I've been going to Kemps's for over 10 years through changes in principals, teachers and 3 buildings. I've made many friends, some very dear to me, and these weeks have become an annual re-connection time for me.
(with a little beach as well :-)
We do workshops for each of the 6th grade classes. Both Kemp's and Plaza Middle teach Shakespeare starting in 6th grade with Much Ado About Nothing, 7th with As You Like It, and 8th with The Taming of the Shrew. I love the idea that students get to start with comedies; middle schoolers naturally take to these plots and get accustomed to Shakespeare without having to worry about all the heavier issues that come with the tragedies. By the time they come to the tragedies in high school, they will be well equipped to dig a little deeper.
We act as support for the English teachers, bringing our special focus - theater- which,after all, was what these plays were intended for and is the other lens through which these plays must be explored.
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First - We discuss that Shakespeare = Performance and was not meant to be read. We illustrate with a bit of the craziness of The Comedy of Errors
Second - We get a bit of Shakespeare into the students' mouth by using Shakespeare insults. We illustrate the idea that the body and voice interpret the words.
There is no difficulty interpreting that face--->
Insults in action!
Third- Sculptures! The students get lines from the play and physically interpret them!.
Finally - We explore the plot of the play by having the students become the characters and they mime the action as it is read to them. It's a wild and crazy time!!
Physicalizing the plot uses kinesthetic memory to lock in information- very good for adolescents. The students leave the class laughing and discussing the characters and what they did.
We are recognized in the hall by a student from last year:
"You're the Shakespeare people!"
We're exhausted but exhilarated and return to our temporary homes to crash.
By the end of the week, we have initiated nearly 250 students into the mysteries of Shakespeare.
Now, this was a magnet school, easy enough for these students on the far end of the bell curve to learn Shakespeare. But would it work for the lower end students?
I believe it would. By keeping it light and helping them to answer questions through acting it out, I believe they can not only "get" it, but get excited by it as well.
Unfortunately, in most schools, it's the upper end that get the "privilege" of having workshops booked for them.
I hope that will change some day.
Until next time.....