Shakespeare was one of those topics that I was a bit nervous about. I worried that I would miss something or interpret something incorrectly but when we covered Romeo and Juliet it actually went really well. So well in fact that my daughter goes back and reads extracts of Romeo and Juliet just for fun.
Based on the success of Romeo and Juliet I planned on covering another one of his plays in her Year 8 – I thought of A Midsummer Night’s Dream but life happened, we delayed starting the play and then she started reading it by herself. Yip one day she just picked up our copy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and started reading it without me. Wow! I loved that. I love that she is not intimidated by Shakespeare and that she is quite happy to tackle one of his plays independently. So I just left her to read it, in her own time and come and ask me questions if and when she wanted too. (We may circle back at some stage and go through it together but for now I am leaving her to explore the play independently).
She is using the RSC School Shakespeare book which is amazing and I must confess if we did not have this incredible guide I do not think she would feel confident tackling it on her own. This is now the second RSC School Shakespeare book that we have and they really are worth every penny.
At the beginning of the book there are 4 pages called “The play at a glance” – which is a four page summary of the play. My daughter suggests reading these pages first because she says it helps to understand the order of events before you get into the detail of the actual words.
The play itself is set out over double pages. On the Right is the actual text and then on the Left is what my daughter calls the “explanation page”. There is always a picture of the scene being acted out which for us is key. Just looking at the photo helps to explain what is happening in the text and it brings it to life. These photos are vital for visual learners like my daughter. At the top of the picture there is a one or two line summary (we love this), there are glossary and key term blocks which explain unusual words and then there is always a suggested activity. Now the activities are written with a school setting in mind so often they involve things like act out, discuss in a group etc etc but my daughter says she just thinks about the activity in her head and if she thinks she can do it successfully she feels like she understands that page.
This double page format is a huge hit with us. It really makes the language easier to understand and it is the reason why my daughter feels like she can read one of his works independently. And then just to help sum up all the events and characters they also include an “Exploring the Act” double page at the end of each Act and then finally an “Exploring the Play” double page as well. Which are some extra activity ideas.
At the end of the play there is a brilliant timeline of Shakespeare’s life and a section called William Shakespeare and his life – which talks about his writing style and also what Elizabethan life was like – so it explains about things like marriage and courtship during Shakespeare’s time. And we strongly urge you NOT to avoid these pages. We have found the more you understand about Elizabethan life the more his plays come together.
We are not using the RSC School Shakespeare book the way that I had planned but I honestly don’t mind. I am enjoying watching my daughter discover a play on her own. But regardless of how you want to read this play – letting the kids to try it independently or if you want to work through it together with them, this book is a true gem.
We are definitely going to get more of Shakespeare’s work in this format in the future.