We have tackled a bit of Shakespeare in the last couple weeks. I admit, I was fearful of whether or not my 9 and 7-year-old girls would comprehend the story line, but alas, Shakespeare reached them too! (Yes, I just said "alas").
Here's how it worked for me; maybe it will help someone else out there too. I am not saying this is the only way to teach Shakespeare; I am just sharing what has been successful for my kids. Even if these ideas don't work for you, I think any effort in exposing your children to one of the most famous writers of all time can't be wasted!
1. YouTube Video
We started by watching 3 short BBC animated videos on YouTube of A Midsummer Night's Dream (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCZndWMALOo&feature=related). Shakespeare's plays were meant to be seen and heard, after all! I thought this would be the best way to introduce Shakespeare and pique their interest. Thankfully, it worked! The videos were very entertaining and narrated the story in modern English, interspersed with a few original Shakespearean lines.
2. Story Version
A few days later, we read the story version of A Midsummer Night's Dream from Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare, which is meant to be read by young children. This filled in more of the plot, characters, and motives, helping to clarify the story. I made sure to ask them to retell what was happening after every page so I could check for comprehension.
3. Notebooking Pages
I found some great materials online at http://www.homeschoolshare.com/shakespeare_notebook_pages.php for a notebook study on Shakespeare. The notebook pages ask the students to identify the following:
- Type of play: romance, comedy, tragedy, and history
- Characters and traits
- Brief summary
- Conflict and resolution: man vs. man, man vs. society, man. vs. himself, man vs. nature, or man vs. fate (God).
- Answer the question: What is Shakespeare saying about human nature in this work?
- Copy a famous quote from the play
- Vocab words
- Personal review
We have worked on half of it so far, and it is so much fun discussing the questions with them!
4. Library Books
Bruce Coville's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," illustrated by Dennis Nolan, has incredibly beautiful, imaginative pictures of the play for them to look at, and the Eyewitness Book Series has a Shakespeare book with pictures of the Globe Theatre, costumes of the time, Shakespeare's home, etc. These are great ways for the kids to visualize the time period.
5. Telling Back (Narration)
The girls re-enacted the story by using their Polly Pockets. (Here's the link for Part 1 on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6_K6q_q34k)
Because of Shakespeare's universal themes and lively characters, Ellie was able to share the whole story by memory, and Chloe helped with the Polly Pockets. This is their form of telling back, but there are many other forms of narration that can work, such as poetry, a letter to a character, a puppet show, or even drawing pictures of scenes.
The best part? Ellie loved the story so much that she is now inspired to write her own script for A Midsummer Night's Dream, cast her friends in the roles (Chloe will be Puck), and perform it in the spring for the parents- Shakespeare in the Park for Kids! She said she wants no help from me, so I am just going to be there to watch. I hope she follows through!
Up next? Shakespeare's Twelfth Night!