Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Shakespeare for Middle School

     This post is as much for me as it is for anyone else. The resources I'm digging up are all over the place and I need somewhere to keep them all straight.

     I happened to pick up a Matthews collection of Shakespeare retellings at Costco. The illustrations were cute and I thought it would make a nice compliment to her 7th grade British history. She ripped into the box before we were out of the parking lot and devoured all the tragedies within the next few days. Then she asks, "Hey Mom, do you think there's enough Shakespeare stuff to spend a WHOLE year of literature on it?" LOL

    Keeping this at a middle school depth, I'd like to aim for one major play a month. This will include reading retellings, lots of videos, reading only portions of the originals aloud, and reading lighter modern spin-offs to keep the reading difficulty more even. This whole plan was written with only Grace in mind, a precocious girl who is asynchronous enough to be dabbling in high school level material while playing with paper dolls. She will turn 11 this coming summer and start Official seventh grade in the fall. She is super excited about this course!

This list is subject to constant change to be made as we go along.

  Shakespeare versions already on the shelf

  • The Shakespeare Stories by Matthews boxed set (Probably won't assign these since she's gone through them already.)
  • Tales from Shakespeare by Lamb (audio and hard copy)
  • Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by Nesbit (audio and Kindle)
  • Shakespeare Stories by Garfield volumes 1 and 2
  • No Sweat Shakespeare (modern English translations,
  • complete collection of originals, along with little Dover paperbacks and random individual titles we've collected over the years, I might add some of the sort that have a modern English retelling opposite the original passage

Plan to buy: 

  • No Fear Shakespeare or Barron's Shakespeare Made Easy version for each play we'll cover - These have Shakespeare's words and a modern English version side by side and are found inexpensively at local used bookstores.
  • Cambridge guides for those we don't already have an annotated version. Grace and I looked at a few different types together and she strongly preferred the Cambridge guides. There were a lot of discussion ideas aimed at a classroom that really pulled her. They ought to be easy enough to modify. (Honor is most willing to read or act if she cooks for him. LOL )
  • I really liked the Oxford School Shakespeare guides for my own reading, and will pick some up for myself if I see them at the used shops.

Biography thread that won't be correlated to any specific play, with some just for the fun of it additions

  • 1) Shakespeare for Kids: His Life and Times (biography and activities)
  • 2) The Shakespeare Stealer (Blackwood)
  • 3) Will Shakespeare and the Globe Theater (Landmark) 
  • 4) Shakespeare's Scribe (Blackwood)
  • 5) Shakespeare: The World as a Stage (Bryson)
  • 6) The Shakespeare Spy (Blackwood)
  • 7) Shakespeare Undead (zombies, vampires, and such in Shakespeare's day)
  • 8) Kill Shakespeare volumes 1-12 (graphic novels with a mash of characters in the same story line) 
  • 9) Doctor Who: The Shakespeare Notebooks, along with the Shakespeare Doctor Who episode
  • The Shakespeare Book (DK) - optional extra resource

Extra Resources

  • How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare (Ludwig)
  • Reading and Understanding Shakespeare - Great Courses lecture set
  • William Shakespeare: Comedies, Histories, and Comedies - Great Courses lecture set
  • Great Characters from Shakespeare Paper Dolls (Starter set. She'll design her own sets, costumes, and accessories to go with it.)
  • Shakespeare Uncovered season 1 and 2 (Amazon Prime and
  • In Search of Shakespeare DVD
  • Shakespeare's Stratford Upon Avon DVD (or Prime)
  • Shakespeare's Storybook: Folk Tales that Inspired the Bard 
  • Shakespeare in Bits app for various plays

Study/literature/teacher guides around the web

  • Holt - Theses are pretty helpful. They cover literary terms, some historical context, lots of graphic organizers if that's your thing. We'll definitely use these, probably orally.
  • Classic Stage - These all seem to have the same beginning and end, with a couple/few play specific pages in the middle. There are a couple pages of analysis that is well done. The extra activity is worth digging into the file for. Grace will love the "which character are you" quizzes.
  • Penguin - Lit terms, activity ideas, writing projects, basics pretty much covered by the other guides, BUT these have fabulous lists of literature for going deeper with the themes found in the Shakespeare play. The booklist alone is worth it.
  • CalShakes - click on the gray, teacher guide tab - Character maps for keeping them all straight, thinking questions, Shakespearean language work, some basic literary analysis, historical context application, movie recommendations, class activity guide that's aimed at middle/high school. We'll definitely use some pieces from these.
  • Homeschool Share notebooking pages - These could accompany the easier retellings to prime the pump, so to speak.
  • Glencoe - These have vocab, some lit terms, graphic organizers, comprehension, personal responses. More worksheets than the others. Lower overall level of maturity expected than the Holt guides. I will probably just browse these for activity or writing project ideas.
*** - Art of Poetry from Classical Academic Press will be covered in her poetry/art/music appreciation block.

**** - I haven't pre-read ANY of these extra spin-off readers as of this posting and they could be completely inappropriate. Yes, some of them are on the fluffy side. They are lighter on purpose, to help balance the heavier Shakespeare reading and analysis.

***** - Some weeks/plays will be heavier and others lighter. That's okay. When Shakespeare is lighter I'll let British history and/or biology have more space on her schedule instead. 

