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Shakespeare in the classroom

Here is a lesson plan for teachers about Shakespeare in the classroom.

Again it’s dedicated to his 400th birthday. Let’s celebrate it with our students at the lesson.

So, we hope this material  will definitely help you!

Begin by sharing the following short bit of poetry from “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” 2.1. 249-256:

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows, Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine: There sleeps Titania sometime of the night, Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight; And there the snake throws her enamelled skin, Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in.

It’s not necessary for students to know the entire play; they will be focusing on the power of the writing in this one passage. Ask the students to close their eyes and imagine the scene as you read the piece to them. What do they see? You may need to give some brief definitions of unfamiliar words – for instance, students probably won’t know what “woodbine” (honeysuckle) or “eglantine” (sweet-briar) is – but keep the definitions short and simple. Let the sound of the language and the context create understanding for the students.

Pass out copies of the passage on the Handoout (provided below) and have students illustrate the scene they imagined, using the text as a reference.

Once the pictures are complete, have students read through the passage and circle any words that gave them specific ideas for their pictures. For example, if they drew purple flowers, they should circle “violet.” Discuss which words were easier to imagine, and which were harder. Did the students illustrate any words for which they did not know the exact definition? Some of the common names which Shakespeare knew for plants – musk-roses or oxlips – are evocative enough to suggest an image.

Show students an excerpt “In Search of Shakespeare,” in which scenes from Shakespeare’s native Warwickshire are shown and many of the native plants are named. (Episode 1, 08:20-09:45) Explain to them that Shakespeare’s plays drew inspiration from the countryside he knew. He used imagery in his writing – particularly metaphorical names – to communicate a picture to his audience, to create a picture in their minds.

Assign students the task of gathering their own descriptions. They should, like Shakespeare, use images to describe their natural environment. If you have access to the outdoors, students should go outside to observe plants and trees. If you are confined to the classroom, provide students with magazines that depict a natural environment in their pages. If the students don’t know names for everything they want to include, encourage them to use their powers of observation. Remind them that Shakespeare often used or even invented descriptive names: cuckoo-bud (buttercup), love-in-idleness (pansy), flower-de-luce (iris), and so on. Encourage the students to make notes that will help them develop compelling images, using similes and metaphors.

Students should then develop their descriptions into a short (no more than 10 lines) descriptive poem. Encourage them to create a sense of place – like Shakespeare did – with words.

Complete the lesson by having students share their poems with the class as a whole or, if time does not allow, reading them to one another in small groups.

Click here to get the handout elem-lp_natureofwritingSource


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