George James De Wilde. The Seven ages of man. Oil on canvas, 1823.
Jennifer Breen, Brookline High School, Brookline, Massachusetts.
As You Like It 2.7.146-173
What's On for Today and Why
This lesson introduces a kinesthetic method for deepening reading comprehension. This technique can be used with any soliloquy that is more descriptive (image-rich) than discursive (idea-rich); in fact, it works well with most poetry. It uses collaborative learning and is fun, but also requires students to think through the specific meanings of the lines.
This activity will take two classes to prepare and perform. It is accessible for kids of all ability levels.
What You Need
Copies of Jaques' "All the world's a stage" soliloquy, with white space in between each of the ages (see attached handout)
See the below link for a copy that has a glossary.
Seven Ages Speech Handout
"All the world's a stage" with glossary
What To Do
1. Have students form pairs on their own. Tell them one person will first be the sculptor, and another person will be the clay. The sculptor will be "molding" the clay into an image. There are four steps to this:
• Tell the sculptors it is very important not to waste the clay, but to use all of it when they make their sculptures. This means using the whole body: fingers, arms, shoulders, knees, legs, feet, and facial expressions.
• Encourage sculptors to use different levels, having their clay sit, or lean, or squat, etc. (Of course, sculptors should treat their material with respect, sculpting carefully and gently.)
• Clay should work on expressing the sculptor's image strongly and clearly, not vaguely.
• When the sculptor is done, the clay must freeze (or "bake"!) in place. No movement!
2. Tell the sculptors their first sculpture word: childish. Call "FREEZE" when everyone seems done. Ask sculptors to step away from their sculptures, and explore the sculpture "gallery." Compliment sculptures that make use of all the clay, and that show especially strong and clear images. [Note: childish and all the following sculpture words are pulled from the soliloquy itself.]
3. Swap roles, and give the new sculptors their word: manly. Repeat the same procedure. You can do several more swaps if you want to, with strange and woeful.
4. Now, place the pairs into groups of four. Tell them this time they have to create a group sculpture. Ask for one volunteer sculptor for each group. Let the students know that the group sculptures should meet two criteria: they should use different levels (different people in the group should be sitting, standing, leaning, crouching, etc.), and each person in the group should be doing something different. As with the individual sculptures, creating a clear image and using all the clay is still very important. Give the sculptors this word: jealous.
5. Again, have the clay freeze and then have sculptors walk around the gallery. If you see an especially good sculpture, call all of the sculptors over to look at it. Ask the sculptor to explain his or her sculpture. As a class, discuss its strong points (levels, everyone doing something different, use of all the clay, strong image.)
6. Swap sculptors and do another word: justice.
7. Now, because everyone is good at sculpting, tell the group that they are all clay, and that they should all work together to create a sculpture of this complete line: All the world's a stage/ And all the men and women merely players/ They have their exits and their entrances/ And one man in his time plays many parts... (You will want to write this on the board or overhead, or refer students to their texts (2.7.146-149).) If this overwhelms students, cut the section in half, doing the first two lines and then the last two.
8. Now pass out the handout, Jaques' soliloquy divided into sections. You can either divide the class into eight groups and assign each group one section of the soliloquy, or continue to work with the entire class acting as the clay.
9. Have the students perform the soliloquy by forming each sculpture in turn. Make sure they freeze or hold their sculptures long enough for the audience to take in the image.
How Did It Go?
How well are the students able to represent the more abstract images in the soliloquy (the fifth and sixth ages, for example)? Can they articulate what particular phrases in the soliloquy mean? Can they answer comprehension questions from the class after their performance?
If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.
Common Core State Standards
There are no standards associated with this Lesson Plan.
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Seven Ages of Man
The Window Panels