In addition to teaching Shakespeare as part of school curriculum, teachers sometimes find themselves working with the Bard outside of class. I recently received an inquiry from a teacher who works with students in grades 6 and 7 who has been assigned the task of creating a Shakespeare club – the catch is that not all of the students will be volunteering to join; some will be required to participate in the club.
We have several resources that can help make the study of Shakespeare fun and rewarding, and might even turn reluctant students into enthusiastic learners. The key is to approach the subject with an active, curious, and open mind – look at the experience as a way to share the learning process with your students.
1. Make it about them. When students have ownership of the process and the work, their creativity has an opportunity to shine. Interpreting Character is one example of an effective exercise to get students actively thinking about characters and motivation. It’s also an excellent technique for introducing a play, and you don’t have to start with Act 1, Scene 1.
2. Make it unexpected. Surprise your students by asking them to create podcasts or short videos as part of their Shakespeare study, or to present their own version of a key scene. Technology and being asked to do something new and different can often win over students who aren’t sure that they like literature. Remixing Shakespeare shows you how to make audio mashups with your students.
3. Make it participatory. We believe that the best way to learn Shakespeare is to do Shakespeare. Our Shakespeare for Kids webpages have proven very successful with teachers, so that’s a good place to start. You’ll find activities, games, and ready-to-use scripts, as well as other resources about Shakespeare and the Folger Shakespeare Library.
And now, I open the floor to other suggestions. If you have a Shakespeare Club that you are currently advising, what suggestions do you have for getting a club off the ground and hooking students from a variety of backgrounds into the wonders of the Bard?
- Bob Young