We’ve been thinking a lot about the benefit of having students listen to Shakespeare’s language. With the recent release of the digital edition of Othello, we are in the process of producing an audio recording of the play that follows the Folger edition. The goal is to enable students to read and hear the text at the same time. Our current production of Henry V is going to give us the opportunity to do an audio recording of the Chorus speeches, and we’re thinking this might be helpful for students to have available to listen to, as well. In the middle of considering all of this, it occured to us that it might be helpful to blog about it and see what kinds of responses we’d get to asking about how teachers use audio recordings of plays in their classrooms. We’re not talking about passive listening. Rather, actively engaging students through a guided listening exercise or activity, for example. So, do you use audio recordings of Shakespeare’s plays, or of any plays, in your classrooms? How do you use them? Do you find the option to be a valuable one, based on your own classroom use?
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By now, many of you readers have probably watched or recorded the first two episodes of “Shakespeare Uncovered” on PBS. As Caitlin Griffin wrote in her Blog entry on January 17, the broadcast details are:
January 25th, 9-11pm EST: ‘Macbeth’ with Ethan Hawke and ‘The Comedies’ with Jolie Richardson.
February 1, 9-11pm EST: ‘Richard II,’ with Derek Jacobi and ‘Henry IV,’ and ‘Henry V’ with Jeremy Irons.
February 8, 9-11pm EST: ‘Hamlet’ with David Tennant and ‘The Tempest’ hosted by Trevor Nunn.
But the good news is that each of the hour-long shows will be available for streaming at the Shakespeare Uncovered site after they are broadcast, so if you missed the Macbeth or Comedies episodes, stream away.
But what you probably don’t know is that several Folger Education folks served on WNET’s Education Advisory panel. I was lucky enough to be part of this panel along with Peggy O’Brien, Kevin Costa, Josh Cabat, and Sue Biondo-Hench. We were joined by Joan Langley from Oregon Shakespeare, Chris Anthony from LA Shakespeare Center, and Bill Heller from Teaching Matters.
In addition to previewing all six episodes and spending a day at WNET’s headquarters in NYC, several of our group created lesson plans for the PBS site. And Peggy O’Brien has written some fabulous Teacher Viewing Guides for all six episodes (as of now on the first two are available.)
So now we’d like to hear from you. Tell us what you think of the shows, and more importantly, how you might use the videos and lesson plans with your students.
During a particularly bad Idaho winter in 1996, my 10 year old niece visited me for the weekend. She accompanied me to a meeting of my Shakespearean troupe, Stage of Fools. Only one other brave soul dared to trek through the snow to rehearse that day, so we abandoned our show and read a scene that allowed my niece to play along. We chose the Lady Macduff murder scene…what 10 year old doesn’t love to die a dramatic death?
We started our exploration of the text by reading through the scene. I was amazed at how quickly she picked up the language. There were only a few words that she needed help defining, and after the second reading, she fully understood the action of the scene. This is when the fun began…we got the scene up on its feet. With every reading, she became more and more animated and died with dramatic flourish. It made me wish that she lived closer so that she could join the Stage of Fools!
I could have performed the scene with her all night, but the weather made me nervous, so we donned our winter wear to make the slow trip home. Before leaving the theatre, she asked me if she could borrow Macbeth for the week and give it back when I visited her the following weekend. Of course, I said yes.
The next weekend, I attended her 11th birthday party. To my surprise, she and her friends took turns enacting the scene for our entertainment during the party. It turns out that she had read the entire play that week and taken the script to school so that she and her friends could practice during recess. As you might imagine, I was one proud aunt.
