My Teaching Debut Approaches

Hi Gang,

I thought folks might like an update on my upcoming teaching debut.  For those coming late to the party, I actually get to do an hour of Shakespeare with my daughter’s 7yr old class, at the request of the teacher.

With literally no experience at doing this sort of thing in any structured way, I’ve been going a bit crazy trying to figure out how much to tackle without completely blowing it.  I know that there are plenty of resources out there for this sort of thing and I’ve been doing my research (thank you to my regulars who dumped all their best links and documents on me), but at the end of the day I kind of want to find my own voice, you know?  This has been something of a dream for me for, I don’t know, forever.  I don’t want to just recite somebody else’s script.

I’ve sent off my plans to the teacher (who asked for approval, to make sure that I wasn’t going to do anything that might go so far over the kids’ heads that I embarrass them).  Here’s the highlights:

* Some material on who Shakespeare was, put in context of what the kids have been taught.  Mostly of the “After Christopher Columbus but before the Pilgrims” sort of stuff.

* A lesson on poetry and sentence structure. If I can nail this I think it goes a long way toward unlocking the dreaded “Why is Shakespeare so confusing??” question.  I simply want to point out to the kids that in pursuit of poetry, you can rearrange the words in a sentence in unexpected ways.  We’ll use some of their dictation sentences as examples, maybe play a game and let them try it out (“Make the sentence work out so that ‘game’ is the last word).

* I’ve come up with highly edited versions of three scenes (which are, really, compilations of multiple scenes). One, for example, is all of the Lysander/Hermia/Demetrius/Helena sequences.  We’ll play a version of the “Woosh!” game, where every time a character enters the role will be played by whoever was the next student in line.  This means boys playing girls, girls playing boys, and general silliness.

* My scripts are still almost entirely Shakespeare.  I’ve swapped out some “thee” and “hath” to smooth things out, but never did I just scrap a line and go “modern translation”.  That’s a big deal to me, and I wrote it in the notes to the teacher that I have faith the kids even at that age will be able to understand the text.

* For fun and depending on time filler, I’ll bring along an interaction version of the Shakespeare Insult Generator where I’ll let the kids pick words out of a hat and hurl their insults at fellow classmates.

That’s the plan I’m focusing on.  I’m trying very hard to keep the performance content high, while not starting something that we won’t even get halfway through.  If we can make it through all three of my scenes, great.  I’d like to at least do 2.  I think that with three scenes, the intro material and the insult game as filler, I can easily make it last an hour (maybe a little more) without feeling like I left too much out.

The big day is Thursday December 22.  Getting closer!

One thought on “My Teaching Debut Approaches

  1. Hi Duane,

    I have a website that explores some of the vocal and linguistic demands of Shakespeare. Check out:

    Look under the Blog section and the Freytag Pyramid section.

    I hope some of the info there is of use to you, if not in your teaching gig this time, possibly in the future.



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