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Shakespeare and Middle School -- Try A Midsummers Night's Dream

written by: Kellie Hayden • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 1/5/2012

Shakespeare's language is difficult for most middle school students. Try these tips with upper-level students to have fun with the Shakespearean comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream.

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    Midsummer Night's Dream Tips

    Shakespeare can be read successfully in middle school, really. A Midsummer’s Night's Dream was meant to be experienced. Middle school students will love the comedy, the love triangle and the orneriness of Puck.

    Teachers need to show students that Shakespeare is still relevant and funny. They can share how characters created in the 1600's acted like they were in middle school. In addition, one way to keep the large cast of characters in A Midsummer's Night Dream straight is to create character posters. These posters will also help with students' understanding of the plot of the play.

    Another hint to help students with Shakespeare is for the students to see the play on the stage or on the screen before they read it. His work was not meant to be read alone in a room. It is much easier to understand the language when there are actors.

    Show Students Why the Story is a "Classic"

    Tip #1 – The reason Shakespeare is still read today is because people can relate to it. Middle school students should really love the play because the conflicts are so “middle school.”

    • Puck is the archetypal ornery boy/class clown.He plays tricks on the mortals, cracks jokes, and loves to do the “evil doings" of Oberon.
    • A boy, Demetrius, is “playing” Helena and wants the more popular Hermia.She, of course, is in love with Lysander, who wants to take her to the woods at night.
    • The two best friends, Hermia and Helena, are fighting over a misunderstanding.It, of course, involves a boy. They even get a little bit physical at one point. Girl fights are humorous.
    • Shakespearean insults are so cool. What middle school student would not want to insult a person by calling him or her a “canker blossom”?

    Once the students begin reading the play aloud in class, continue to point out all of the “middle school” drama that occurs throughout the course of the play.

    Make Character Posters

    Tip #2 -- After the students have seen the play, assign students to make character posters. Each student should select a character from the play. The students need to draw out the character. Under the picture, the student should choose a line they remember from the play. Give the students the books so that they can select a great line.

    After the posters are completed, arrange them on the wall, using arrows to show what character is connected to whom. Additional information can be added to the wall so that the students understand how the cast of characters are connected.

    There are four basic groups in the play: the young lovers, the royals, the mechanicals and the fairies. Within those groups there are problems. These conflicts can be added to the wall too.

    The key is to make this accessible to middle school students so that when they hit high school they will be ready for the more difficult Shakespearean tragedies. So, if you like Shakespeare and middle school -- try A Midsummers Night's Dream. It can be quite enjoyable.

    Resources/references:

    Art to integrate with Shakespeare, http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/Arts/subcollections/IllusShakeAbout.html

    Breifs on Shakespeare, http://www.bbc.co.uk/drama/shakespeare/60secondshakespeare/themes_index.shtml

    Introduction to Elizabethian Era, http://www.eduref.org/cgi-bin/printlessons.cgi/Virtual/Lessons/Language_Arts/Literature/LIT0022.html