Double, double, toil and trouble…

We were recently asked if we had any ideas for using Macbeth with Y5 and Y6 children. Being ladies who like to help, we turned to our very merry band of social media followers who came up with a great list of ideas for using ‘the Scottish play‘ in upper Key Stage 2. Knowing that there are more busy teachers out there looking for ideas to inspire their classes, we’ve taken the list, tweaked it, added a few of our own ideas and created a list of 15 ideas for teaching Macbeth in primary schools.

1. Reciting poetry aloud, or performance poetry as we prefer to call it, is set to take a central role in the proposed Primary Curriculum due for arrival in schools from 2014. Whilst our follower asked us for ideas for Y5 and Y6, we can’t help thinking that the Witches Spell (Act4 Scene 1) makes a great introduction to learning to perform Shakespeare by heart and we think it’s suitable from Y1 onwards.  You could also link this to Shakespeare’s sonnets and a comparision of the sonnets and the Witches Spell.

2. Once you’ve learned the Witches spell, why not have a go at writing poetic spells of your own. Just think of the fun you could have coming up with ingredients and then getting them to rhyme. What about writing the spell as a rap? This could make a really fun performance and could be recorded using Audio Boo and then embedded in your class blog or class website.  If you are working with KS1 you could use this idea with Emily Gravett’s book  Spells

3. If we’re talking spells, we’re talking recipes. Here’s a chance to push the boundaries with instruction writing so that they are a bit more than a list of ingredients and a method. Get the children embellishing their instructions so that they are oozing with creativity from introduction to conclusion.

4. Letters make a useful short writing opportunity in many units of work and Macbeth is no exception. What about a reply from Lady Macbeth to Macbeth? Depending on the next steps for your class you could use it as an opportunity to work on sentence or whole text structure. It should also give the children an opportunity to find their authorial voice and begin to show those aspects of AF1 and AF2 that are sometimes hard to evidence.

5. In a similar way diary entries, as any of the major characters, would allow the children to write from different points of view, to practise using the first person and make their authorial voice loud and clear.

6. A newspaper report about Duncan’s murder would allow the children to demonstrate their abilities to recount the main events – evidence for both reading and writing assessments. Again by pushing the boundaries of what you expect in the report children could demonstrate control of narrative voice by switching from 3rd to 1st person through the inclusion of eye-witness accounts.

7. Have a go at rewriting a scene as prose. Depending on the abilities of the children you could set success criteria to include adjectives, adverbs, descriptions of settings etc.

8. Turn the playscript into direct speech. This provides a great opportunity to practice the conventions of dialogue such as new speaker – new line and using a variety of synonyms for said.

9. Try rewriting a scene in modern English

10. In a drama session, use a conscience alley to reflect on the choices any of the characters have made. Could they change Lady Macbeth’s mind?  How could the story have turned out differently?  This could be a catalyst to a piece of diary writing.

11. Are all witches evil?  Discuss.  Look at the portrayal of witches in literature.  How have witches become unpleasant characters?  What sort of character are they in Macbeth?  Are they evil?

12. Set up a role play area. Put up some black cloth, cover everything in black paper and put a bin covered in black paper in the middle. Provide copies of the text and some witches cloaks. This should provide some great opportunities for talk which should then find their way into the children’s writing.

13. Create a story map of the plot and add significant quotes, to aid retelling and use in the role-play area.

14. Create a Macbeth movie poster. Study film posters and artwork to create success criteria (for example necessary information about actors/directors; persuasive techniques to attract an audience eg a memorable image, a slogan to hook the audience, ‘quotes’ from film buffs and the media). Use of imagery to invite interest. Model how to summarise a plot in 100 words or less and add to the poster.  Use technology to create the poster.

15. Investigate quotes from Shakespeare plays that are used in present-day language, and challenge children to use them in a variety of situations and writing opportunities.

So if you are planning on tackling a bit of Shakespeare, or looking for some follow-up ideas if your children have been to see the adaptation of the play at Warwick Arts Centre, we hope this blogpost has been of use. This post could not have been written without the contributions of the following people – Leanne Doran, Remi Gonthier, Estelle Evans, Janette Catton, and Saskia Mannion. Thanks to each and every one of you for your brilliant ideas and passion for Primary English teaching

Thanks also to Jes Powell for asking the question that led to this blog post.

Originally published on LoveToReadToMyClass.Wordpress.Com

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