Archive for the ‘TSI’ Category

What is it about the Teaching Shakespeare Institute that led one alumnus to describe it as “the best way on the planet to learn more about Shakespeare and become a better teacher”?

We’re proud of the 30-year milestone that TSI reached this year, proud of the impact it’s made on American education since the first summer institute in 1984, and proud of the legacy it’s created.

And we’re proud of the latest crop of teachers to go through our program! We’d like to share some photos of the 25 educators who spent four weeks at the Folger this summer. What an amazing time for all!

These photos show teachers collaborating together, learning from scholars, investigating primary source material in the Folger’s Reading Rooms, challenging themselves with performance-based teaching techniques, and using technology to build effective classroom material.


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See even more photos in our Flickr gallery.

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As we draw near to the end of the first week of TSI, we wanted to give you a glimpse into how things are going so far.

The days are just packed! Our TSI teachers have acted on the Folger stage, looked through rare materials in our Reading Room, interacted with scholars in focused seminars, worked through curriculum ideas, and much more.


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Mary Bevilacqua

Mary Bevilacqua

To celebrate the 30-year milestone for the Folger’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute, we’re doing a series of interviews with alumni.

A few days ago, we talked with Geoff Stanbury, who participated in the 2010 TSI program. For our next interview, we turned to Mary Bevilacqua, a 1991 TSI alum who was a teacher for 30 years. Mary taught 9th grade English and AP Literature for twelfth graders at Western High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

How did TSI change the way you teach?

TSI changed the way I teach because it gave me the confidence, the tools and the knowledge that enabled me to transform my classroom into a miniature TSI, complete with costumes, set designs, and not only reading, but also acting out the plays.  The best part: I did it with “regular” classes, along with gifted and AP. And I incorporated it in everything we studied, especially poetry.


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As we anticipate our 2014 Teaching Shakespeare Institute, which starts on June 29, we’re spending some time reflecting over the last 30 years of the program, from when it first began in 1984. To celebrate this 30-year milestone, we’re doing a series of interviews with TSI graduates.

We got in touch with a TSI graduate from 2010 to see where he is now and to hear how his TSI experience has changed the way he teaches.

Geoff Stanbury

Geoff Stanbury

Geoff Stanbury currently teaches at St. Mark’s School of Texas and just finished his sixth year of teaching 7th grade humanities. Next year he’ll be teaching 9th, 11th, and 12th grade English. He says he’s “planning on imbuing classes with as much Shakespeare as possible” and hopes to launch a Shakespeare elective class.

Here are his answers to a few questions we asked:

1. How did TSI change the way you teach?

TSI got me to internalize the fact that it’s fun and productive to ignore convention within the classroom. As long as I can imagine how students could benefit from any particular activity, no matter how weird, than any such activity is a good one.


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Folger Teaching Shakespeare InstituteIn 1984, the National Endowment for the Humanities funded the first Teaching Shakespeare Institute, a month-long summer program at the Folger for high school and middle school teachers from across the country. Thirty years later, TSI is still going strong.

This summer we’re commemorating three decades of tradition and celebrating how TSI has transformed the way Shakespeare is taught in American classrooms.

In coming weeks on this blog, we’ll be posting interviews with alumni from past TSI programs, leading up to TSI 2014, which begins June 29. Less than a month to go!

TSI began under Folger Education’s founding director, Peggy O’Brien, who left the Folger in 1994 but returned in 2013. O’Brien edited Shakespeare Set Free, a groundbreaking series packed with practical, specific teaching ideas written by TSI faculty and participants.

In past summers, participants have studied four Shakespeare plays—a play a week—from three essential perspectives: scholarship, performance, and the secondary school classroom. However, this summer the 25 teachers in TSI will undertake a more in-depth look at just two plays: Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night. Read more.

Are you a TSI alum? Send your photos to educate@folger.edu for a photo gallery that we’re creating to celebrate this 30-year milestone.

