One school district is having kids prepare for middle school in a pilot theater program, and the results are rising sixth graders who have improved reading ability and social confidence.
“Shakespeare in Shades” is a coordinated partnership partnership between the Knox County Schools, the University of Tennessee and the Clarence Brown Theatre. About 30 students who are entering Northwest and Vine Magnet middle schools have participated including a few English Language Learners And the plans for next year are to expand the successful pilot program, according to Stephanie Welch, interim president of the Great Schools Partnership.
The key to the success of the program is that adults take a one on one approach with students who are reading four hours a day. Acting and preparing a theatrical presentation just makes the reading more fun.
In addition to the Shakespeare writings in games, students have been reading novels and preparing a 30 minute theatrical presentation. The most recent program was the novel “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry, which tells the story of a 10 year old girl and her family during the Holocaust.
Improving reading skills is a major focus for the district. The transition to middle school is a critical time to intervene, as the demands on students to read increase, and social skills often need support as well.