A while back I wrote Shakespeare in Other Words citing the reasons teachers should avoid using “No Fear” or “Made Easy” or any other parallel text edition in their classroom. Needless to say, it generated over 40 comments, including some from an author of “The Shakespeare Novels.”
But now I realize that simply dismissing those books wasn’t enough. What should teachers do, who not only find it difficult to teach the real stuff, but who may struggle with the language themselves? So here are a few suggestions:
- Since students can access the No Fear versions online for free, why not suggest or even encourage them to read them at home. And then read and teach the real text in class.
- Start with “baby steps.”
- Begin with a 15 Minute Play. There are eight of them on the Folger site.
- Pull out 30 juicy lines from the play you’ll be studying, put each line on a 3×5 note card, and give one to each student. Then they find a partner, come up with a scene using only the words on the cards, and perform the scene for the class.
- Instead of Made Easy texts, create a Made Shorter text. Using the Folger Digital Texts, copy a scene, paste it into a Word file, and edit it to a version that your students can handle.
- If you want to teach Iambic Pentameter, watch the video called Living Iambic Pentameter, but DO NOT SHOW IT TO YOUR CLASS. Instead, do your own version in class. No kid wants to watch other kids having fun.
Those are just a few ways to get past the fear and teach Shakespeare for Real. Post your comments below with other suggestions.
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Last December, we led a Master Class on teaching Romeo and Juliet, streamed live from the public television studio we have tucked inside our building. Six hundred of you joined us, asked questions and made comments on the air, and lit up the chat box during the hour. A whole bunch of you were kind enough to participate in the survey that we sent you the following day. In the course of your feedback, several of you suggested that the Folger hold office hours on a regular basis . . . and on Twitter.
We loved the office hours idea! For the last few months, we’ve done that–but for sure we don’t have the hang of it yet. So we’re asking you to help us get this right. . . because that’s how we roll here. We don’t ever plan anything without input and advice from teachers.
First, a reality check: office hours for an hour or two on a monthly basis . . . overall a good idea? If it is, then I’m gonna keep on asking:
- What time of day, and which day, is best for you?
- Is Twitter the best medium? Our notion was to give quick answers and then follow up with more detailed info in a blog entry that’s posted the following week. Does that make sense to you?
- What would make you want to show up at office hours?
- Should office hours be on topics of your choosing, or should that be on us? “January’s office hours: Teaching Macbeth“
- Should we schedule topics way in advance?
- What other good ideas should we be having about this that we’re not?
Answer in the comments section and straighten us out. Thanks. Help.
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Emily Jordan Folger Children’s Festival, 2013.
Folger Shakespeare Library.
Last week we wrapped up our annual Secondary School Shakespeare Festival.
Students from close to 50 local schools performed 25-minute scenes from Shakespeare plays onstage at the Folger in front of their peers.
(You can see some photos and tweets at #FolgerFest. A lot of fun had by all!)
Now we’re getting ready for our Children’s Festival in May, for local students in grades 3-6!
We’ve got a great thing going on here in the DC area, but student Shakespeare festivals have cropped up in other parts of the U.S. too.
There’s the Shakesperience: NJ festival in May, hosted by the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in partnership with the Folger Shakespeare Library and Rider University.
Then there’s the Shakespeare Scene Festival for middle school and high school students, held at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock–a festival that was inspired by a workshop at the Folger!
We could go on naming them, but we want to ask you these questions: Is there a student Shakespeare festival in your area? If not, what’s standing in the way of you starting one?
The Folger has some great material to help you organize and prepare for a festival. Find what you need on our website:
And if you’re participating in or preparing for a student Shakespeare festival right now, how’s it going? We’d love to hear from you and your students.
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Novels can help engage students not only with Shakespeare’s language (as we discussed in Tuesday’s blog post about That Shakespeare Kid) but also with his characters and stories.
With spring break coming up, maybe your students will be interested in a little light reading that also keeps them thinking about the Bard.