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Find this quote in context at folgerdigitaltexts.org

Guest post by Josh Cabat

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

While the average ELA Chair or Director has little to fear in terms of civil unrest in the Northlands, we have all, as did Henry IV, struggled with internal resistance to change.

How often have you found a great idea at a conference or in a journal, and then presented it at a department meeting only to have it greeted with smiles and nods and subsequently ignored? Reflecting on and changing our own process is challenging enough; to get others to do so is often a steep mountain indeed.

This is even more true when it comes to Shakespeare. Resistance to new ideas in teaching Shakespeare usually comes in two flavors. One comes out as “You expect those students to do Shakespeare?” which usually signifies the teacher’s own insecurity with the material. The other is the complete opposite: “You’re telling me how to teach Shakespeare?” Take heart, though; there are many ways over, around, and through these walls. (more…)

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We know that Shakespeare wrote at least 37 plays – though not all of them are taught in our classrooms. We love teaching the recognizable and easily-found HamletMidsummer, Othello, and Macbeth, but there are so many to choose from if you have the time and the inclination to dig deeper. In this week’s Teacher to Teacher videos, teachers like you make the case for the plays they enjoy teaching:


You may remember Gina Voskov’s impassioned post on this very blog, “Fighting With Truth,” in which she described her students’ affinity for learning Shakespeare and her comparison of Titus Andronicus to modern events and other authors. Hear more from Gina in her video, below. 


Then, of course, there’s something to be said for a play that can generate fantastic discussions. One of Shakespeare’s more modernly controversial plays, The Merchant of Venice, provides us with ambiguous characters and tough questions. Four of our teachers chose this play, but Dr. Robert Thompson sums it up nicely:


Finally, you may already be teaching King Lear, but we love what Gabriel Fernandez has to say about how personally relatable this play is for everyone. It appeals to our love of fairy tales, but does not give us the resolution we want. What can we learn from that?


What is your favorite play to teach? Why so? Let us know in the comments!

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During this month’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute, some of our Summer Scholars have chosen to blog their experiences on their own sites, and have given permission to share some of them here. Today, we catch up with Greta Brasgalla in the last week of TSI:

It is my last week here at TSI and today I requested some rare books from the vault in the Reading Room, so I could take pics of them.  My friend, Kim, already requested Holinshed’s Chronicles last week.

Morning Lecture and Seminar:  Jay Halio and the text of Pericles

I bet most of you have never read Pericles, but it is really a great play.  It has incest, zombies, whores who never do it, romance, and pirates!  Yep, all of that.  Most people don’t even think Shakespeare wrote it because it was not in the First Folio.  It is possible that George Wilkenson co-wrote some scenes.  It is still an interesting play.

Jay discussed how editors make choices in the texts.  Most of us had some Shakespeare anthology we used during college (mine was the Bevington).  Whatever book you had, you are at the mercy of the editors and what THEY believe to be the best way to translate Shakespeare’s words.

Printers had lots of type that they were setting upside down and backwards.  In some cases, they ran out of a letter, flipped it around, or stretched out verse to fill the white space on the page.

Cool idea:  get pics of a folio edition and a quarto and have students examine the difference in language used.  Example:  Desdemona’s speech to the Duke  “That I love the Moor” or “That I did love the Moor.”  Big difference in connotation.  Also, at the end of Othello,  “base Judean” or “base Indian”?

Fun fact:  upper case refers to the large letters that were kept in the printers top case.  Lower case refers to the smaller letters in their bottom case.  (thanks to Deborah Gascon)

Tea Time with Oscar Wilde, Holinshed, and Faust

Here are some pics of the letters and books we had checked out in the Reading Room today:

From Holinshed’s Chronicles:  Macbeth’s confidence in wizards


The Letter.


Another Holinshed photo with Macbeth’s Laws

Finishing up lesson plans and working on our performances for Friday!  Almost there!

Blessed to be Teaching!

Greta heads the English Department at El Dorado Ninth Grade Academy in El Paso, TX.  She holds a Master of Arts degree in English and American Literature and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Theatre Arts from the University of Texas at El Paso, and now has 20 years of classroom experience.

