When I think of Mr. Aymar and how he managed to introduce middle schoolers to Shakespeare, I can’t help but feel complete awe. The Bard may be famous around the world and in every high school classroom, but his works aren’t exactly the easiest texts to read. Yet Mr. Aymar was reading sonnets to our class of 12-year-olds, and I remember that (with his guidance) we understood exactly what Shakespeare was saying.
In many school districts, including my own, Shakespeare isn’t in the curriculum until students reach high school. That’s when teachers typically assign plays like Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth for the students to read through. One of my biggest fears as a teacher is that students will hate and give up on Shakespeare when they start to struggle with the dense language of the texts. I didn’t want my students’ first taste of Shakespeare to involve frustration and desperate Google searches to figure out what Shakespeare meant.
So I tried to channel Mr. Aymar’s talent and build a middle school-appropriate Shakespeare lesson for my own students. I paired Sonnet 130 with the Bruno Mars song “Just the Way You Are” and had my sixth graders analyze the themes in each. In both pieces, the authors compare their respective love interest to various images, some more favorable than others. The Shakespearean sonnet essentially says that his significant other's “eyes are nothing like the sun” and that she “treads on the ground,” while Mars insists that his girlfriend’s “eyes make the stars look like they’re not shining” and that “her hair falls perfectly without her trying.” By the time we finish reading (and listening to) both poems, I usually have several students raising their hands to comment on what a jerk Shakespeare was And while that isn’t EXACTLY the image I want them to have of Billy S., I’m happy that they at least feel confident enough that they've fully understood it and can add their opinions to the discussion.
Below is a copy of the full lesson plan and the worksheet I gave to the students.
|Michael Aymar Foundation||