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Archive for April, 2011

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The big news in Shakespeare geek circles this week is the “production” of Much Ado About Nothing taking place on FACEBOOK beginning tomorrow. Sixteen characters have been added to facebook, and if you “like” all of them you can watch their story unfold in real time on the internet. Benedick Salvador will flame Beatrice Grant’s wall, while John Zaragoza cyber-bullies Claudio Firenze into making a huge mistake.

This comes in the wake of last year’s award-winning Such Tweet Sorrow, a real-time twitter “production” of Romeo and Juliet. The characters tweeted to and about each other over 3 days, culminating in a familiar tragic scene.

Shakespeare has been introduced to social media before. Perhaps the first public memory is of Sarah Schmelling’s book-spawning entry for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency of Hamlet’s News Feed in 2008 (which was performed for NPR last October). These items condense the plays into quick, recognizable media that students understand.

But where’s the language?

One of our high school fellows in 2009 created several facebook profiles for the characters of As You Like It to examine the ways in which characters hide their identity either by disguise or by using a different online persona to test the waters. She did use conversations between Orlando and Rosalind (and Ganymede) to map out how they would converse online over a week’s time – with Shakespeare’s text.

Would it be so hard to use the text in these social productions? Or would the point be totally lost in a medium reliant on breezy comprehension?

I look forward to checking in on the Much Ado gang (without liking all of their characters, hopefully!) to see how it goes. Do you incorporate social media in the classroom? How could this work for other plays?

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We spend a great deal of time talking about teaching Shakespeare’s plays, but not much about the sonnets.  Until recently, we  hadn’t paid as much attention to teaching sonnets as we might have on our website of resources for teachers.  This month, Folger Education rolled out a series of new web pages devoted to the sonnets:  Why Teach  Sonnets? History of the Sonnet, and Sonnet Structure.  Have you checked them out?  They are part of the introductory material on sonnets available to teachers.  Those pages are followed by a 10-lesson unit plan that includes work by Petrarch, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Rita Dove, Carol Ann Duffy, Billy Collins and, of course, Shakespeare. The lessons can be taught in their sequential order, or teachers can select just a few to use in their classrooms.  

But maybe we’re just not teaching sonnets these days?  Are we?  Which ones? Why is it important to teach sonnets?  Shakespeare’s sonnets? Let’s hear from you!

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We’re noticing something around the internet lately: educators are using contemporary music to enhance lesson plans.

This may not be up-to-the-minute news.

A lot of us remember at least this scene from Renaissance Man starring Danny DeVito where the class of military privates presents the summary of Hamlet as a rap. Or the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s interpretation of Othello as a rap.

But we’re finding fresh examples of this kind of musical education every time we look.

HistoryTeachers on youtube are teaching about famous historical personalities or events with parodies of popular songs. For example: The Black Death is taught through the music of Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stafani, and Shakespeare gets his own melodic biography sung to Shayla by Blondie.

We discovered Flocabulary recently through their inventive animation of Shakespeare thinking up the characters and plot for Much Ado About Nothing. They have a whole book with 17 Shakespearean hip hop tracks including Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and even Julius Caesar and Sonnet 18.

A week ago I would have rolled my eyes at the concept – it seems so overplayed, so overdone – but as it’s presented in these resources it’s so well-made it’s hard to see students not liking it!

Have you used either HistoryTeachers or Flocabulary before? Do you know of any programs like them? Tell us in the comments!

I’d also be interested to know if music plays a part in your lesson plans now in any shape or form? How do your students respond?

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With the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and NYIT, Folger Education just completed an 8-week on-line course on Teaching Macbeth. Enrollment was capped at 30 participants, each of whom received a Folger Toolkit. Each session was 90-minutes long and was live using Elluminate.

Here is a summary of the sessions:

Week 1:  Mike LoMonico and Bob Young, lead teachers

This session introduced teachers to the Folger Shakespeare Library and all the resources that are available for teachers, including Lesson Plans, Images, Podcasts, and YouTube videos. Then thye gave an overview of the course and explored the Toolkit. Finally, they discussed the philosophy of Folger Education and demonstrated some pre-reading language activities.

Week 2:  Chris Renino, lead teacher

This session  focused on the Macbeth unit in Shakespeare Set Free. Unit editor Chris Renino demonstrated some of the most popular lessons in the book.

Week 3: Kevin Costa, lead teacher

Kevin discussed editing Macbeth, both in the academic processes that were used to create the Folger editions as well as how editing can be a tool for students to employ. Several videos of series editor, Barbara Mowat were included. Then Kevin  demonstrated editing activities that can help students focus on the language and discover Macbeth by themselves.

Week 4: Sue Biondo-Hench, lead teacher

Sue  demonstrated some activities that she uses to front load a Shakespeare Unit. Participants shared their ideas and contributed other teaching ideas.

Week 5: Jaime Wong, lead teacher

Jaime presented activities and led a discussion on using clips from Shakespeare productions in the classroom, as well as the Special Features from the Folger Shakespeare Library/Two River Company 2008 production Macbeth (DVD included in the toolkit). Participants viewed the performance and Special Features section of the DVD previous to the session.

Week 6 Chris Shamburg, lead teacher

Shakespeare, Digitally had five parts:

Act 1 Why Shakespeare and Technology; Act 2 Three Big Trends in Technology  (and why they work great with Shakespeare); Act 3 Ideas and Technologies; Act 4 Shakespeare, Technology, and Inclusive Education; Act 5 Wrap Up

Week 7:  Amy Ulen, lead teacher

Amy focused on the Macbeth Unit Plan from Shakespeare Set Free and the Folger Toolkit as well as Macbeth in Popular Culture.

Week 8: Bob Young and Carol Kelly, lead teachers

This final session focused on how to create a Shakespeare Festival and how to assess performance-based approaches to teaching Shakespeare.

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447 years ago on April 23, William Shakespeare was born to John Shakespeare and Mary Arden Shakespeare in the small town of Stratford Upon Avon.

For Shakespeare enthusiasts everywhere, this date has come to be celebrated as the Bard’s birthday, or “Shakespeare Day” in some circles. Parades in Shakespearean garb, Shakespearean “open mic” nights, commitment to speaking in Elizabethan English (or in QUOTES ONLY) for the entire day, creating cakes in his honor, or even just settling in to see a show and toasting the man who wrote it.

Queen Elizabeth I energetically cuts the cake for Shakespeare's Birthday

At the Folger, we throw a party and invite everyone to come!

For a whole afternoon, families and Shakespeare enthusiasts (not that they’re mutually exclusive) can spend quality time with the Bard’s home in Washington DC. Besides the educational crafts, free cake, interesting discussions, free cake, exciting entertainment and free cake with Queen Elizabeth I, everyone has the chance to get on our Elizabethan stage and recite (or read) their favorite Shakespearean passage! Our Reading Rooms are only open to the public for this one event as well, so it’s extra exciting for Shakespeare enthusiasts!

This year, due to when Easter falls, we’re giving the Bard an early bash (shhh, it’s a surprise for him!) on April 17th from noon-4. If you’re in the DC area, swing by! If you’re not, tell us what you plan to do to celebrate Shakespeare’s Birthday with your class or family!

Either way, there should be cake involved.

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