Shakespeare Shadows

This year is the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare.Occasionally I am asked how we can link our target language learning to the whole school creative curriculum and in October last year one teacher asked me how she could perhaps link language learning to the school focus on Macbeth.Just how can we link language learning to Shakespeare as part of the primary school creative curriculum?

The launch of "Shakespeare Lives" by the VSO (British Council)  has made me put pen to blog and write down two of the ideas I developed after being asked the question aboiut Macbeth above.

So how do I think we can link a creative curriculum focus on most plays by Shakespeare and the learning of a primary foreign language....Below are two ideas that I think we could use with UKS2 :"Wordsmith Collections" (reading and dictionary work), and "Shakespeare Shadows"(speaking,performing,listening)

Creating wordsmith collections! - investigating nouns,adjectives and verbs in bilingual dictionaries

  • As a class let's  collect nouns, adjectives ands verbs that we feel help to colour in the story line of the Shakespeare play we are considering.As I was asked about Macbeth (gruesome as it is ) I am focusing on this play but the ideas are transferable to other plays too: e.g. nouns the children may connect with Macbeth could be  - "soldiers,King,wife,witches,woods,castles,murder, blood, knives, madness, greed,ambition,battle "
  • Let's collect adjectives about the characters: e.g. crazy,brave,greedy,powerful,jealous
  • Let's look for infinitives of verbs associated with the story too e.g to fight,to murder, to chant, to be afraid, to die....(slightly dark I know with Macbeth!) . 
  • Now let's create "Wordsmith Objects and Pictures", let's think of of objects and places in the storyline that are important (so what about a cauldron,a wood,a castle , a crown,a knife ,a King etc) and let's select nouns,adjectives and verbs we have found in our bilingual dictionaries to fill in the pictures we have drawn of the objects.We can only add nouns , adjectives and verbs that we feel fit in with the part of the story lin in the play where the associated with the object or place
  • Can we create a class target language picture story book using these "Wordsmith collections?

Shakespeare Shadows : Creating our own "Shadow Theatre 60 Second" performances!

  • Ask the children to focus on a character or group of characters in the play you are focusing upon- so if it's Macbeth , we could look at Macbeth, Lady Macbeth,the soldiers, Banquo,the witches, the gate keeper.....
  • Ask the children to draw an outline of the character/characters they want to focus upon and ask them to transfer the outline to an A4 piece of card and cut it out.We are going to create our own Shadow Theatre monologues based on the characters the children select.This may be an activity where you want to ask some children to work in pairs or where they may want to work with two friends etc because they want to characterise and perform he witches or the soldiers for example ...  .
  • Discuss with the children which part of the verb "to be" and "to have" they need use to speak in the third person about thie character/characters.
  • Now ask the children to collect nouns and adjectives that they associate with the character/s
  • Can they decide if they should use the phrase from the verb "to be" or the verb" to have" with the nouns and adjectives.
  • Now they need to practise the words.Some of the nouns and adjectives may be unfamiliar to the children so ask them to apply their knowledge of sound- spelling and to practise these as single words and add a dramatic action - with their working partner or table 
  • Ask children to share their dramatic action and their pronunciation of the key words they have chosen with the class- this will give you the chance to discuss and check pronunciation
  • Ask the children to write their simple monologue for the character they have chosen.It must only last 60 secionds - maximum.This will be a description of the characters in the third person singular/plural  
  • They need to practise reading this aloud , remembering  the monologue, so they can say the monologues without a script and then adding a voice that they think suits the character/s (e.g cackling voices for witches etc) 
    • Now it's time for the 60 second performances! Using a screen or a sheet placed on a table with a light behind the screen or sheet , invite each child to step behind the screen or sheet and kneel down below the top of the table at the back of the screen..They must hold up their card character and present their monologues in character to the class
  • A great follow up  would be  with  Chatterpix or Yakit4kids APPs  spoken recordings too! .Simple black and white photos of the character outlines with maximum 60 sound recordings by each child, that could be played to the class as a whole final performance- joned together and collated in Book Creator!

You may find the link below to the British council VSO initiative interesting too.....Shakespeare lives