“Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?”
“I do bite my thumb, sir.”

This was the quote of the day, yesterday, when we began our Shakespeare unit with the Group of Four. We started the afternoon with an insult delivery contest. Two children at a time were given a page of Shakespearean insults and they had 30 seconds to choose one and then deliver it with as much style or venom as they could muster. Most of them were barely able to control their laughter, so I don’t believe anyone’s feelings were hurt. If you feel the urge to insult anyone in true Shakespearean style look here.

We did manage to move on from insulting each other to the consideration of figurative language, writers’ styles and ‘what’s in a name?’ The youngest children also made puppets and the older children wrote news headlines for some of the play’s main events. We gathered ideas from a couple of very helpful sites, The Folger Shakespeare Library and The Acting Company

Once again we benefited from the first hand experience of one of our families’ uncles. (Yes it was the same family who provided the aunt and uncle who had been to Ecuador) This time they called their uncle who is an actor and has acted in and directed various Shakespeare plays. He left a message on their answering machine which we listened to; excerpts of a couple of Romeo’s speeches.

To prepare for this unit at least three of the families read retellings of Romeo and Juliet. A10 and L12 read the Charles and Mary Lamb version. I read the Edith Nesbit version to B6. Now they are only interested in the lines as Shakespeare wrote them. It has been exciting to see their enthusiasm for the play grow and their interest in Shakespeare’s life and times. As our family is studying the Renaissance and Reformation this year we will be delving into more of the bard’s life and work.

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