A few years later, I was able to take her to the Folger Shakespeare Library. It was a very special trip for us. Today, she is an adult who still has a passion for Shakespeare. In fact, she has our favorite quote tattooed down the back of her leg, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”
Over the years, as the owner of the Shakespeare High website, I’ve been asked by parents and educators how soon we can expose our children to Shakespeare. I always cite this anecdote as evidence that young children are more than capable of reading, understanding, enjoying, and embracing Shakespeare’s language. While attending the “Shakespeare for All” workshop at the 2012 NCTE conference, Folger educators shared that “cognitive psychology tells us that adolescents have a harder time with language acquisition and dialect differences. Start with grades 3-6 because they are ready.” By introducing our younger students to Shakespeare’s language in small chunks, they will soon be ready to tackle a full play, and 9th grade teachers will no longer hear moans and groans when they introduce Romeo and Juliet for the first time.
Although I don’t teach elementary school, I enjoyed learning about the performance-based methods used when teaching Shakespeare to younger children. If I didn’t live in the “other” Washington, I would attend the Folger Shakespeare Library Conference on Teaching Shakespeare in the Elementary Classroom June 24-26, 2013. The conference theme is Sharing Our Stories. I’m thankful that I was able to share my niece’s story with you and hope you will share your stories with me by leaving a comment below.
Amy Ulen is a TSI 1996 Alumni. After 20 years of teaching English and theatre, she moved into technology education. She created the Shakespeare High website and eventually plans on updating it again. She continues her passion for incorporating technology into the study of Shakespeare both online and in face-to-face workshops.
~by Rick Vanderwall
My fall semester Introduction to Literature students were a great group. This course is a required, entry level lit course for first year students. Everybody takes this course and instructors are encouraged to develop unique, engaging themes for the course. I came up with “Journeys through Danger, Temptation, and Violence”. Although this title may seem an exercise in the Sergio Leone (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) school of curricular development, it has actually worked fairly well. The course begins with Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD, moves to Capote’s IN COLD BLOOD, takes a left turn to Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL, then Shakespeare’s MACBETH, finishing up with Marlowe’s FAUSTUS. Students engage with these texts in a variety of ways, including writing the traditional literary analysis, branching out into multi-genre projects with the CAROL. The final two works, Macbeth and Faustus work well together thematically and comparatively. Performance activities blended with in-class readings has connected students with these texts in a new and often deeper way. With some groups and some students the performance activities can be intimidating. While some students have experience with this way of working with dramatic literature, for some it is a first. Students new or otherwise may find performing in front of the class is daunting. I have always offered doing scenes in video as an option but few have selected that option, until this past fall.
From the beginning it was clear that these students were ready for whatever experience I was willing to give them. They quickly demonstrated experience and competence in the writing of the traditional college literary analysis. They loved to discuss and pushed me for more adventurous explorations of the material. As we moved into Macbeth we simultaneously worked our way through the text and formed production teams. Each team selected a scene from a teacher provided list. I provided some training in the language of Shakespeare and helped the groups engage with the text for deeper understanding. When given the performance choice most chose video production over live performance, the reverse of previous groups. The resulting scenes met my expectations for close reading and engagement. The discussion that resulted as we watched the videos was rich. The quality of the videos mattered less than the scene concept expressed.
What I noticed as we moved into Marlowe’s Faustus was that the groups chose to stay together for the next performance project and expressed a desire to improve the films. There seemed to be a competition among the groups to put forward an improved product. As the quality of the videos did improve, the level of the textual engagement became much deeper. One group in particular selected a complex task. They wanted to do scenes from Faustus that included Good Angel/Bad Angel scenes. I suggested they adapt several of these scenes into one. The act of adaption required a deep study of the text of these scenes in order weave them together. The resulting video (linked below) opened an expanded discussion of the character of Faustus and speculation about author intent. The culminating assignment was a paper comparing the two plays which seemed an afterthought compared to the high level of engagement of the scene production process.
I learned that alternatives to live classroom performance had potential for greater engagement. I have been aware for the past few years that more and more students came to class with experience in video production and skills with other technologies that could be utilized in performance activities. Students reluctant to perform live in class were very willing to perform in video. The level of engagement depended somewhat on my individual coaching of the groups and my facilitation of each group’s task/scene. I had to emphasize “process over product” and make sure not to become too focused on the success or failure of the technical aspects of projects. Instead, I commented on the concept students presented and how it addressed the text chosen. With the videos all students, presenters and audience, were able to focus on the textual interpretation. We could easily replay all or part of the videos as comments or questions arose.
