Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

"Have I had children's voices?"

I’ll admit. I was wary of my first Children’s Festival. And each year I’m still a little wary. I know they can do it. They know they can do it. But will they do it? Will they speak the speech?

And every time I am pleasantly surprised. Yesterday we had a 9 year-old Lear who howled as heartbreakingly as any RSC alumnus. We had a tiny Lady M who covered for a missed line and blocked exit by grabbing her “husband”‘s daggers and shoving him out of the way to finish the bloody deed. There was even an incredibly emotive Ophelia and regal Gertrude who, though English was their second language, gave so much character to their roles that it could have gone on for 4 hours and no one would have complained. Today as I watched an impassioned 4th grade Brutus defend his treasonous actions in an oration, his teaching artist leaned over to me and whispered, “He has ADHD and can barely sit still to read a book.” Yet here he was, listening to his fellow actors, speaking loudly and clearly, and injecting his speeches with feeling.

Yes. They can get nervous. So can you, as their teacher. But elementary students CAN and WILL read and perform Shakespeare. It’s just up to us to give them the opportunity to.

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