"How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare" by Ken Ludwig, is a book I started reading to get ideas for curriculum and teaching techniques. I finished read it it, however, out of pleasure. The author is a playwright, and his depth of understanding not only how Shakespeare wrote, but the surrounding historical and cultural implications of specific word choices makes this book a very fascinating how-to. Chapter one made me a little uneasy at it suggests that children should learn Shakespeare by memorizing passages. "Really?" I thought, "Surely there is a better way and hopefully I don't have to read a drab book about memorization drills!" Then chapter 2 grabbed my attention when Ludwig made an excellent case answering each of these topics:
Why memorize it?
The Value of Knowing Shakespeare
1. To memorize and recite 25 selected passages of increasing difficulty
2. Imagery and rhythm (shown with diagrams of sorts to simplify it)
3. Plots and characters of various works of Shakespeare (there's that overview I was looking for!)
4. Poetry vs. Prose (on a deeper level that I could paraphrase here)
5. Vocabulary words (Ludwig explains words which had different meanings, multiple meanings, and even words which Shakespeare seems to have "invented" for his characters) & a heightened awareness of allusions to other texts/events/myths/etc.
6. Shakespeare's life and overview of his work
7. An appreciation of the creativity & intelligence put into playwriting and theater
8. (most importantly) Not to give up on reading something because it seems difficult, or the language is awkward. Dig deeper to uncover the treasures!
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite overcanopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet muskroses, and with elgantine.
(A Midsummer Night's Dream, At II, Scene 1, lines 257-60)
The word 'nodding' actually creates two images. It suggests that the flowers have sleepy human quality; it also suggests that they are bowing their heads in respect- which in turn suggests that the bank is a place where someone important, like a queen, might come to sleep. As we'll see in a moment, that is exactly what the bank is for, and the queen's name is Titania."
UPDATE: I nearly forgot to mention(!): This book is considered non-fiction and is not written with a specifically Christian worldview. (aka this is 'secular') There are a few places where the content or implications of Shakespeare's plays may be too mature for your student(s) and I would always suggest reading the portions in advance of reading them with your students to be certain you an edit/adjust/omit any text or activities you may feel aren't necessary or appropriate for your particular situation. This update is only a courtesy to any readers of my blog who may be seeking "Christian" book reviews.
**In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of this book for free from Blogging for Books for the purpose of this review. I wasn't obligated to give a positive review, the opinions are mine.