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Using Star Wars to Introduce Iambic Pentameter

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily A New Hope, by Ian Doescher

· Teachers

I've mentioned before how much we love Ian Doescher's William Shakespeare's Star Wars books.

I used the first, Verily, A New Hope, to build 7th graders' background knowledge of iambic pentameter and the structure of Shakespeare's plays and writing, before they enter 8th grade and read Romeo and Juliet. Done as a readers theater, along with the movie, it was hands-down my students' favorite reading unit!

1. First, read the book and acquaint yourself with the Verily Educator's Guide, available from Quirk Books.

2. Hook your students on Shakespeare. I started with Akala's TedX talk, regarding Shakespeare and the rhythmic link to hip hop. Have a hard copy of the sonnet ready for students to follow along. You'll hook every single one with the music. Play it several times. Have them practice reading it to each other.

3. Put students in pairs. Use the two-line start cards from Verily, with an explanation of how to read iambic pentameter. Print the cards, and have them cut and laminated. Model a few lines for them, first. Have students Give One, Get One as they finish each card. They'll quickly get over their embarrassment and be reading out loud to their peers in no time!

4. Distribute the class copy of Verily. Use the Reading by Acts to keep track of who reads, each time. Students may volunteer, or you may assign roles, to begin.

5. As you read each Act or Scene (at the beginning you may need to do it scene-by-scene), show the movie immediately afterward. Discuss how it corresponds to the text, line by line. Doescher is simply amazing in how he corresponds his lines of iambic pentameter with the lines in the movie.

6. Then there are several great resources for teaching the Hero's Journey, and Shakespeare in general, that you can pair with the text and movie. I used this one from Prestwick House publishing, but there are plenty of others available. I'll post some more in another blogpost.

If you teach high school, there's an entire unit planned out for you, by a high school English teacher, available at Quirk's website, WSSW Classroom.

And, of course, while you're digging around for more Star Wars teachable moments, check out Star Wars in the Classroom. Loved this site!


William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily A New Hope, by Ian Doescher
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