Some groups had issues with compatibility and portability of the videos. I suggested as a backup that the videos be posted on YouTube. Equipment varied from cellphone cameras to high end camcorders and use of Adobe Premier, iMovie, to Windows Movie Maker. Students were encouraged to use technology they had at hand. I stated clearly that this project was not about the quality of the video but the depth of the textual engagement. I set no “quality” standards but focused my attention on selecting challenging scenes and facilitating the groups as they addressed the task.
While this group was exceptional in their engagement, they did not seem unusual in the technology skills they possessed. In written response following the completion of the project, they expressed surprise at the level of interest they developed in both Macbeth and Faustus. They connected particularly with the moral dilemmas faced by both characters. As a result I am rethinking the culminating comparison paper. Each semester informs the changes I will make for the next, that’s the one constant I have been able to count on over the course of my teaching career.
Rick Vanderwall is a faculty member in in the Department of Languages and Literatures specializing in English education At the University of Northern Iowa. He has been an educator in a middle school, high school for more than thirty-five years. He is still learning new things
Twelve of Shakespeare’s plays, including Hamlet, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, and Twelfth Night were made available in digital format earlier this month by the Folger Shakespeare Library. The response has been tremendously positive. Now that these twelve digital editions have been put online for free, the lesson plans on the Folger website for the plays are in the process of being linked to those digital editions, and should be completed by the end of the week. Hamlet is up and ready to be used. If you search our lesson plan archive for material on Hamlet, for example, you’ll be able to link to the digital edition of the act and/or scene from the play used in the lesson. And the link is right in the lesson plan to make it even easier for teachers to access the material in digital format. Take a look, use it, and let us know what you think. And stay tuned because once the rest of the canon is available online in digital format, the lesson plan archive will be updated and linked to those editions as well.
We’re all talking about it, because we’re so excited that this resource is now available for the world to use! Folger Digital Texts are here!
Currently featuring 12 of the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays, over the course of the next year we’re planning to see all of Shakespeare’s plays and poems, and a few of his contemporaries make their way to this free resource page. The line numbers in the Folger Digital Texts lines up with the popular printed Folger Editions of Shakespeare’s plays, and are search-able by word or phrase, or jump-able by act, scene, or line number.
The meticulously crafted and embedded text code can even be downloaded for classroom use in project and app creation. We can’t wait to see what you can do!
Our developers are eagerly awaiting feedback as we launch this resource into the world, so please give it a look, try it with your class, play with it at home, and send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re excited that this can now be counted among the many resources offered by the Folger Shakespeare Library, and hope to hear from you about them!
It’s true that you never know the way(s) in which you’ll be affected by the works of William Shakespeare. Last summer, the Folger Shakespeare Library hosted twenty-five teachers from around the country who participated in Folger Education’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute. This four-week program where teachers explore four plays from the viewpoints of scholarship, pedagogy, and performance is consistently described by participants as “life changing”. It is in many ways. One of th0se ways can be seen in the recent writing by Gabriel Fernandez, a 2012 TSI participant. His writing, Seeking the Bubble Reputation, is a deeply moving piece — reflective, instructive, and engaging. Fernandez’s insights, his integration of Shakespeare as he explores those insights, his “visualizations” (as one reader noted) are remarkable. “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so” (Hamlet, 2.2). How have you been affected by Shakespeare’s work? How has it influenced your own work? Your teaching?
Folger Education is proud to announce that we have branched into our own Facebook Page this week!
Over the past year or so, different divisions of the Folger have been branching from the parent Folger Library page to give more specific information of interest to their audience. Maybe you’ve already Liked all of the Folger pages forTheatre, Poetry, and Consort, so add us to the list!
Like us to get updates as we share our favorite new and classic resources for teachers, and keep you informed of professional development opportunities from us! We’ll be available to respond to posts from you if you have any questions or comments about particular links, resources, or programs!
