Great books

Starfleet Academy has a pretty serious English curriculum, I tell ya.  Students must read many cubic feet of Important Works of Western Literature on the path to graduation.  (I had to read Njal’s Saga in high school, but that still left The Odyssey, Moby-Dick, Paradise Lost and Beowulf, among many others, for college.) And I believe that from fourth grade on, there’s a Shakespeare play every year, which means that students who go from fourth to twelfth grade will have read almost a quarter of the undisputed Shakespeare canon. 

I was thinking recently that there might be interest in the high school in a club for reading all the remaining plays over four years–meeting to read the plays aloud, watching videos, going to live performances, maybe even having the occasional guest speaker.  If students began in, say, seventh grade, we’d have to cover four or five plays a year in order to finish by graduation.  I suppose we could designate summer break, winter break, and spring break as times to read one play, leaving one or two more for the rest of the school year.  Over a six-year cycle, we’d read all 37, then begin again–students could start at any point in the cycle. 

Am I crazy to think there would be a handful of kids who would really get a kick out of doing this?


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by FLS on August 14, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Can I come?


  2. Posted by FLS on August 14, 2008 at 12:14 am

    In all seriousness, I took a Shakespeare elective in 7th Grade, separate from my regular English Class. Electives in that school were a double period at the end of the day, once or twice a week. (The first 5 periods were for your required classes, and then you could choose your own electives to fill that last two periods of the day.) So in that case, people did willingly choose the Shakespeawre class, though it was curricular, not extra-. I think we took all semester to get through 2 plays. It wasn’t an advanced or gifted group of kids, and we read every single word aloud in class, stopping to gloss meaning and import. I still feel that I gained more Shakespeare-appreciation skill in that year than I did in my highly-regarded college courses, in which we were expected to read a whole play every week, on our own. So that’s my longwinded way of saying, yes, a close study of Shakespeare at middle-school age is arguaby one of the best possible uses of one’s time.


  3. Posted by meansomething on August 14, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    They must be doing something right in middle school, because I was amazed by their fluency with Julius Caesar in the spring. Most of the ninth-graders could read aloud very fluidly, putting emphasis in the right places, and gloss what they read fairly accurately. Better than many college students, for sure.

    I think there’s a Shakespeare elective in the high school, and of course we could have a Shakespeare club at any rate, but I’m wondering whether the challenge of reading all the plays–and the bragging rights–might be appealing to some kids. I’ll ask around!


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