Drawing on some suggestions that first appeared in Folger Magazine, here are a few of the books out there:
The Dream of Perpetual Motion
By Dexter Palmer
“Prospero, Miranda, and other characters from Shakespeare’s The Tempest resurface in this darkly imaginative novel set in a steampunk universe. The Dream of Perpetual Motion is the story of islands—both paradises and prisons—and the hero’s dream of redemption through impossible love.”
Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs
By Ron Koertge
“In this charming and clever sequel to Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, fourteen-year-old protagonist Kevin Boland explores baseball and poetry with equal enthusiasm. A novel in verse form, the book reads like the journal entries of a sharp and observant teen—funny, self-reflective, and disarmingly honest.”
The Fool’s Girl
By Celia Rees
“Forced to flee Illyria in disguise with only her fool for company, young Violetta embarks on a dangerous mission to regain her kingdom. This historical tale weaves together plot twists from Twelfth Night with vivid scenes from Shakespeare’s London into an engaging tale of a gutsy heroine’s quest for justice.”
Here are two blog posts from our archives with even more book suggestions:
Extra Credit: Romeo & Juliet
Extra Credit: Hamlet
Tell us: What books do you recommend to your students? What are some of your favorite Shakespeare-inspired novels for teens?
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We have teachers ask us all the time how to introduce Shakespeare’s language in a way that’s engaging to students.
One possible approach: young adult novels that weave the Bard’s words along with the kind of dialogue familiar to students.
“That Shakespeare Kid,” by Folger Education’s senior consultant Michael LoMonico, presents just this combination.
Fourteen-year-old Emma narrates the story of her friend Peter, who, after a bump to the head, finds himself able to speak only by using the words of Shakespeare.
What a pickle!
This excerpt picks up the story the day after the accident, when Emma sees Peter at the bus stop and finds his conversation much altered: (more…)
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2013 Secondary School Festival. Folger Shakespeare Library.
Let’s make a date for another day to have a longer, more nuanced conversation about the many parts of the Common Core.
For now, I just want to say that if we could put politics aside and testing aside (and unfortunately, in our beloved field of education, we can put aside neither for long), the expectations for student mastery laid out in the Common Core are the same kinds of expectations that good teachers have had for their students for centuries. Centuries.
And what gets me going on about the Common Core at the moment is that our theatre is crammed this week and next with middle and high school students performing Shakespeare at the Secondary School Shakespeare Festival. (more…)
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Posted in Activity Idea, Folger Education, Folger Library, Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare, Teaching, tagged Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare Set Free, teaching Shakespeare on 03/04/2014 |
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Drawing by John Austen for an edition of Hamlet (ART Box A933 no.2), 1890 painting by Ludovic Marchetti of Romeo and Juliet (ART Vol. f220). Folger Shakespeare Library.
Last week, we took a reader poll to ask which Shakespeare plays were being taught this semester. Top of the list (as of this writing): Romeo and Juliet, with more than 25 percent of the vote.
Macbeth took second place with 22 percent, and Hamlet third with 10 percent. Our write-in option was also quite popular, with Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing making multiple appearances.
Good news! We have a wealth of resources for teaching each of these plays. Here are a few highlights:
- Romeo and Juliet – In December, Folger Education recorded an hour-long master class for teaching Romeo and Juliet. You can watch the archived version online, broken down into video segments on scholarship, performance, and the classroom.
- Macbeth – Folger educators talk about surefire ways for successfully introducing students to the Scottish play in this podcast, Macbeth: The Teacher’s Edition.
- Hamlet – Watch the Insider’s Guide to Hamlet. These videos highlight the play’s themes, characters, and plot—perfect for students encountering Hamlet for the first time.
Find more resources by downloading a curriculum guide for each of these popular plays. The guides include a brief synopsis, two lesson plans, famous quotes from the play, prompts for teachers, links to podcasts and videos, and a list of suggested additional resources.
Want even more? Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Hamlet are all included in our Shakespeare Set Free books, a series written by Folger Education’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute faculty and participants. (Today’s your last chance to apply for this year’s TSI, by the way!) Each book is packed with practical, specific ideas to use in the classroom.
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