We began the year reading the exciting novella Marcel and the Shakespeare Letters. As a pre-reading activity designed to activate background knowledge and engage students, a picture of Shakespeare was displayed and we discussed the title and its connection to William Shakespeare. We focused on the following questions:
Who is Shakespeare?
Why is Shakespeare famous?
When and where did Shakespeare live?
What did Shakespeare write?
How are letters are important today?
How were they important in the past? Why or why not?
We continued pre-reading by looking at a letter Shakespeare wrote to his son. Students examined this letter and were taught the parts of a friendly letter. Students were then asked to create friendly letters to represent letters Shakespeare wrote to his son.
Students enjoyed the challenge of putting themselves into the character of Shakespeare. They drew upon their own life experiences, mainly their relationships with their families. This engaged students and allowed them to make personal connections with the novella. After students had finished, we tied into the art curriculum by manipulating the letters to make them appear old.
During reading students also were able to apply other interdisciplinary skills in the form of acting. Students chose their favorite scene and acted out dialogues from the text. Students loved the challenge of acting and getting into character. This activity also served to solidify their understanding of the novella's plot and characters while giving students the opportunity to have fun by thinking (and acting) outside of the box.
Summary: Marcel and the Shakespeare Letters is an imaginative story where there are fireworks in London on 5th November when Marcel goes to stay with his friend, Henry. Henry lives next door to a professor who is looking after some very special letters written by William Shakespeare. When Marcel and Henry go to look at them, they are not there. Someone has stolen them! But Marcel is a detective, and he has to find the Shakespeare letters. A thrilling mystery novel featuring Marcel, the French mouse detective.