A Guide to Teaching Shakespeare Part 3 - Get Physical With It!
This is the part we’ve all been waiting for! (Especially the kids!) Having followed the advice in Part 1 and Part 2 of this Guide, you’re now ready to get physical with Shakespeare, to get your students up on their feet and performing!
Here you’ll find three of my favourite initial ‘up-on-your-feet’ exercises and activities suitable for all years - with developments and differentiations included.
1. Character Statues
In front of your class, stand in a statue position of a character from your chosen play. Be sure to exaggerate changes in your posture to really highlight features of your character; shoulders back, on tip-toes, crouched over, chest and head high, a specific gesture etc.
Invite students to guess which character you are pretending to be.
Can they copy your statue?
Repeat this process with other characters from your play.
Test your students memory by calling out a character name. They are to respond by creating the correct statue.
EYFS & KS1
Have students come to the front individually. Whisper a character name to them. Can they remember the correct statue? Can the class guess which character they are?
In pairs, play a simple version of charades. One student is to perform a statue (as practiced altogether). Can their partner guess the correct character?
Develop this by allowing students the time to discover and create their own versions of statues for characters. Play charades in pairs again. Can students guess the characters correctly, and give reasons why they thought it was that character? ‘His hands on his hips made him look brave and proud like Macbeth.’
2. Character Creation
Develop the statue activity by utilising movement.
Demonstrate an example in front of your class first by moving around the space like a character from your play. Can they guess which one you are?
Invite students to copy the movement.
Can they copy (or suggest) the movement for other characters?
Solidify these movement styles for each character; Puck moves like this. Oberson moves like this.
Play Follow the Leader around the space as the different characters.
Invite different students to be the leader of the line. Which character will they choose?
Invite students to choose their favourite character and move like them in the space. Can you guess who’s who?
Unlike EYFS & KS1 allow each student to experiment with their own movement style for each character.
Have students walk around the space as themselves. When you call out a character name they are to begin walking like that character. When you clap, they resume walking as themselves.
Develop this by calling out a line of dialogue rather than a character name. Can students respond appropriately?
3. Freeze frames!
Divide the class into two groups, assigning each group a character.
Invite each group to stand like the (pre-devised) statue of their character.
Read aloud a section of the play where these two characters meet giving context to the freeze frame.
Can one individual from each group now recreate the freeze frame at the front of the class?
Repeat this activity for other sections of the play.
This activity can be developed in two ways, and I recommend choosing one or the other before combining the two:
Divide the class into more groups, presenting more characters from the story. Which scene(s) in the play might these freeze frames represent?
Add a short line of dialogue for each character. Can students remember the line and say it at the right time? (Use this as the beginnings of a short performance!)
Divide your class into groups of 4 or 5 and assign each group a section of the play. (You could use your pre-made class timeline from Part 1 to help you!)
Utilising the statues created earlier, invite each group to create a freeze frame of their section.
TEACHING TIP: Take the time to share each group’s work with the rest of the class. Highlight how students have used their body language, facial expression, levels and spacing etc. to portray what is happening in the scene to the audience.
Develop this activity in a number of ways, either sequentially or as you require for the purpose of your study:
Play (what we like to call here at West End in Schools) the iPad game. In their freeze frames, instruct students that when you touch them on the shoulder they are to speak a line of dialogue that their character would say in that scene.
Press ‘play’ on an imaginary remote control. Students must bring the scene to life, acting out the events of their section.
Utilise the remote further by ‘rewinding’ and ‘fast-forwarding’ scenes. Pausing them is useful too when you need to highlight or correct something.
Invite students to create short performances of their scenes within a specific time: 1, 2 or 3 mins.
Pair up groups that follow each other sequentially. Invite students to devise a transition between their sections. Repeat this process as required until all sections have been joined together and you have a full class performance of an abridged version of the play.
NOTE: These freeze frame developments can be carried out either with students improvising lines and dialogue as an explorative study, or (especially if working towards an actual performance) utilising lines from the play itself. It can be a great line-learning exercise as well as a great stepping stone in developing scenes to be used in the play.
So there you have it! Teaching Shakespeare. Tell a story, break it down, get physical with it! I hope you found this guide useful, and do tag us on Twitter @WestEndinSchool to let us know how you get on.