Bright costumes, brilliant scenery, hours of practice and students reciting Shakespeare…sounds like something high school students might do during English class. But actually, it’s Lincoln School fourth graders practicing their lines for a Shakespearean performance.
The fourth grade English Language Arts enrichment group, with teacher Lori Cobb, received a head start on Shakespeare by learning, not only about Shakespeare’s work, but also about the man himself.
“I didn’t know that Shakespeare was friends with Queen Elizabeth,” said Lincoln fourth grader Abby Doverspike. “I like that he wrote a lot of plays and in different genres like tragedies and comedies.”
As a group, Mrs. Cobb’s students read The Tempest. Then, each student, or group of students, took a scene from Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Richard the III or The Tempest to create a performance. Students are in charge of all work required to put on the performance including:, memorizing lines from scenes, developing acting skills, creating scenery, finding props, working with the lights, and creating posters and publicity. Students have spent hours rehearsing the Shakespeare Project, which will be presented to their parents and peers in May.
“I chose Shakespearean plays and a unit of study on William Shakespeare to end my year of enrichment with my students. Students study Shakespearean sonnets, and one play. These students are very proficient readers. This unit challenges their thinking, stretches their literary skills, vocabulary and comprehension,” said Mrs. Cobb. “Language was the key for Shakespeare and it is a great way to stretch fourth graders. Because Shakespeare is an important part of the literary canon, I love to expose them early.”
By reading Shakespeare at an early age, children are exposed to the richness of language, vocabulary, rhyme and rhythm that inspire natural curiosity and excitement. Speaking and performing this language enables children to learn naturally through play, bringing the words to life through movement and expression, according to Janet Field-Pickering, Head of Education; Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC.
“I didn’t know that Shakespeare wrote in iambic pentameter,” said Lincoln fourth grader Quinn Kearney. “He also wrote in Old English and I really didn’t know what some of the words meant. So, we talked about, and looked up, the definitions. I learned a lot of new vocabulary words by reading Shakespeare.”
By taking classic sonnets and plays and relating them to today, Mrs. Cobb ignited a flame under her students to pique their interest in, not only reading Shakespeare, but also play writing, public performance and art.