Wednesday, April 10, 2013

It Begins....Again!

Y'all know me, I never give up.  Earlier this year I mentioned to all my children's teachers that I would volunteer to do a unit on Shakespeare for their class, tuned however they like.  A couple weeks ago my middle geeklet's teacher sent a note home asking for more information.   So I promptly wrote her a lengthy bunch of suggestions, and never heard back.

That's because she never got it.  Tonight was one of those "academic fairs" where the parents wander around the school looking at our kids' projects, and sure enough this teacher came up to me and asked for more details.  I asked if she'd ever gotten the email, she said she had not.

So!  Here's how I pitched it, just to put some scope on it.  I told her that we can tackle the subject one of three ways:

1)  History/biography.  Who Shakespeare was, when he lived, what was going on at the time, what role he plays in history, that sort of thing.  Probably the least interesting, but also the easiest and most straightforward.  (The kids' projects we were looking at were all biographies, so it tied in).

2) Poetry/Meter/Rhyme/Memorization.  I know that each grade does some degree of poetry work so I know that this could fit in easily with their regularly scheduled plans.

3) Get them out of their seats and performing some scenes!  I emphasized that this is by far the most fun and most valuable but that it's also got the most variables - finding acceptable scenes, dealing with the shy kids, managing head count, etc...  (I'm sure you directors don't see any of those as a hurdle but if I'm going to get one shot at this I don't want to spend 90% of the time trying to coax a kid out of his seat, or convince a boy to play a girl's role.)

#3 is her clear favorite, and as "head teacher" she doesn't think that there'll be any obstacles.  So it looks like we're on....again!

If anybody's got pointers to scene selections appropriate for 8yr olds, send them my way.  I've got some copies of "Shakespeare for Kids" and "60 Minute Shakespeare" around here someplace so I'm going to try those as well.  Both of those are modern translations that leave in key passages, which might be the easiest way to go for an introduction.



Sean O'Sullivan said...

Hi Duane,
Here is something that might light a flame in you!

JM said...

Been doing that, on my own, for the past 6 years, thanks to a colleague in the Arts who had the vision to recognize my approach as a possible avenue to exposing younger students to Shakespeare. She asked if there was a way; I found it, based upon the philosophy and method I used to instruct adult actors in technique. The method and approach I developed for children was rooted in RSC and First Folio techniques. The approach is KEY.

Academics in Britain had to admit they were failing at teaching Shakespeare (they really had no choice given the glaring results) but had the humility and foresight to seek ways to change their approach, instead of simply claiming it was "too hard" and excising it out of the curriculum (as has happened, sadly, and continues to happen elsewhere).

--They involved the RSC. It's THEATRE first. The literature part comes later.

Duane Morin said...


Send me an email? I'd love some insight on best play/scenes to tackle for the very first time doing this!