Earlier this year I spoke about Shakespeare to my daughter’s fourth grade (9yr old) class, and I have to say that it was the best experience I’ve yet had. Just the right combination of attention span, interest level, and academic proficiency (i.e. they could read and pay attention :)). I heard that after I left and they went to their library hour, kids were looking for Shakespeare books.
I’m happy to report that I’m doing it again!
Every year this particular fourth grade classroom performs a play, based on a book that they read that year. The script, I believe, is written by the teacher. When I told her that I had more material that involved getting the kids up out of the seats and performing some Shakespeare, she suggested that maybe we could use it as an in-class exercise to help kids get over their shyness about speaking in public.
Happy to do it! Next week for the first time I’m going straight into a class that already knows me, already knows my subject, and has already heard most of my canned material. I get a blank slate! I’m thinking about bringing kids up to act out Gertrude’s bedroom scene from Hamlet or something similarly exciting. Mostly for the yelling and the stabbing. Get their interest right away. No monologuing.
I’ve also got a project I worked up for my son’s class and never got to use, where each kid gets a line from Henry V’s “band of brothers” speech. First, though, I show them Kenneth Branagh performing the speech, to see why it’s a big deal. Then I tell them to do it like that, and let them have at it. No idea how that’ll work, but it’s sure a great place to work on projecting from your diaphragm.
This year’s Shakespeare posting marathon is sponsored by “Shakespeare is Universal.” Help us prove that Shakespeare makes life better. Buy a t-shirt and support cancer research.