Saturday, January 19, 2013

Third grade Shakespeare

It always amazes me when parents say, "I can't believe you were able to teach Shakespeare to 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students!"

I just directed my students in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.  The students performed and the audience was delighted.

I have been doing this for close to 20 years.  I am at a new school now, so students did not have a reference point in seeing older siblings and friends perform.

When I introduced the idea to my new group there were mixed reactions.  Many students did not want to participate, or wanted a non-speaking role.  As a director, I spend a lot of my time coaxing, encouraging, cheer leading and convincing the students that they are capable.

Our rehearsals started off slowly with student tripping over the unusual language and sentence patterns.  Some wanted to back out, some said they would never be able to learn the lines, some threatened to absent from the performance.  I cajoled, comforted and listened to each student who had an issue.

After a while, the students started to ask, "Are we going to rehearse today?"  It became the best part of the day for some of these young thespians.

Our show was successful!  Students bravely got up on stage.  Some of them were as bright as the footlights, some of them courageously gave it all they had.  The parents were delighted.

The next day, at school, the students asked if we could rehearse it again.  Every one of them was proud and walking on air for having fun and for doing a good job.

The point is, if you do not learn to love the classics in school, you will never be interested in them.  Shakespeare is not meant to be read.  It is written as a play so it is meant to be performed and enjoyed by an audience.  By the time you have to read these plays in high school, you have to already love it.

Performing builds confidence.  Public speaking continues to be a fearful venture for many.  Performing gives students positive energy around the experience of being in front of an audience.

If my legacy will be that I have started Shakespeare programs at 2 local schools and introduced hundreds of students to the Bard, I will be content.

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