- The children read Midsummer Night’s Dream from the following books to familiarise themselves with the story:
- I also bought this beautiful book. The pictures are mesmerising and the story well told. It was really important that the children completely understood the story of this play because their project would be based on Midsummer Night’s Dream:
- I also asked them to watch this film of Midsummer Night’s Dream:
I was working on the computer whilst the children were watching this and I knew from the off that this was a winner, they were all laughing so hard! They all said they struggled with the language a bit but the story telling of the actors just took over and they were utterly enthralled, even my son.
Goals of this Week
- To understand the plots and subplots of the play in preparation for their project
- To understand the principle characters and their motivations in order to represent them on stage in their final performance
- To learn some performance skills
- To decide how to perform each act for their final performance
Shakespeare Biographical Work (10 mins)
Read out-loud Act I, scene 1: John and Mary Arden Shakespeare Welcome a Baby from the following Shakespeare book:
Understanding Midsummer Night’s Dream using Modern Situations (20 mins)
I read out a few situations which could be termed as modern day equivalents to the situations in the play, that the children might find themselves in- for example falling in love with the same person; falling in love with someone their parents didn’t like.
We discussed each one in terms of their feelings, their own world view and the actions they may choose to take given the circumstances. I did this in order to help them begin to see this play in terms of their own life. When one is able to personalise a piece of literature it becomes much easier to internalise what is going on and for what reason. In other words it makes hard literature simpler.
Midsummer Night’s Dream Act I, Scene I-II (60 mins)
This week we would focus on listening and watching the play rather than reading, so they could get used to the language.
We listened to the following BBC3 production found on YouTube, paying particular attention to the sound effects:
We listened from the start to 20 minutes 25 seconds which took us to the end of Act I scene II. As well as listening they followed along in their book. I had the children take it in turns to narrate the act back to me, and they all did a fabulous job.
We then watched all of Act I filmed on location at the Globe theater (about 20 minutes) whilst having snack. This is such a fabulous production, really laugh out loud funny in so many places and the actors are second to none.
Reader’s Theater (30 mins)
I did contemplate writing our own readers theater, and we might very well attempt that in one of the other plays but for now I bought this book in for ease. Today we did a readers theater of scene I and II of Midsummer Night’s Dream from the book above. Readers’ theater is such a fun, enjoyable way to ensure an understanding of the text. The children take on the parts of the characters but have no dress up, practice or pre-read of the plays. They act without props, a stage or any knowledge of what will happen next. The narrator’s job is to give hints of acts which they must carry out whilst reading their part. So much fun and much giggling goes on (mainly from me…):
I think they really enjoyed this. Lorna was all three narrators, whilst the five children chose different parts to read, with B13 choosing Helena’s part. In the last picture he was skipping on to the stage with his basket of berries! He made a very good Helena in deed!
Language study (10 mins)
An oxymoron is a rhetorical phrase in which contradictory terms are combined, as in a deafening silence and a mournful optimist. Shakespeare litters his works with oxymora such as the one in Act I Scene I, which I asked everyone to look for:
It can be found in line 11 when Quince tells his assembly what play they will produce: “The most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe.
Bottom later states he would have a “monstrous little voice” if he had the role of Thisbe
I asked the children to come up with a few contradictory phrases to describe each other.
Human Slide Show (60 mins)
As we are are doing a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream my focus this week was to ensure the children knew the play inside out. Creating some tableaux of key scenes from the play and thus making a human slide show was a perfect way to get the children up on their feet and focused on what was going on.
Human slide shows involve the students taking on certain characters and creating a static, expressionful, silent snap shot of a scene. These are pre-rehearsed and are shown to an audience in the sequence with which they occur in a play.
We would not be showing them to an audience. Instead I would be taking a Polaroid photo of each snap shot pose and pegging them up in the correct order hanging from a piece of string. The benefit of using a Polaroid is the space underneath the actual photo to write a sentence about the scene. This would be used as part of the children’s presentation at the beginning of September. We will be doing this for all five Acts to create a pictorial play on our wall.
