper thought processes. We all know that exercise is important, our brain, like a muscle, must be engaged to develop. Exposure of children to serious literary works leads to adults better able to analyze, sythethize, and interact. All of these skills are necessary for a successful career.
How Doth One Proceed?
Engaging children in Shakespeare is as simple as drawing them into the story and making it their own. One way of doing this is by a staged reading or performance of a Shakespearean play where the children not only play the parts but are charged with the technical production of the play as well.
The idea of a camp style Shakespeare experience, or Shakespeare Days, is the perfect set up for bringing children to the Global theatre in a way that will leave them wanting more. Here is brief guide to having your own Shakespeare Days experience in your classroom, with your homeschool group, or at
your home. This is the perfect activity for afterschool or school breaks.
1. Choose a play: With so many great works to choose from, this is not as easy as it sounds. The good news is that scripts are readily available. Student edition scripts are even available for free online.
2. Assign roles: Find someone for each part. Students can play more than one part if need be. Hand out scripts. Ask students to review and study their lines. There is no need to memorize the lines if you are short on time. The point is the exposure, not the performance.
3. Present the story: Gather together and read aloud an easy to understand version of your chosen play to the participants. There are several sources out there that condense plays and make them read like story books. As you read explain the twists and turns, allow the children to ask questions.
4. Create the props: Choose a selection of props for the students to create and use for their play. You do not need many, just enough to make it feel like they are really there. It is important to find time for arts and crafts so you “dress” your “stage”.
5. Have a few rehearsals: Take two to three classes/days to rehearse your play. Remember to plan out or block the movements of the actors so that the scenes progress smoothly. No need to get fancy, just run through it the best you can so that children get familiar with the language and scenes.
6. Include time for fun: All work and no play makes for boring days. Find something enjoyable for the children to do unrelated to the play, even just for a short time, once their practice ends each day.
7. Pull together costumes: Discuss how people dressed back in Shakespeare’s day. Have students make up costumes from what they have at home or can easily construct. It is more about getting into character than looking professional.
8. Invite your audience: Throngs of crowds are not needed here, perhaps just parents or the class next door. Allow the children to showcase what they have learned and accomplished.
Jubilation and Success, A Path to the Future
In the span of a week, or less depending on how long you have each day, the children who may have balked at having to sit and read a play independently have been transported back in time with the help of a little glue, paint, and extra effort. Learning by doing is learning that sticks.
Let’s all find ways to build bridges for our students not just to the future, but to the past, as well. Falling in love with learning leads to lifelong learners, which makes this world a better place.
How can you open the minds of your students and make them hungry for more?
A special thanks to Theresa Zappe for sharing her Shakespeare Days model with Global Learn Day.