On the Journey 

news reel: stories of People, places, and learning AT Aspen Country Day School
6 reasons to start learning Shakespeare in Kindergarten
Posted 10/25/2017 11:58AM
The annual Lower School Shakespeare Festival is a much-anticipated event on the calendar at Aspen Country Day School. As students in Kindergarten through Fifth Grade were learning their lines, practicing stage falls, and rehearsing their swordfights, we pulled aside drama teacher Marci Sketch for her thoughts on: Why learn Shakespeare at an early age?
     
Sometimes, a new parent or visitor will be puzzled: you really teach Shakespeare in Kindergarten? Aren't they too young to understand a complex scenario like Macbeth? Even in Fifth Grade, isn't Julius Caesar  a reach?
     "There are so many things students gain from learning these plays," Marci says. She starts the Shakespeare season in drama classes by explaining the plot of each play. "I do a one-person 'show' to tell the story and build their familiarity before they even get their scripts," says Marci. "So they already know what's going on before they hear the words. They are reeled in."
 
Marci on: 6 reasons we teach Shakespeare in Lower School
  • vocabulary"The plays expose them to rich language and ways of speaking. Once they learn how to use this new vocabulary, they love to say their lines and see the reaction. Parents will hear amazing things at the dinner table."

 

  • compassion: "I will tell the Kindergarteners, 'OK, imagine. Lady Macbeth wants her husband to be king more than he himself wants that.' They consider the possibility of another viewpoint."

  • understanding: "I think children in these younger years really have a better grasp than we realize of topics like love, religion, politics, power, parenting. We were talking about unrequited love, and a First Grader spoke up, 'One time in Kindergarten that happened to me.' Shakespeare gives children words for their feelings."

 

  • participation: "In an ensemble cast, everyone gets to do something. They are all part of it, and even if you don't get a famous line like 'to be or not to be,' you still learn those key lines and can recite them."

 

  • falling in love with literature: "Kids will read these same plays again later, and instead of something to be afraid of in high school or college English, they will be a happy memory."

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  • critical thinking: "I love it that Shakespeare offers children thoughts that stretch their minds. They respond and understand at their own level. They make the connections, whether it's about Julius Caesar and today's politics, or the family politics in The Tempest."

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