Share the page with your friends and coordinate with your community electronically to bring Folger Education even closer to you!
If you can’t tell, I’m pretty excited about this development, and really do look forward to interacting with you in a new medium. I’d love to hear from you!
Folger Education was part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s World Shakespeare Festival Conference last September, presenting a workshop, participating in a symposium on using technology in teaching Shakespeare, and represented on a panel discussing Shakespeare. It was an energizing and inspiring conference. While we were in London, my colleague and I had the opportunity to see Timon of Athens at the National Theatre. The production was part of the World Shakespeare Festival, a celebration of William Shakespeare as the world’s playwright. My reaction after seeing the performance was that it was too bad that more people wouldn’t get to see such an incredible production — and see Simon Russell Beale, who has been called the “greatest stage actor of his generation.” So, imagine my joy when I discovered that the production will be available in selected theaters in the US on November 1st. This is a production not to be missed. The Guardian called the play, “A fable about the toxic nature of a ruthlessly commercialised world.” The play is directed by Nicholas Hytner, and Time Out wrote that Hytner “… hurls Timon into the 21st century….” This is a play not often staged, and one that will resonate with audiences in the States. A list of broadcast locations is available. When you see it, or if you teach it now, it would be great to get your take on its relevance for students and/or to today’s audiences.
Let’s take a break from our usual education-based Blog and pause for an adult beverage or two. After all, if you’ve been grading essays and teaching Shakespeare for a while, you may need a drink.
One of my favorite libations is Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout made in Newport, Oregon. Their Website describes this brew as “ebony in color with a rich creamy head, earthy flavor and a mellow, chocolate finish.” I’m not sure about that chocolate, but it does taste good. It’s available here in New York and probably everywhere else.
But if you’re ever in Oregon, be sure to stop in to one of the Rogue Brew Pubs. There are several of them and there’s even one in the Portland Airport.
The actor, Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, Sex and the City, and Desperate Housewives) has partnered with Eric Dunham to produce a pricey ($65 a bottle) Cabernet Sauvignon, which they say has a taste of allspice, clove, hints of anise and chocolate-covered cherries. But their Website is brilliant as it zooms in on the Globe Theater and shows us that famous bear from The Winter’s Tale, complete with roaring. It’s worth a visit.
They even have a Baby Bear Syrah which they say has “debaucherously nuanced flavors” of ”baking spices, cumin and a lavender nose.” At $48 a bottle, it still is out of my price range.
A few years ago, a former student of mine (now a teacher) came to a workshop I was giving and presented me with a bottle of Shakespeare Vodka. It’s been a while since I finished the bottle, so I can’t report on the quality, but the bottle is beautiful and I keep refilling it with bottles of Absolut or Smirnof’f.
It’s a great conversation piece as it has a see-through label with an image of Shakespeare on the back. If you’re ever in my neighborhood, stop in and I’ll pour you a drink.
If you’d rather read what Shakespeare had to say about drinking, you should check out the The Boozy Bard, a book categorized by play which cites all the places where Shakespeare has written about drink, drinking, and drinkers.
Here are a few famous quotes:
Do you think because you are virtuous, that there shall be no more cakes and ale? Twelfth Night 2.3
Good wine is a good familiar creature, if it be well used. Othello 2.3
I would give all my fame for a pot of ale. Henry V 1.3
Drink sir, is a great provoker of three things…nose painting, sleep and urine. Macbeth 2.3
And finally, if you’d like to enjoy an adult libation and see a fine Shakespeare play, head to Atlanta and stop in to the New American Shakespeare Tavern.
Here’s how their Website describes the experience:
The New American Shakespeare Tavern® is unlike other theaters. It is a place out of time; a place of live music, hand-crafted period costumes, outrageous sword fights with the entire experience centered on the passion and poetry of the spoken word. With an authentic British Pub Menu and a broad selection of Irish ales and premium brews, the Shakespeare Tavern® is a place to eat, drink, and nourish the soul.