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A Ceremony of Passage for sixth Graders

By Jeny Randall

“Nay, religion, let not me play a girl. I’ve a beard coming.” (Midsummer Night time’s Dream, 1.2.45)

Adelina tosses the ball throughout the circle to Will who friends at a paper in his hand. “The course of true love by no means did run clean.” (1.1.136)

Will tosses the ball to the subsequent scholar who troopers by way of her line, “My mistress with a monster is in love!” (3.2.6), and on the ball goes, backwards and forwards throughout the circle. So begins our examine of Shakespeare: with a tapas of strains from the play delivered with out context or correction.

Once I first taught this unit six years in the past, I requested my college students what got here to thoughts once they heard the identify “Shakespeare.” One scholar responded, “I consider demise and Romeo and Juliet.” One other wrote, “A outdated time-y english man who wrote performs in a really bizarre model of English.”

Since that point, the sixth grade Shakespeare unit has turn into a ceremony of passage, and college students from years previous examine again fondly to trace the unit’s progress.

The way it all started

I used to be fortunate. I learn Macbeth as a fifth grade scholar and located myself on my ft performing out the a part of Banquo. The next yr, our sixth grade class took Midsummer Night time’s Dream to the woods adjoining our college the place, performing the position of Demetrius, I attempted to shake Helena by hiding behind a very massive tulip poplar.

So when a trainer pal referred me to Shakespeare Set Free (2006), I used to be bought. Three volumes present a roadmap for “an modern, performance-based method to instructing Shakespeare” throughout seven of his most beloved performs.

The books are printed by the Folger Shakespeare Library, an unimaginable useful resource for instructing and learning Shakespeare’s works.

In her introduction to quantity one, editor Peggy O’Brien expands on the beliefs that present the muse for the sequence, together with “Shakespeare is for all college students: of all capacity ranges and studying ranges, of each ethnic origin, in each form of faculty,” and “Shakespeare examine can and ought to be energetic, mental, energizing, and a pleasure for trainer and scholar.” (xii)

Illyria, the setting of Twelfth Night time

Think about scholar bloggers, photographers, and commentators reside reporting on a scene from Twelfth Night time carried out by their friends and expressing their opinion on the insanity, or sanity, of Malvolio. Or a mother-may-I type sport by which Viola in disguise as Cesario is courting the Duchess Olivia. Over the course of the scene, the category decides if the suitor strikes ahead, backward or stays in place based mostly on the influence of the strains.

Our Shakespeare unit

Our sixth grade curriculum facilities across the theme of Identification and Origin. Due to our small and close-knit neighborhood, I rotate by way of three performs, every exploring the theme of mistaken id: A Midsummer Night time’s Dream, Twelfth Night time, and As You Like It. On the middle of every, nonetheless, is the unabridged Folger version of the play in Elizabethan English.

On the second day of our Midsummer unit, we unpack the characters, mapping them by setting and associations, including symbols to function clues of roles and relationships. These maps turn into a well-used useful resource as college students acquire familiarity with the characters. Additionally they function a pre-set for discussions of forest vs metropolis; magical vs. human; and wilderness vs. civilization that can comply with.

Day three has college students studying by way of a brief scene from the play with solely the context of the character map and that first batch of strains. College students stumble over pronunciation and which means the best way they could when tackling new vocabulary or syntax in a world language program. After which comes a spark of connection: “Nay, religion… that’s my line! The one I stated after we tossed the ball round.”

The sense of thriller attracts college students in: just a few strains, a solid of characters, a scene taken out of context. They usually adore it.

Michael LoMonico has captured this fantastically in his story That Shakespeare Child (2013), a recent novel with a fairy story really feel that facilities round a category learning Romeo and Juliet. Their trainer begins with a standard method, after which, challenged by her college students, begins to comply with the Folger methodology.

LoMonico, each an English trainer and Folger board member, is aware of the tactic nicely. His story is sort of a YouTube video on methods to train the performs, however with sufficient teen romance and snark that it resonates with college students as nicely.

It’s true: Act One is difficult, the language is new, the characters advanced and plenty of. However as college students turn into snug with the textual content, I start to listen to snippets of strains echoing down the hallway. “Some are born nice, some obtain greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” (Twelfth Night time, 2.2.143)

Shakespeare’s work is humorous. His characters are wealthy and attention-grabbing and his plots delight. However performs are supposed to be carried out, and when college students are on their ft debating in regards to the stage instructions for a scene or the place the inflection ought to fall on a line, they be a part of the dialog and expertise the enduring attraction of the Bard.

We steadily finish our day as a complete center faculty – one thing we are able to accomplish with a scholar physique of forty – a second of reflection, just a few bulletins, a fast sport.

Just lately, I challenged college students from earlier years to mud off the passage that they had memorized throughout their examine of Shakespeare. Laughing, they delivered, beginning with a choral recitation of the Seven Ages of Man speech memorized two years prior. “All of the world’s a stage, and all of the women and men merely gamers…” (As You Like It, 2.7.146…)

A brand new method to Shakespeare

In case you’re in search of a brand new method to train Shakespeare to any age, seize each Shakespeare Set Free and That Shakespeare Child. The well-thought-out lesson plans in Shakespeare Set Free and the illustration of the method in LoMonico’s novel make a superb pairing.

It’s pageant day. College students have learn the play in its entirety, explored a personality in depth, written a paper on theme, and chosen a scene to workshop. They created costumes and props, added sound results, selected a setting and time interval, rehearsed, and plenty of have memorized strains. Mother and father collect expectantly and the scenes start.

Jeny Randall is the Center College Director and language arts trainer at Saratoga Unbiased College in New York State. She additionally oversees the curriculum and program growth for grades 6-8. Jeny is a Responsive Classroom licensed trainer. Exterior of faculty, Jeny teaches yoga, reads no matter college students ship her method, and spends time along with her household, outdoors if attainable.


O’Brien, Peggy. Shakespeare Set Free: Educating A Midsummer Night time’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth. Simon & Schuster. 1993

LoMonico, Michael. That Shakespeare Child. CreateSpace. 2013

Folger Shakespeare Library.  2024



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