A Midsummer Night’s Dream
My fourth graders know the basics of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But that wasn’t enough for me. So this week we started on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They already learned some of the story when they worked with their art teacher making puppets inspired by characters from the play. While I was out sick on Monday, I had my substitute read an adaptation of the play as the read aloud. (I did this mostly because I am reading Where The Red Fern Grows and I wanted to read the entire book together.) The adaptation I selected was one published by Usborne Children’s Books.
I selected this adaptation because the illustrations are delightful and the text is incredibly accessible to my students, even those who struggle with reading. After they read the story once, I wanted them to do a close reading. I decided to use a strategy that I’ve used from time to time in the past, called Stop and Jot.
The strategy is fairly straightforward: as students read, they have a focus question, such as “how would you describe Puck?” Whenever they get to a point in the story that they feel relates to the question, they stop reading, jot down the idea, and then continue. They may also jot down questions, “Aha!” moments, or feelings that arise while reading.
Using this focus question, we read the fourth chapter of the book, which was all about Puck’s tricks. Even before reading, though, I asked the students to tell me about the story in general and identify the main characters. Then we focused on Puck, who all the students felt was mischievous.
After reading, the students turned to a partner and talked about their notes before writing down a couple of sentences about the character. Tomorrow they will review their notes, read again, and write a full paragraph about Puck.
I am really enjoying teaching Shakespeare this year! I love how much my students understand about these stories and the sudden bursts of inspiration when they recognise elements of Shakespeare’s stories in texts the encounter today. During our independent reading today, I had at least half of my class reading Shakespeare stories by choice and the other half disappointed that they couldn’t today!