Here’s an excerpt from a blog post in which Dan reviews some maxims for guiding students through performance-based learning in the classroom.
This scene is your whole play: this further reinforces the Folger philosophy that close reading on one’s feet does not require the teaching of a whole play; focus on what the scene shows us about the people in it, etc.
All plays are contemporary: despite the original context of the play, students bring their own cultural contexts and personal contexts to the plays they are reading; validating those contexts validates the student and builds confidence
Characters are defined by what they do, not what they say: helping students focus on action eases some of the anxiety with the foreign quality of the language
Words can convey many meanings: What do you mean when you say it?: this one reminds students that they have choice and ownership over their readings of the text while validating that there is no one way to play it
What does the script tell us, NOT what would we like it to tell us?: this one reminds students that everything they need to know is on this page; there is no secret code to reading Shakespeare
Dialogue is action-oriented: all utterances have a goal behind them, even if that goal is to be left alone; understanding these helps link performance movement choice to how the line is read
Good plays are about human behavior: this one links to the previous one; how do people behave when they are in specific contexts attempting to gain specific desires
You cannot play themes or literary tropes: these things are great for the world of literary analysis, but alien to the world of the actor; people don’t consider themes when they are trying to bed lovers or destroy rivals; themes arise from our reflection on those events
Do you have anything to add? What are maxims that you communicate to your students when they are doing performance-based, language-centered learning? Tell us in the comments.
Harvard University professor Stephen Greenblatt knows a lot about Shakespeare. He’s the author of “Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare,” and he came to the Folger Shakespeare Library this spring to participate in a research conference on “Shakespeare and the Problem of Biography.” But Greenblatt did not immediately latch on to the Bard in his student days. As he put it recently in an interview with the Harvard Gazette:
I was no child prodigy. In fact, I encountered “As You Like It” in Miss Gillespie’s eighth-grade class — and it seemed like the worst, most boring thing I ever read in my life. I can still remember the shudder with which I received the words “Sweet my coz, be merry.” I just didn’t get it at all. So it’s not like I awakened as a child to the wonders of Shakespeare.
Stephen Greenblatt at the “Shakespeare and the Problem of Biography” conference at the Folger Shakespeare Library, April 2014. Photo by Teresa Wood.
Later in the Q&A, we learn which Shakespeare plays Greenblatt would rather have studied in middle school, how videos can make a difference in the English classroom, and at what moment the Bard was reclaimed in Greenblatt’s imagination. (more…)
My students have told me that studying and performing Shakespeare has made them better readers of all literature and better writers, stronger individuals and stronger leaders.
But how do we assess this growth?
There is no standardized assessment that truly measures this type of learning. And that’s an issue that challenges the credibility and viability of performance-based instruction.
When I was first asked to provide a workshop on Shakespeare and assessment last fall, I was a bit disappointed. I mean, assessment isn’t what gets me to school in the morning. But truthfully, I think about assessment all the time as I work with students and performance; it is at all stages of what I do with students. I just didn’t realize it until I began to think about what I wanted to share at that workshop.
One of the realities of assessment is that it has the power to scaffold, stabilize, justify, and transforms the performance piece for the students, for the classroom, for the audience, for administrators, and for me.
In case you’ve forgotten: Tomorrow is Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday.
In my recent post I wrote about the Romeo and Juliet Balcony Scene-Flash Mob event that the Folger is hosting on YouTube. We’ve gotten lots of questions and comments about this activity, and we’re hoping that you take the time to get your students to create this scene. (more…)
As you probably know, April 23 is Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, and the Folger Education staff wants to get everyone involved in the celebration. So we are hosting a Balcony Scene Flash Mob Festival. It’s simple. It’s fun. And it will get a lot of people speaking Shakespeare.
We hope to get groups from all across the country to take part.
Guest post by Deborah Gascon - Dutch Fork High School, Irmo, SC
Performance in AP? Didn’t think you had time with all the other pressures? Make time. Using Folger strategies in my AP classes has transformed student comprehension of difficult texts and improved their abilities to read closely–and has actually SAVED me time.
This week my AP Lit and Comp students completed poetry presentations. There were several requirements but one of them was to make the presentation engaging–there is nothing worse than sitting through 57 poetry presentations, is there?
I was impressed and amazed at how many of my students incorporated some sort of performance in their presentations. Josh taught Frost’s poem “Home Burial” and had 3 volunteers perform the different parts to show the contrast in mood. Tyler assigned each of his classmates a line of a Plath poem and asked them to create a physical movement to express the tone in the line.
My students quickly realized that performance is key to understanding and chose to incorporate in all facets of our classroom. I know that with performance my students are engaged, class is interactive, students aren’t insecure about delivering presentations and the senior slump hasn’t happened.
Here are the top 5 things I did (and suggest!) to incorporate Folger strategies in the AP classroom: (more…)
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.
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…)