'The Play's the Thing'

By Hewitt, Lucy | NATE Classroom, Autumn 2008 | Go to article overview

'The Play's the Thing'


Hewitt, Lucy, NATE Classroom


All the resources mentioned in this article are freely available on the special NATE Classroom page at http://www.teachit.co.uk/nateclassroom. The title of each resource (here in bold) links directly to the file for you to download.

Or is it? When I started teaching, Shakespeare was my Achilles heel. Language was a concern, assessment was a concern, as was the huge size of the task ahead. Should I approach the text as a whole and drag my class though it from start to finish or should I focus on specific scenes and fill in the rest by way of plot summaries? And how on earth was I going to train my students to pick out relevant quotations when some of them couldn't sound out the words? Without any drama training or experience, it simply didn't occur to me that I was dealing with plays, not prose texts and that a few drama approaches might have provided a more painless (not to mention fun!) way in.

With this in mind, I've selected a few of Teachit's best drama/Shakespeare resources in the hope that others might be inspired by some of the ideas, find security in experienced teachers' tried and tested methods, and be able to see beyond some of the stumbling blocks that affected me.

'For my part it, was Greek to me'-- introducing your class to Shakespeare

You've read the play, you've got to grips with the characters, the plot twists and turns and the language (up to a point), but how on earth are you going to introduce your class to Shakespeare?

33 things to do with a playscript

An accessible list of simple but effective ways of working with a script. This includes the usual suspects such as hot-seating and role-play, but also champions ideas such as forum theatre, the balloon debate and fast-forwarding characters' lives. At the very least, this resource will provide a good jumping-off point.

Approaching Shakespeare

This is a teacher-focused list of ways into a Shakespeare text. Concentrating on the text as a script, it contains a number of appealing and simple ways to help bring the play to life. The most attractive aspect of this resource is that it encourages a holistic approach and steers away from painstaking, word-by-word analysis.

'My salad days'---pre-teaching activities, warm-ups and starters

Pre-Shakespeare drama---dramatic monologue (Much Ado About Nothing)

A fun activity in which students are asked to imagine attending a wedding in which the husband-to-be accuses his bride of infidelity and storms off. Students consider how they might react and whether or not they'd be thirsty for revenge.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Thought tunnel (Much Ado About Nothing) Students provide Leonato's thoughts on the disastrous 'almost wedding'.

Shakespearean insults

A simple, one-sided resource consisting of the foulest insults imaginable. This is a great warm-up activity and focuses on actions, positioning and tone and generates a level of enthusiasm unusual in Shakespeare lessons!

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

'We split! We split!'---accessing The Tempest

If you want to start The Tempest off with a bang, then simply round up your class and herd them towards the drama studio. Handy props include a whistle and the Teachit resource cited below.

Performing Act 1 Scene 1

This introduces a class to The Tempest by taking an ensemble approach to the shipwreck scene. It includes a list of actions and words, and a useful, cut-uppable sheet of vital quotations. The accompanying Tweakit suggests applying some of the techniques to Ted Hughes' poem 'Wind' by way of an extension activity.

'Like a dull actor ...'--it's not just about acting

Students sometimes assume that drama is solely about acting. The director or producer role is often left to the teacher who dutifully doles out parts and directions. …

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