The children really threw themselves into this! They decided among them who would be in charge of each act and then made impromptu scenery and costumes, including some great wigs:
I am so thankful for children who are naturally really enthusiastic, and having Lorna’s two just makes it even better! B13 causes much hilarity throughout the day but none so much so when he asked to be Helena again and attempted to get himself into a dress (back to front….):
And the three human slides are as follows:
- Egeus declares that Hermia must marry Demetrius, not Lysander:
- Hermia learns that she will be executed or sent to a convent if she does not do as her father wishes:
- Hermia and Lysander tells Helena of their plans to elope:
They all had heaps of fun doing this and I thought they came up with fantastic ideas. It far surpassed my expectations in terms of fun and creativity.
Break for Lunch and Quiet Time (60 mins)
Character Study with Character Interviews (30 mins)
I think the relationships within Midsummer can be quite difficult to track because, essentially, there are three plots and three separate groups of individuals whose stories are also intricately entwined with one another’s stories.
There are many ways to do a character study from simply reading out other people’s thoughts to writing in depth essays. I kind of wanted the children to think a bit more than just reading what someone else had to say about each character, but I also wanted it to be lighthearted and fun (so an essay was out of the question!).
I decided the best way to achieve this was to pretend we were on a television show called ‘Who are they, really?’ led by a well known interviewer called Fay Mouse (geddit? Fay Mouse? Famous?? No, Lorna didn’t either), who Lorna would play:
I was a bit nervous about this section. I had found it the hardest to plan and had even contemplated leaving it out. I’m very pleased I didn’t though! It was soooo funny! Lorna was perfect and executed the whole thing with ease. I struggled to take photos I was laughing so hard. I managed to get a few though. Today Fay (Lorna) interviewed Egeus (C12), Hermia (K) and Bottom (B13):
In the lower left, B13 is displaying his magnificent roaring skills as Bottom pretending to be a lion:
T13 was recording everything as it was happening. I only wish I knew how to embed a video and you could have all watched the delights of Fay Mouse and her ‘Who Are They, Really?’ TV program:
Performing Shakespeare (30 mins)
Each day during this first week I will be teaching some performance techniques they can use when producing their final presentation/play. Today we looked at what the actual play could tell us about Elizabethan theater, concentrating of Act I, and we looked at how the punctuation within the verse should help when we read out Shakespeare’s plays:
- Learning about Elizabethan Theater
I asked the children to find Act I Scene II. This is an activity I found on Folgar. We learnt about Shakespeare’s use of oxymora which I had introduced the children to earlier in the day; the fact that all Elizabethan actors were boys and therefore it was always male actors which played the parts of the female characters; and finally we learnt that players needed to be very wary about upsetting royalty. If the players displeased the king or queen of the time they may be in danger of losing their lives.
We also learnt that Shakespeare did not have a curtain drop between scenes. Instead the players of one scene simply exited the stage once it was complete and the players of the next scene made their entrance.
- Pay Attention to Punctuation
The punctuation in Shakespeare’s plays is there to aid reading, so it was vital the children knew what to do when they came across a full stop or semi colon.
Full stop– it is what it says. A full stop. The reader should pause and take a breath. However if the full stop is in the middle of a verse line, the pause and breath should be as short as possible to avoid breaking the rhythm.
Commas – These don’t warrant a pause at all
Semi-colon- These require a tiny pause.
Never pause at the end of a line, unless there is a full stop, simply move quickly onto the next line without a drop in the pitch of the voice
Breath control and a large lung capacity is vital for reading Shakespeare!
Project Based Learning (60 mins)
I will be posting about their projects in a separate post each Saturday. Lorna will be over seeing the projects, although I’ll be on hand if necessary as well.
And last but not least….
Daily Exit Ticket
Each day the children will be given some exit questions which I will write onto some scrap book paper (an exit ticket). These were the two questions I posed today:
- What three things did you learn today that were essential to your understanding of the act?
- What was one random fact you learned today?
This exit tickets will be collected each day and I will be using them, along with photos, to create a Summer Shakespeare Club Scrap Book:
Here is day one of our scrap book memories:
Continuing with Day Two tomorrow…..