Plays to cover

Unit 1: Romeo and Juliet

      I think this one is Grace's all time favorite. She wants this one to go first.
  • Movies: Romeo + Juliet (Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes), Gnomeo and Juliet, West Side Story, Warm Bodies (Gosh, she loves zombie stuff and she's not squeamish, but *I* might have to look away. Joy volunteered to watch it with her so I wouldn't have to. LOL)
  • Shakespeare Uncovered 2 - Joseph Fiennes episode
  • Reading and Understanding Shakespeare, introductory lectures 1-2, and depending on how well she takes to them, the R&J lectures too, scheduling these in further units depends entirely on how this experiment goes
  • Spin-off Book: Juliet Immortal and possibly it's sequel Romeo Redeemed

 Unit 2: Much Ado About Nothing

  • Movies: David Tennant and Catherine Tate version, Branagh version, Joss Whedon version
  • possibly adding Twelfth Night if we need more to fill this month, unless she's really into reading the original (aloud, with me)

  Unit 3: Hamlet

     Yes, a bit heavy, but she is adamant. The retelling of this one frustrates her and she really, really wants the backstory so she can understand motives.
  • Shakespeare Uncovered 1: David Tennant episode 
  • Movie: David Tennant movie on, Mel Gibson version
  • Lion King comparison
  • Books: To Be or Not To Be by Ryan North (choose your own adventure style), Ophelia (Klein), A Girl, A Ghost, and the Hollywood Hills (Zindel)

  Unit 4: Midsummer Night's Dream

  • Shakespeare Uncovered 2: Hugh Bonneville episode
  • Movie: Kevin Kleine/Michelle Pfieffer version
  • Book Options: The Great Night (Adrian), A Midsummer Tempest (Anderson)

  Unit 5: Macbeth

  • Shakespeare Uncovered 1: Ethan Hawke episode 
  • Movie: Patrick Stewart version on Amazon Prime
  • a younger Ian McKellen analyzes Macbeth, (12 minutes), on YouTube
  • Book options: Lady Macbeth's Daughter (Klein), Exposure (Askew), Enter Three Witches (Cooney), Wyrd Sisters (Pratchett), The Third Witch (Reisart)

  Unit 6: The Tempest

  • Shakespeare Uncovered 1: Trevor Nunn episode
  • Movie: Forbidden Planet
  • Book Options: Tempestuous (Askew), Ariel (Tiffany), The Sea and The Mirror (Auden)

  Unit 7: A Winter's Tale

  • perhaps another comedy for this unit too, or some sonnets

  Unit 8: King Lear

  • Movie: Ian McKellan version, King of Texas (Patrick Stewart)
  • Shakespeare Uncovered 2: Christopher Plummer episode
  • Book: Fool (Moore)

  Unit 9: Henry V and/or Sonnets

  • Movie: Henry V (Branagh)
  • Shakespeare Uncovered 1: Jeremy Irons episode

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Joy - 11th grade

     Joy has been the most difficult to plan for this year. She's still growing and changing as much from year to year as the little ones are. For some reason I keep expecting this to mellow out, but it never does.
     Civil Air Patrol has gotten her deeper into search and rescue, and having it come down this close and real to her has really made her more certain that's where she wants to go. She is fascinated by forensics, search and rescue, firefighting, and such. Before this she was uncertain of what direction she was aiming, and struggled to answer the classic, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" Now she knows she's ending up in this general field somewhere and enjoys exploring the options.

    There's plenty of time for her to change her mind if needed, but it's nice to finally have a specific goal to point at!

Here's the plan.


  • to be determined, or, "You can choose them. You're good at it."I'm leaning toward some of the J. Warner Wallace books. Cold-case Christianity, God's Crime Scene, etc.
  • (Religion will probably end up to be just one cumulative credit spread across all four years of high school.)

English 11

  • Literature will be a wide variety of genres with A Day's Read lecture series from Great Courses. She's pretty excited about this one!
  • Composition is still in the "Ugh" department. We've looked at several different ideas. She doesn't really like any of them. She doesn't really like the idea of doing a weekly pattern with Mom. She doesn't really like the idea of an outside class. Gosh. If we can't find something she'll move beyond "doesn't really like" I'll probably play the parental trump card and tell her we're doing the weekly pattern, using essay prompts from her lecture guide or history book. - We're actually leaning toward Wordsmith Craftsman. It will be on the lighter side, which is okay. She's a good writer and just needs something to keep us on track and insist on nonfiction assignments. We both liked that it included notetaking, business letters, and such.


  •  continue algebra 2, slow and steady

Honors Biology

  • Biology: Concepts and Connections by Campbell
  • correlated workbook
  • Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments for labs

World History

  • World History by Spielvogel (Glencoe)
  • Oak Meadow World History guide


  • Duolingo for daily practice
  • Breaking the Barrier 2
  • Holt textbooks for reinforcement
  • reading practice from children's books


  • Novel Writing Science Fiction/Fantasy: Other Worlds from the One Year Adventure Novel company
  • Choir: local homeschool organization (1st semester)
  • Guitar: same place as the choir (2nd semester)


  • Civil Air Patrol
  • Venture Scouts (once a month camping/hiking and a couple Wednesday nights a month)
  • Cyber Patriot (aka: Computer Science from someone who knows what they're talking about!)
  • JROTC Navy is in the maybe range (it'd replace the choir and guitar time block) - This produces one class credit, and two years of it gives one P.E. credit, but combined with the PT she's already doing with CAP I think a PE this year would be more than fair. 

    And I *think* we're going to add some casual Government in there, since it is an election year. Maybe not a half credit worth, but if there's time for extra reading it could be.

    The literature list can be seen on the Great Courses site. (If you're not familiar with Great Courses, don't even look at the prices there. I buy ours on Audible for $15, and Great Courses runs super steep discount sales all the time.)