Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Andi Bourne

Much Ado Teaches Second Graders They Can Do Anything


Andi Bourne, Pathfinder

Prince Don Pedro (Sam Welch) embraces Leonato (Ashton Burwick) as everyone else looks on.

SEELEY LAKE – The Seeley Lake Elementary (SLE) second grade class performed William Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" March 8. What started as just a story read aloud to the class in last November turned into a full production with props and costumes and was performed for the SLE students in the afternoon and parents in the evening.

SLE second grade teacher Erin Lynch wrote in an email, "I knew that I wanted to do a play with this group of kids because they are highly capable and have a special energy that needs to be harnessed in a positive way."

After attending a workshop entitled "Shakespeare in Second Grade" at the Montana Educator Association Conference in October, Lynch learned how to take a script and pare it down for seven- and eight-year-olds. She also won the door prize, a "Shakespeare Can Be Fun" book of "Much Ado About Nothing. "

"I was excited because it is among my favorite Shakespearian plays and knew this group would love the story," wrote Lynch.

Lynch read the story version of "Much Ado About Nothing" to her second grade class in November.

"When they responded so well to the story I began adapting the script," wrote Lynch.

The class started read-throughs of the script in mid-January, assigned parts at the beginning of February and started practicing on stage at the beginning of March.

Lynch's primary academic goal for doing the play was to increase her students' reading fluency (how well they decode the words), reading expression, vocabulary and comprehension.

"Now they are able to track the plot of the story AND read with more expression than I was ever expecting!" wrote Lynch.

In addition to improving their reading, she also wanted her students to know that they could do anything if they work hard enough at it. Before the play, Lynch said some of her students were scared to read aloud in front of their peers. After the play, they had performed for more than 100 people.

Following the afternoon performance for the school, Lynch discussed with the class how they had just done something that was scary to some adults and "amazed the audience." She said the evening performance went much smoother because the students were not as nervous.

Andi Bourne, Pathfinder

Sera Benton played William Shakespeare and narrated the play "Much Ado About Nothing."

The students all enjoyed the experience. Students said they enjoyed, "That our families got to come watch us"; "That it was our first play"; "I enjoyed the food afterwards (hanging out with each other, being social)"; and "Having big lines." Students also said that the most rewarding part of the play was "Facing the fear of being in front of so many people"; "Encouragement from my classmates"; and "Conquering my fear of being on stage. I know I can do anything!"

One student said that the class did better than they thought they would, "We expected everyone to boo us."

"I think the kids surprised themselves and everyone else with what they were able to pull off," wrote Lynch. "I knew this group was capable of great things--they just needed a positive place to put that energy."

Lynch continued, "I am incredibly proud of these 12 kids and how hard they worked to put on such a challenging show. I'm also thankful to their parents for spending so many evenings practicing lines with their kids. "My hope is that they were creating positive memories with their kids that they can look back on when they are much older."


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