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During this month’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute, some of our Summer Scholars have shared their experience with us. Today, Sarah Lanterman muses on the past four weeks and how she’ll take what she’s learned here into her future classrooms:

As a new teacher, I have been inspired by my experience at the Teaching Shakespeare Institute this month.  The wonderful mix of lectures by renowned scholars, seminars, curriculum, performance, and group work projects has given me new confidence and insight into my work as an educator.  I have forged new friendships and made professional connections that will last a lifetime.  Now, I know this sounds cheesy, but the sense of community we have fostered this month has given me insight into how powerful a learning community can be.  This vision of the potential power of fellow learners—both as teachers and for students—is something that I can’t wait to take back with me to my classroom next year.

Looking back, one of the most important “take-aways” I have from my month at TSI has been the importance and validity of performance as a form of close reading.  Performing the text in a variety of ways from reading around for punctuation, to rehearsing a scene with script in hand, to performing a piece of text learned by heart has given me a new level of comfort and familiarity with the text in ways I would have never anticipated. In our curriculum sessions we have not only discussed this important pedagogical strategy, but we have also experienced the ways in which we continue to gain new insights into and understandings of the text by doing this ourselves.  Another result of experiencing performance as close reading is that I have been more empowered as an educator, and I believe that my students will experience the same sense of growth and insight and empowerment we did when I take this with me into my classroom next year.

Sarah is a high school English teacher and high school girl’s lacrosse coach.  She attended the University of Oregon with a major in English/minor in Spanish.  As an undergraduate she interned with the education department at the Globe Theatre in London.  She earned her MA in Shakespearean Studies at King’s College London, and also served as a research intern with the Globe Education department.  After returning from London, she earned my M.Ed. in Secondary Education at the University of Washington—Bothell. 

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During this month’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute, some of our Summer Scholars have chosen to blog their experiences on their own sites, and have given permission to share some of them here. Today, Gabriel Fernandez shares his experience from a few days in the middle of the scholarly marathon that is TSI:

July 14, 2012

Today was our first research Saturday at the Folger. I am getting a bit tired, a bit burned out although I did hold books in my hands which were printed in 1596, 1600, and 1610, respectively. I was almost scared to even touch those books since they are so rare. You wonder whose hands they went through, whose fingerprints are on their pages, whose sweat and blood even, and what kinds of human lives those books migrated through. What kind of life have those books had? You wish they could talk. Today they migrated through my life!

July 15, 2012

Today is Sunday, and I enjoyed my day off. In the morning, I went with Katie to mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It is a beautiful church. Standing above the altar is a unique painting of Jesus rising from the dead. It depicts a Christ who is seemingly angry, almost enraged, and muscular, ready to mete out justice: one who demands his due since He paid his dues. This is a picture of Jesus that is hardly seen. It is a beautiful and thought-provoking work of art.

In the afternoon, Rob T, Kim, and I went to the hallowed and holy grounds of Gettysburg. One can almost cut with a knife the atmosphere of pain and suffering, of loss and demoralization, of the human stain tattooed on those fields of that American “band of brothers” fighting, to the death, against each other. You can even envision those bodies piled one upon the other–“And pile them high at Gettysburg / I am the grass. / I cover all.” (Sandburg, “Grass”). It has been a day I will never forget. I brought some rocks back from Gettysburg! And what’s up with that small Texas monument at Gettysburg? Come on Lone Star State!

July 16, 2012

            The third week of the Teaching Shakespeare Institute began with our study of Othello. Mike Witmore, the director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, gave an interesting lecture in the morning. He raised the issue thatOthello is the story of someone who hears the lies he wants to hear, the lies he can, ultimately, not resist. These are lies he seems to wish were true, lies which seem to commune so well with his body and spirit that he finds it very hard to extricate himself from their power. This argument asks an interesting question of us. Can we, as human beings, resist the power of the irresistible lie? Some form of the irresistible lie exists for each of us– tailored and crafted to every individual’s needs, wants, worries, fears, and concerns. Personally, I have succumbed to that power in my life (while I probably still believe that particular lie).

