Before it even occurred to the kids or to me to try to put on an entire play, I got the ball rolling two ways:
1. I started an afterschool Shakespeare Reading Group. The first semester I did it, we studied the sonnets, the theories behind them (who they're about, are they autobiographical, etc.), as well as a great deal of history about Shakespeare, his life and times. Then the second semester we read Much Ado About Nothing. We met once per week, immediately afterschool, and everyone takes turns reading aloud the various parts. With each scene, I change who is reading which part to give everyone a chance. That first year I had between 8-14 kids attend each week (in a school with 50 kids total, I think that was pretty good).
2. While getting that started, I also organized our first Shakespeare Festival, which was a chance for the classes that read his plays (7th English - Hamlet, 8th - Henry V, 10th - Macbeth, 11th - Twelfth Night, afterschool group - whatever play they're reading at the time) to break into small groups, choose scenes, memorize the lines and act it out. This also helped me start learning how to teach acting, though as I stated in an earlier post, there was a ton of trial and error, but the kids did great and the parents felt like it was VERY worthwhile when they saw the end product.
In another post, I'll discuss what I did to incorporate some of our littler kids this past semester in our 2nd Shakespeare Festival!
Those are great ideas! At my school, all of the English classes read the same play each year. It is really interesting to have the whole school reading the same play, in different ways. It is very inspiring even though I thought it was strange at first, because younger students read more complex plays. The benefit is that when they graduate they have read four Shakespeare plays!
There is a play that I have seen performed in the Edinburgh Fringe in Scotland called Breakfast with Shakespeare which puts together a number of different scenes from different Shakespeare plays in one unified whole and is absolutely hilarious. I am wondering whether a similar approach could be used to expose students to the breadth and depth of Shakespeare in terms of moments of hilarious comedy but also desperate tragedy - instead of focussing on one play and studying it to death, would drama groups allow us to experiment in such a way?
Actually, it is my dream to build a northern Idaho Shakespeare Festival. We have one in southern Idaho (the Idaho Shakespeare Festival), but I know that it would be popular up here, too.
A trip to London?!?!? That would be WONDERFUL! What an amazing experience for your students and for you!
Yes, please, if there are others out there who have done something like this and would like to share ideas, I would love to read them! Post away! :)
I love your idea for a Shakespeare Festival. One of our local companies does a Shakespeare in the Park, and I've actually wanted to do something with students. I'm already proposing a trip to London next year that includes a tour of Stratford Upon Avon and a backstage pass to the Globe Theatre. How wonderful would it be to build a Shakespere in the Park for my school district and then take them to London. If you don't mind, I'd like to hear more about everyone's experiences with putting together an after school Shakespeare program and festival!