Monday, May 14, 2012

Brownie Shakespeare (The Plan)

So this story broke on Twitter a couple weeks ago.  My wife runs a troop of Brownies (think "small Girl Scouts" if the term is unfamiliar) for my 7yr old daughter.  Last week her plans were scrapped due to rain, and she spontaneously said "Want to do some Shakespeare with them?"


Cue mad scramble for teaching materials that I could use with a small (5 kids) group of 7yr old girls.  I literally had like less than half a day to whip something up.

End result of that little rush was that she came up with a backup backup plan and I was off the hook for such short notice - with plans to reschedule for the next meeting.

And here's the next meeting, tomorrow afternoon!

Thanks to everybody on email and Twitter who sent suggestions.  Here's the rough outline I've got planned:

* Introduce who Shakespeare was and give some quick history / bio stuff.  Born 400 years ago, Globe Theatre, that sort of thing.  Show props.  I have a number of Shakespeare toys, including a pop-up book with the Globe in it.

* Explain the rules of "Talk Like Shakespeare".  Thee thy thou, that sort of thing.  I'd love to play some sort of game of taking modern song lyrics and Shakespearizing them, but I don't have any good examples handy.  (Note to self, register the domain name "" :) )

* Explain, very broadly, the coolness factor involved in writing a full length play that is also a really big poem.  Seque into iambic pentameter, the whole "stand your sentence on its head so you can make the rhyme come out", that sort of thing.

* Break out my game.  What I did was to go get some sheets of printable refrigerator magnet, and print some well known speeches ("Wherefore art thou, Romeo?" / "If we shadows have offended..." / "Double double toil and trouble...") onto them.  Then I cut them up into strips.  I explain to the kids the general idea of the three speeches ("One is spoken by Juliet about her new boyfriend Romeo", "One is a magic spell cast by the witches", "One comes from the ending of a play where a fairy comes out to talk to the audience.")  Then we work on reassembling the speeches, and when we have them right, we act them out.

I expect that, even with the explanation of the speeches, they'll need a lot of help.  I'm thinking about possibly breaking out my First Folio and using it like a big hint ("Does that sound right? Let's check...The Book.")

If I have time between now and then, I've got extra sheets of magnet so I'm going to print off some do it yourself "Shakespeare refrigerator poetry" to let them take home.

My plan, obviously, is to keep some level of speaking it without having to rely entirely on acting it.  I expect such a small group of such young kids won't immediately warm to the idea of playing roles (especially if they have to spout lovey romantic stuff to each other).  But I didn't want to do sonnets because I though those were too far removed from the idea of plot and character.  I can explain each of the three speeches from inside the play.  There are little hiccups - like discovering that there's 1 line in Juliet's speech that has 12 syllables instead of 10, but I think we can work around that.

I will let everybody know how it goes!  

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