Donna Denizé and Louisa Newlin gave an absolutely amazing talk onOthello in the afternoon. Donna reminded us that Othello is the inexperienced lover, not quite sure how to handle love, not quite sure how to love, and not quite sure how to accept it. He loses control when he falls in love because he releases a fragile vulnerability. In fact, Denizé states that Othello and Desdemona have a spiritual love, a love which is above sexuality, and in the end, perhaps Othello feels, deep down within, that he does not deserve Desdemona in the first place. After all, Othello wooed Desdemona with “his honors and his valiant parts.” Iago recognizes Othello’s flaw, his inborn incredulity, and feeds on it, like a maggot on an open wound.

July 17, 2012

Eight more days to go after today. Where has the time gone? I’m so busy that I have a funny feeling the remainder of this week and next week will fly by. Plus, I’m ready to go home. DC is great, a wonderful, cosmopolitan city, but it’s not where I belong, although this experience has really changed my life, and I have made a bunch of new friends, and everyone I have met and spent time with is great in his or her own way. There is a great quote from W. Somerset Maugham in The Moon and Sixpence about knowing not only where your home is, but where one belongs:

I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them amid certain surroundings, but they have always a nostalgia for a home they know not. They are strangers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood or the populous streets in which they have played, remain but a place of passage. They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known. Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in the search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves. Perhaps some deep-rooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands which his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of history. Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. Here at last he finds rest.

Maybe San Anto, Tejas is my place of rest.

Today in discussion with Stephen Dickey we delved into a study of Iago. It seems Iago is indeed truthful, although he picks and chooses what truths to tell. The comparison was brought up between Iago and the devil (the serpent) while Othello and Desdemona are the Adam and Eve archetypes. Othello and Desdemona seem to carry a pristine innocence within, much like Adam and Eve. Yet, I still have to question the innocence of Othello. This character, this man, is a warrior. He has killed people, and he has mostly likely ordered people to be killed. At his core, he is a soldier. I question his innocence, his inexperience. He has been in “battles,” “sieges,” “hair-breadth scapes,” “sold to slavery.” He is Theseus, he is Perseus, he is Hercules. He is the mythological figure who has seemingly seen it all. So how can he fail so miserably in his marriage to Desdemona? Is it some intrinsic flaw, some recognition of character, of truth, that won’t allow him to love and all Iago has to do is make this truth evident to Othello? Is this why Verdi referred to Iago as “The Truth?” Iago’s piecemeal rendition of the essence of Othello, an essence of being Othello can’t even seem to delineate for himself, the verities of his being, seemingly result in Othello’s downfall. In short, Iago holds up the mirror to Othello’s nature, and the Moor only has to follow, naturally, along.

We also embarked on a discussion of the handkerchief. This article of cloth ties into my argument. I argue that the handkerchief, an instrument, a vessel, of cleanliness, since it’s main purpose is meant to “clean,” is a symbol of Othello’s attempt to clean himself, through the pristine angelic innocence of Desdemona, of egregious errors to his soul. What these errors are is up to debate. In other words, the handkerchief is emblematic of Othello’s attempt to gain not a divine redemption, but a human one. Desdemona can redeem Othello. Once she misplaces it, Othello loses his chance at any redemption, and like any warrior off the field of battle, like Odysseus floating amongst the winds of the gods, he flounders, and ultimately, fails.
Gabriel is a Reading Instructor at the Upward Bound Program for High School Students as well as an Adjunct instructor in Developmental English at Northwest Vista College. He has published numerous newspaper editorials, academic papers, and poems; in addition he has had several plays produced. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Texas at San Antonio following an Associate of Applied Science degree in Criminal Justice at San Antonio College. Gabriel is currently earning a Master of Arts degree in Education at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. 

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