This blog post links to a lesson plan for introducing students to Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet) with a lesson titled "Make it Physical." The students analyze body language and ask questions about the characters in order to make a tableau showing the feuding families.
Be sure to read this interview with a special education teacher from Alaska, whose students have been performing Shakespeare plays for many years. She shares how she made this work by breaking up the play into "bite-sized chunks" for her classes. One of her challenges was how to prioritize the play while preparing the students for testing in the era of "No Child Left Behind."
This video shows researchers from Ohio State University working with children with Autism, using Shakespeare in a therapeutic way. The adults exaggerate facial expressions and movement in order to improve the students' understanding of communication. Their approach differs from what a teacher might use in the classroom because their goals are therapeutic, rather than purely academic. This is Shakespeare as therapy, and still worth watching if you work with children on the Autism spectrum.
In this blog post, Christopher Shamberg shares his experience working with students in a separate special education school by helping them perform The Winter's Tale. He uses an activity called "Shadows" to help students learn about the physical space of the stage and understand the emotions of the characters, and links to the lesson plan and materials.
Shakespeare Set Free is the series of books that Kathy Leonard, and many other Language Arts teachers, use as a guide for teaching Shakespeare to high school students. The books are published by the Folger Shakespeare Library, and widely used by secondary teachers. I think it's definitely worth checking out, even if your students are not on grade level in reading or writing.
In this post, Leonard lists the resources she used to teach her students Hamlet, and explains how she adapted it to her class. The interesting thing about her approach, for me, is that she taught Hamlet to these children by delving into Shakespeare's language--not changing it or avoiding it.
Kathy Leonard is a special education teacher whose students are physically and/or intellectually disabled. She attended a summer camp at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and decided that her students might actually be capable of reading Hamlet, unaltered. This blog post explains how she taught this with her students and how excited they were to read Shakespeare. Inspiring!
Jessica Carleton, author of Story Drama in the Special Needs Classroom, explains how she used theatre to engage elementary-aged children with autism. Her method involves transforming children's stories into drama pieces. I like the fact that she doesn't assume all teachers have a background in drama. She gives tips and guidance on how to deliver lines and perform, so that they can feel comfortable and knowledgeable using her techniques with students.