Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Tempest

Ferdinand, Gonzalo 2, Adrian, Caliban 2, Alonso 2, Trinculo, Prospero 5, and Miranda 4
My fourth graders have started working with their costume pieces for our class production of The Tempest.

This has been a year-long project.

First, I read aloud a children's version of the play, to introduce my students to the characters and the plot.

Then, I used a document reader to project images from the graphic novel (the complete original script) onto the whiteboard, while a dramatized reading played on CD. We read along on the whiteboard, stopping occasionally to discuss important vocabulary, plot points, and characters' objectives and motivations. We did this 30 minutes per week for a few months.

While this was going on, during lunch every day, I sat at my desk, adapting the play into a 45-minute version. There are adaptations out there, but I had something very specific in mind. I wanted to keep as much of Shakespeare's language as possible, cut what was inappropriate for elementary school, and make it all come in under an hour. There wasn't a version that did that. Plus, I wanted all 32 students to have speaking parts, which required double-, quadruple-, and quintuple-casting some parts.

As I finished pages, I passed them out and we performed them in class.

When I had typed the final words on page 30, I had a copy of the complete script spiral-bound for each student.

Fast forward to Friday... In our afternoon rehearsal, the class came in only 3 1/2 minutes over 45 minutes!

We still have all of next week to rehearse, and I have a few more costume pieces to gather.

To quote Prospero 4, "Now does my project gather to a head."


  1. How beautiful! Please post the performance, if you can!!!! I will be preparing this summer, so that next school year we can study this same play. Which version did you use as a read out loud? I actually found both Nesbitt and The Lamb's. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I actually used "The Tempest for Kids" (Shakespeare Can Be Fun) which is in verse and illustrated by children - I know, not Orthodox Masonite ;) The graphic novel we used was The Tempest: The Graphic Novel (be careful to order "original text" because there are different versions). There is a dramatized reading available on (the site's name is taken from a quote by The Tempest's Prince Ferdinand). Have you done other plays by Shakespeare (if so, which ones?)? If not, The Tempest is a GREAT introduction for kids. It has something for everyone...

  3. I am planning on doing The Comedy of Errors for next school year. I use Simply Charlotte Mason to plan the school year, by the way. I prefer this method because we can do most of it as a family. I have 5 kids, ages 10-1. Thanks for the recommendations. I was just having a conversation with my husband about you. I am so excited because at home you are doing preschool with your daughter and at school you are teaching 4th grade which is kind of where we are. But the cherry on top, is that you are an Anthropologist, so in your writings, you explain the why. So happy to have met you!

  4. I'm so happy to have met you too! And I'm looking forward to seeing your "cast photo" for The Comedy of Errors ;)