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The City Journals

Dilworth students meet Shakespeare

Feb 27, 2017 04:16PM ● By Natalie Mollinet

The masks were made by the students who proudly wore them during their play. (Linette Sheffield/Dilworth teacher).

By Natalie Mollinet | [email protected]

William Shakespeare wrote in “Twelfth Night”, “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”

For Dilworth’s fifth-grade classes, greatness was thrust upon them as they performed William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”. Performing a Shakespearean play has been a tradition for the fifth-grade students at Dilworth but before they get to say their poetic lines, they learn about Shakespeare and the play.

“They learn about the Globe Theater, Shakespeare’s words…he made up so many of the common phrases we use today,” Linette Sheffield, the teacher who coordinates the performance, said. “They do assignments which help them solidify the things we teach about Shakespeare.”

She said that after they learn about Shakespeare, they learn more about the play. They read a summary, learn about the characters, and finally are given scripts to memorize, which many agree is a task.

“It’s a challenge for many students, but soon they are understanding Shakespearean language, and loving it,” Sheffield said. “They learn that a lot can be accomplished when everybody does their absolute best, and work as a team.”

While some may think that Shakespeare is too advanced for elementary school students, many educators would argue otherwise.

“Performing Shakespeare is a self-esteem booster,” Sheffield said. “Students learn to do something they have not had any opportunity to do before, and they learn a lot about themselves while doing it. If I had to tell you one thing students like the most, it is actually performing the play in front of an audience, having the audience laugh and clap for their performance.”

Preparing for the performance begins as soon as it ends. The teachers and parents involved get ready in the spring and, depending on the year, will pick a tragedy or a comedy. Last year Dilworth performed “Macbeth”, so it was a comedy’s turn to take the stage.

Stephanie Nelson has been directing the play for the past few years and loves working with the students and sees the value of continuing the fine arts in schools.

“I think it’s important for students to learn Shakespeare in elementary school because Shakespeare is a prolific writer and references to his plays exist both in the academic work and in our everyday lives,” Nelson said.

Nelson said that her two oldest participated in Shakespeare while in school, but when common core came around it made it hard for her other children to participate. She took it upon herself to help her younger students get involved in Shakespeare running rehearsals outside of school time.

“Mrs. Sheffield and Ms. Redmon have collected scripts and costumes over years of producing plays at the school,” she said. “So we met together to figure out how to continue this tradition.”

The trio were able to involve parents and get help with costumes and props. Because of their efforts, the students have been able to participate in a play and learn the value of working in groups, public speaking and memorizing lines.

“There are many things that I hope the kids will learn because of performing Shakespeare,” Nelson said. “…The kids are fearless and willing to take it on, and the results are always spectacular.”