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Archive for January, 2014

During our first office hours on Twitter last week, we received this question:

@FolgerED How does one get buy in through the language, when it’s a language irrelevant to modern pop culture?#folgerofficehours

We needed to know more, of course . . . so the middle school teacher who had asked it clarified in a second tweet that it’s her students who feel that the language is irrelevant. “… many students may not see the connection to their lives today & I wondered how that is being addressed.”

The language buy-in is way easier than you anticipate if you remember a few things: (more…)

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On Thursday, we hosted our first Folger “office hours” – a digital opportunity for you to bring your questions about teaching Shakespeare. And we got some good ones! The theme was Romeo and Juliet, but we also had some lively discussion going about more general topics, like iambic pentameter.

If you’re interested in seeing all the tweets from “office hours,” just search for #folgerofficehours on Twitter.

We tried to give what answers we could (in the moment and with the restriction of 140 characters), but we’d like to expand on some those answers here.

“Abridge” can mean changing Shakespeare’s words, or cutting the lines.  If you mean changing the language—using modern language instead of Shakespeare’s text–take a deep breath and don’t change the language.  Lots of material in Shakespeare Set Free gives you and your students the path to and through Shakespeare’s language.  And then your students won’t be deprived of  the opportunity–and the thrill–of experiencing and conquering Shakespeare’s language. (more…)

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Lots of buzz around the Folger these days because Janet Griffin, Artistic Producer of the Folger Theatre, and Robert Richmond, director of our upcoming production of Richard III, are taking a walk on the wild side.

You know about the theatre here, right?  Background in case you don’t:  Folks here sometimes call the Folger Theatre “an evocation of an Elizabethan theatre”… not a model of any one in particular but with features like galleries and an inner above that make you think of the Globe.

It’s a sweet little 250-seat theatre tucked right inside the Library building.  Janet and her team produce three or four award-winning plays a year, and if you haven’t seen a play here, put us on your New Year’s resolution list right this minute.

So how do we get from an Elizabethan theatre to the wild side? (more…)

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Folger Education office hours

What our office might look like if you came in for Folger office hours. Notice the bookcase!

After our master class in December on teaching Romeo and Juliet, we got so many great questions on the play and on how to make Shakespeare a success in the classroom.

We wanted the conversation to continue, and so we thought to ourselves, why not create a dedicated time each month for teachers to share their questions on a particular topic related to teaching Shakespeare?

One of the teachers we surveyed after the master class suggested an “office hours” of sorts.

And thus, we present Folger Office Hours. This Thursday (tomorrow!) we invite you to join us on Twitter for an informal Q&A from 2-3pm EST.

Here’s how it works:

1. You tweet your questions on the Folger Office Hours theme, which for this inaugural session is Romeo and Juliet.

2. We here at Folger Education (@FolgerED) will tweet back, answering questions as best we can in the moment. (Other teachers, feel free to chime in with your own thoughts and ideas!)

3. If any questions require more reflection or an extended response, we’ll save the answers for a blog post that we’ll publish the following Tuesday, right here on Making A Scene.

One last thing:

Be sure to use #folgerofficehours in your tweets to keep the conversation together.

We’re looking forward to chatting with you on Twitter tomorrow!

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IMG_9260Something very special happens when you have students up on their feet, with Shakespeare’s language in their mouths, performing for each other, and learning from each other.

That’s what we try to make happen each year at our Secondary School Shakespeare Festival.

In March, we’re bringing together 48 schools, with students in grades 7-12, from D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. Our goal? To create a gathering place where everyone is welcome, and where Shakespeare is the common ground.

Students come to the Folger for a full day and perform prepared pieces from Shakespeare, with students from other schools as their audience. Performances usually run for 25 minutes, and while we welcome abridged versions of the plays or theme-based montages, Shakespeare’s original language is king.

We’re particularly excited for this year because it’s the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birthday! Tell us, are you doing anything special at your school to celebrate? Are you teaming up with any schools in your area? Share with us in the comments or send Peggy an email at pobrien@folger.edu.

IMG_5530 IMG_6160 IMG_6867

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Folger Master Class Teaching Romeo and JulietLast month, Folger Education streamed a live master class on Teaching Romeo and Juliet.

Hundreds of teachers participated, and afterward we asked for your feedback. The response was so positive!

Many of the teachers surveyed said they appreciated the well-rounded approach embodied by our three video segments on scholarship, performance, and the classroom.

Here’s a sampling of what we heard back:

“I had no clue what to expect, but by ten minutes in I was wishing that the class was more than an hour. There were so many things packed into the time that I could not wait to start studying with my students.”

“Yes – the interviews, clips, and examples of actual classroom work gave a direct, personal-involvement feel. I felt more engaged than I have had with some live professional development! ( not the Folger’s, of course!)”

“I think it was very helpful to learn directly from the experts who are closely tied to the content that we ourselves only re-visit one month out of the year. Even though I’ve taught R+J to at least 14 different classes, I enjoyed the detailed glance into several different perspectives of the play.”

Also, here’s what we’re hearing from you about what you’d like to see in future master classes:

  • more examples of in-classroom techniques and activities
  • more lesson planning ideas, both things that worked and things that did not
  • teaching strategies that could be used across multiple Shakespeare plays

It’s great to get this kind of feedback from you. Teachers are the rockstars in our book, and our job is to help you do what you do best. We’re on it!

And if you didn’t get a chance to participate in the master class live, you can watch a recorded version online. Happy teaching!

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Guest post by Jessica Lander

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, after the murder of Duncan. R. T. Bone. Courtesy of Folger Shakespeare Library.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, after the murder of Duncan. R. T. Bone. Courtesy of Folger Shakespeare Library.

The large dented cauldrons of spicy green curry, red curry and duck soup were cloaked in hovering fog and steamy air of the monsoon season.  It was evening at the Gate Market in the heart of the old city of Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand. As I slurped a bowl of noodles so spicy it induced tears, all I could think about was Macbeth.

Three days fresh from college graduation, I had boarded a plane bound for a one-year teaching fellowship at the prestigious Chiang Mai University.  Growing up, my favorite musical was Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s The King and I, the story of Anna, hired by the King of Thailand to tutor the royal children. I was forever singing the lyrics to Getting to Know You, beginning with Anna’s declaration that “When you become a teacher, by your students you’ll be taught.” Now, heading to classes as a young teacher, I could not help but think of Anna.

By day I guided a hundred and fifty university students in my elementary-level English classes through the intricacies of usage between “say” and “tell”.  But, I wanted something more: I wanted to teach theater.  So, I approached my colleagues in the English Department with an ambitious plan. The students in the university’s English Club staged an annual play in English – Cinderella last year.  Hesitantly, I proposed to direct Macbeth – my favorite Shakespeare ever since I played the First Witch and Macduff’s doomed son in a 7th grade production.  The department was dubious – the language would be too difficult.  I persisted.  Auditions were set.

But our real challenge was not the play’s language, but its content. In one of the last countries with a revered king, I was preparing to stage a regicide. (more…)

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