Performing a Shakespeare play for the school community is a Powhatan tradition that lends itself to cross-curricular learning. In the early weeks of the school year, while the actors became familiar with their Julius Caesar roles and lines during drama class, they concurrently studied William Shakespeare’s language and Julius Caesar’s characters, settings, plots, and themes in English class. Let’s face it: for most of us, the language is difficult to understand, but it is worth the effort!
Shakespeare is regarded as the most influential writer of all time because he combined eloquent and rhythmic prose and verse, convincing characters, rich vocabulary, compelling comparative literary techniques, and relatable and enduring themes. The students took a close look at the text, playing with iambic pentameter and using context to decipher word meanings, character information, and embedded stage direction.
They also took the big-picture approach and collaboratively created Julius Caesar, Sr. and Julius Caesar, Jr. (for lower school students), animated slideshows of the play to serve as helpful introductions to the play for younger students. Small groups of eighth graders visited kindergarten through seventh grade classrooms and presented their work, the goal being that the younger students will attend the actual, full-length dramatic production armed with background knowledge and a piqued interest. The eighth graders also wrote analytical essays that answered the question: “Who is the true hero or villain of Julius Caesar?” and brief, first-person character descriptions that are posted in the library so that play-goers can familiarize themselves with “who’s who” of the cast.
From building the set in art class to creating a ghost image in technology, the Shakespeare Play lends itself to numerous cross-curricular opportunities. Here are two more blog posts that look at different cross-curricular examples from the production:
The Making of Caesar’s Ghost: http://powhatanschool.org/pulse/in-the-classroom/shakespeare-week-caesars-ghost/
Caesar’s Propaganda Machine: http://powhatanschool.org/pulse/in-the-classroom/shakespeare-week-propaganda/