So, why do Shakespeare with a year 8 class? Why do it at all? The second, first. Because he's got something to say to everyone - or else why do they still make movies based on his plays - or inspired by them, even (and there are plenty of THOSE! I plan to try She's The Man when we've looked up background to Twelfth Night and what was Twelfth Night anyway?)? Why do we use his quotes and even his words without thinking about it, daily?
Why Year 8? Because that's what I've got, and there's no guarantee they'll ever do Shakespeare again, not a full play, though they might get a slightly more advanced intro next year. I chose Romeo and Juliet because of the Luhrmann movie and because the hero and heroine are just their age.
I started with numbers, as suggested by another teacher - they had to look up the connection between those numbers and Shakespeare, e.g. 37 plays, 1564, the year he was born, 18 - a famous sonnet. 2000 - words first heard in his plays. And so on. Then I got them to tell me one fact they'd learned that day - "Ooh, it's called 'The Scottish Play' because there's a curse on saying the name!" one of them squealed excitedly.
This is a difficult class. There are some great kids in it, but many who are very, very hard to engage. Luckily, the most difficult of them were not here today - and they're fresh first thing in the morning. I couldn't have done it on a Friday afternoon when, alas, I have them for a double period.
I decided to at least show them a few scenes of the Baz Luhrmann Romeo and Juliet because it's very fast-paced. Just the fight scene at the beginning, that's all. We began with a little pre-teaching. "So, has anyone ever had a girlfriend or boyfriend Mum and Dad don't like?"
"All the time," groaned one of the boys. When another asked why parents had had power to decide who you married, he added, "Still happens in my country."
I was in the middle of taking them through the basic storyline on-screen - thank heaven for Interactive Whiteboards, though it wouldn't show the photos I'd inserted - I had to show them separately, but that worked anyway. I'd got their attention by then. The Principal walked in, bearing electives forms for them to fill in and I worried that when he was gone I might not be able to get their attention again.
But no. They were interested. Even the group of girls who had had their noses in novels were watching.
After I'd done the Shakespeare bio and showed them pictures of the theatres,including the modern Globe, and gone through the very basic story outline, we put on the DVD. I couldn't believe who was watching! One student who has shown very little interest in anything this year was watching wide-eyed. I meant to turn it off just after the fight scene, then the scene where "Captain" Prince yells at the idiot Montague and Capulet parents, but they refused to let me stop. They watched as Romeo appeared, brooding on a girl who never actually appears in the play, then just a little more as Juliet made her first appearance with her mother and nurse. I mentioned that Lady C would have been only about 28 years old.
When I asked, "Who'd like to see some more another day?" most hands went up.
Not sure what I'll do when I have the full class. Two were doing bin duty and four were absent and some of those may show no interest at all, but stand by.