Daily Drudgery - or - Life is Sweet

March 24, 2016

Literary Literally Works

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In conversation last week, Indi referenced a character from Great Expectations when chatting with his Grand dad about prisoners in the 17th/ 18th century. We both struggled to come up with the convict’s name and I was about to go upstairs to grab the book and Indi blurted out ‘Oh – it was something like Magwitch’. Knowing these stories is no more important than knowing any good story, and Indi is exposed to all types of literature, from great picture books from the library for bedtime stories, traditional fairy stories, Road Dahl, David Walliams, The Beano, his daily reading book that is getting evermore challenging, Wimpy Kid novels, Harry Potter read at bedtime, CD stories in the car from Enid Blyton, and many other sources. But when we have opportunities to look at something most unlike what he might have looked at at school it feels really special. In the book ‘A Classical Education‘, Bauer suggests that exposing young ones to classic stories adapted to suit them, and repeating the exposure to them over the years in increasingly challenging ways, will hopefully prevent them from being daunted by the original text in years to come. When teaching Shakespeare in secondary schools, for children who have no idea about the amazing stories and characters, the barrier of the old English is enough to put them off for life. Similarly with other wordy classics written in modern English; why bother when there are so many other great stories around that are far more accessible? I was never exposed to more than a sprinkle of Macbeth in secondary school, and my own education of Shakespeare has been self-taught, reading plays and educational guides over and over, watching plays whenever I can see them live, and of course watching any DVDs. Seeing the play brought to life is the best thing. I took Bauer’s advice with Greek Myths and he loved the gory stories, which have been adapted into so many fabulous story books for children. Anyway, back to our week. We have been reading Usborne’s classic Dickens tales, and he was most taken with Great Expectations, reading and discussing the plot over and over again. It might not stay with him for ever, but I like to think that we’ll return to these stories in the future, and the more sophisticated themes won’t be half as difficult to grasp when he already has a good idea about the story.
Last week we visited the library and I noticed we’d missed Shakespeare week, and my dad reminded me that it was 400 years since his death, hence the focus. The library were giving away some nice resources for children, but better than that there was a lovely selection of picture books and history books, so I gathered it all up and set about exploring the plays for the next couple of weeks. Of course I was excited being slightly biased about the Bard!

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Free at the library were potted versions of Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet. On the reverse was a ‘Where’s Will?’ challenge, where main characters and Shakespeare himself could be searched for in an illustrated scene. There was a printing error where the scene on the reverse didn’t match up with the story, but we worked it out!

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All the way through, Indi was becoming more confident about the unusual names. To him, they weren’t intimidating, they were just names.

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These weird animations I’d won on Ebay months ago, were shortened versions of the plays, though still using the old English lines. So far we’ve watched Hamlet, Othello and The Tempest. Wish I had the full set! See Shakespeare animated tales

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We’ve focused on Macbeth the last few days. Yes, it’s full of death and murder. Is he disturbed or upset? No. It’s a story. Much like the bloodthirsty Greek tales, he loves them. I have never tried to cover up parts of stories to Indi. I see little purpose in this.

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The Usborne Young Reading range is incredibly good. Many classic tales have been covered that tend to go into a little more depth, so children get a better idea of the original story.

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I’d picked this up a couple of years ago and read it with Will, and he loved it, as do I. Indi loves the story, especially when Polonius is stabbed from behind a curtain?!?!

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I love Marcia Williams books. Her wonderful illustrations are so engaging and Indi can stare at them for hours.

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Inside one of her books…

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Getting Indi to respond to what he is absorbing is tough – I don’t want him to produce for the sake of it, but he was keen on this task, which was to report on King Duncan’s death in Macbeth.
We’ll also do some art, and find out where the plays were set on our map of Europe. We’ll also look at modern interpretations like Gnomeo and Juliet, West Side Story, Return to the Forbidden Planet etc. Some things I haven’t yet planned so I’ll have to update later!

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Reading Hamlet with dad…

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Then counting the deaths on our Shakespeare poster!