All the Classroom’s a Stage and All the Actors are Elementary Shakespeareans

[vc_row][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]Why did Macbeth have to kill King Duncan? He should have listened to his inner voice,” comments one fifth grade student. “How is that possible?,” asks another. “His wife was asking him to commit the deed and how can you say no to the person you love?”

These are the questions raised by my fifth grade students as we study Macbeth. They debate over every decision made in the play, wonder how people are silent even when they know that their king is wrong, how friendship turns foul very quickly, and how greed and power spell a man’s ruin. They gasp when Lady Macbeth dismisses the murder as “A little water clears us of this deed./How easy is it, then!/” And they gasp again, when she tries to repeatedly wash her hands in her sleep.  “Out, damned spot! out, I say!”

Students analyzing in class

Students analyzing in class

For the past five or six years, every Wednesday has been a Williamsday in my classroom.Students waste no time getting down to work, analyzing a scene in small groups, reading passages out loud and being amazed at every twist and turn of  the plot.  Then, there is the performance. Dispel all myths about “I am not good at memorizing” or “ I am not a good actor”. Through understanding the script and repeated listening, you will find them easily chanting 600-800 lines of a play.

It is rigor at its best when students look for internal and external conflicts, truisms, themes, generalizations, ethical behavior and literary devices.

It is relevance at its best when students use Shakespeare to interpret the events of the modern world, both personal and otherwise.

It is resilience at its best when they learn to make sense of the complexity of the text and work hard to impart the emotions in the play through the power of the words.

Students from all the schools gather at the end of the performances

Students from all the schools gather at the end of the performances

It is relationships and teamwork at its best when students work together to stage a scene or sometimes even merge two scenes.
And all of this with a five-dollar copy of a Shakespearean play and good discussions? “How easy it is, then!”

When you see 4th and 5th graders perform a Shakespeare play with confidence, it is nothing short of a miracle. Check out this link of the UT Shakespeare Festival where you will see youngsters from many area schools, including mine, reveling in the art of performing Shakespeare.

In the end, it is not about having a perfect performance, but about having fun. It is the story of students who are excited about Shakespeare at an early age and of teachers who have set aside their own fears and are willing to discover Shakespeare with their students.

So…give it a try. Email me and I will guide you in helping your students fall in love with performing Shakespeare.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_column_text]

Revathi Balakrishnan
Talented and Gifted Specialist
Patsy Sommer Elementary
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