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As You Like It (Easy Reading Shakespeare)

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By Richard Cuddington

For children who find original Shakespeare plays too difficult, the Easy Reading Shakespeare series can provide a wonderful introduction to the storylines. Author Richard Cuddington retells them in easy-to-read, fast-moving rhyme, concentrating on essential plot elements and featuring only the main characters.

These teachers’ notes accompany the PRINT ONLY guided reading leaflet in Literacy Time PLUS for ages 7 to 9 March 2008.

The leaflet features an extract from Cuddington’s version of ‘As You Like It’, concluding with the famous ‘All the world’s a stage’ speech. It complements on-screen resource 1, which features Shakespeare’s original speech and filmed readings of it.

In verse 5, Orlando is described as being ‘most worthy of his name’. This probably refers to the character of Orlando who appeared in legends and epic poems in medieval literature, who died fighting bravely for his country and his faith. Shakespeare was no doubt familiar with these. The name was synonymous with total loyalty and courage.

Before reading

  • Discuss the main stages of life. Create a timeline, divided into sections. How many stages do the children think there are? What kind of things do people do in each stage? Add verbs and adjectives in each section. Explain that Shakespeare wrote a famous speech about this, and you are going to look at a poem based on the play in which this appears.
  • Start a glossary. Explain that you will list any unfamiliar words you meet and discuss meanings.

Previous learning

Children should be familiar with verbs and adjectives and be able to set out a playscript correctly.

Key learning outcomes:

  • To prepare poems for performance;
  • To widen vocabulary;
  • To interrogate a text and investigate figurative and expressive language.

During reading

  • Add to your glossary as you read the poem.
  • Discuss the poem’s structure. How many verses? Label the rhyme pattern in verse 1 (a b c b). Does every verse have the same pattern?
  • What was Oliver’s plan for getting rid of Orlando? Discuss his motives. How do we feel about Oliver? Why does the poem make us feel this way?
  • How does Jaques describe the stages of life? Compare with those created by the children.
  • Discuss the adjectives Jaques uses. Why does the boy creep to school unwillingly? Do Jaques’ words indicate that life was different 400 years ago?
  • Point out that ‘All the world’s a stage’ is a metaphor. Shakespeare used many of these.

After reading

  • Use the activity sheet below to invent metaphors.
  • What do we learn about Orlando’s character? Working in pairs, list adjectives describing him.
  • Point out the silent w in wrestle. What other words start in this way? Use dictionaries.
  • Create story maps, writing the main events in order, perhaps inside circles or tree shapes.
  • Use the SAT style activity sheet question sheet below to assess the children’s understanding of the extract.
  • In groups, role play Oliver and Orlando discussing ways in which they can reach an agreement, with the Duke and Adam making suggestions. This could lead to an appearance on daytime television, with Oliver and Orlando being interviewed about their disagreement.
  • Prepare a performance of the poem. While children read a verse each, the others could act out the poem in the background using miming and slow motion.

Further reading

Easy Reading Shakespeare: The Bard in Bite-Size Verse Richard Cuddington (The Book Guild Ltd ISBNs: Volume One – 978 18577 69111; Volume Two (containing As You Like It) – 978 18462 40003; Volume Three – 978 18462 30591.)

Links with writing

  • Orlando forgot his manners when he met the Duke in the forest. Discuss table manners then write a list of instructions about how to behave at mealtimes. Present these in the form of a leaflet to be given to Orlando.
  • How will the story end? Continue the story, in prose form, and invent endings. Some children may then wish to create verses, using their ideas, in the style of the poem.
  • Working in pairs, create a playscript from the poem.
  • Write definitions for your glossary and arrange in alphabetical order.

Plenary

Tell the end of the story: Orlando saved his brother from an attack by a poisonous snake and a lioness, although he was wounded in the fight. Oliver begged for his forgiveness and they were reconciled. The Duke had been a close friend of Orlando’s father and was therefore anxious to protect him. Orlando married Rosalind, the Duke’s daughter, and Oliver married her cousin.

Compare this with the ways in which the children finished the story. Did they decide on happy or sad endings? Ask volunteers to read their endings.

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