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Posts Tagged ‘teaching Shakespeare’

Scott Van Wye, a student of Richard Phillipy at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis, won first prize at the 31st annual English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition on May 5. Scott performed a speech by Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing and a cold reading from The Tempest in addition to a sonnet. The competition was held at Lincoln Center Theater in New York City for 58 winners of ESU Branch competitions nationwide. Scott’s prize for placing first is a full scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art’s Young Actors Summer School in London. (more…)

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Folger Library Exterior: Bas relief: Julius Caesar

by Gina Voskov

One of the courses I teach at my school is 6th grade Humanities, and next up in our year’s curriculum plan is learning about Ancient Greece and Rome. I’m excited about getting the kids up and out of their seats for this class, and the best way I can do that is by getting them to interact with Shakespeare.

For this unit, I’ll be giving them some Julius Caesar, the Cinna the Poet scene in particular. This scene never fails to get all kids speaking, thinking, and moving. It’s also just about the easiest scene in the books with respect to language–there’s none of that stuff that turns so many kids away–the thee‘s and thine‘s and whatnot. I love giving this scene to groups of kids at the start of the year because it’s a great way to build community. But now that we are 3/4ths of the way through the year, I’m going to open our unit with performance. This scene will definitely have them asking questions about history, which is what we teachers hope for, right? (more…)

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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…)

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. Start with “baby steps.”
  3. Begin with a 15 Minute Play. There are eight of them on the Folger site.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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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2013 Secondary School Festival. Folger Shakespeare Library.

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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Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet

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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A simple question, but one that will help us know what kind of resources to share with you. Thanks for participating! (Note: You can check more than one box.)

Secondary School Shakespeare Festival 2013

Secondary School Shakespeare Festival 2013

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~by Christopher Shamburg, New Jersey City University

Shakespeare can be a powerful tool for the cognitive, emotional, social, and linguistic development of all kids.

I saw this phenomenon when working with the students of A. Harry Moore School in Jersey City, a comprehensive school for students ages 3-21 with severe medical, physical, and cognitive disabilities.   This year a group of 14 students did a variety of production-based activities with Shakespeare, culminating in a performance of The Winter’s Tale in June.

Students take a bow after performing The Winter's Tale.

Students take a bow after performing The Winter’s Tale.

A production-based approach is where kids come to understand Shakespeare through performance and technology—using Shakespeare’s Language.  It’s based in the Folger Teaching Method, and it’s great for all kids for several reasons.

1)      It is a deeply immersive experience.  In this case, students were dancing, sheering sheep, getting pursued by bears, consulting oracles, and coming tolife from marble statues.  They were engaged like they would be in a fun game or an exciting sport.

2)      These are fault tolerant activities.  You do not have to do it perfect or right to make it work well.

3)      There is a wide zone of engagement.  It’s been said that engagement occurs when there’s a balance between skills and challenge.  If a person is over-skilled, then boredom sets in.  If a person is over-challenged, then frustration sets in.  A teacher can easily balance skills and challenges with a production-based approach.

4)      It’s a great tool for building students’ executive function.  Executive function is a relatively new and helpful way of looking at brain activity.  It’s a combination of planning, working memory, multiple perspectives, and impulse control.  The methods of a production-based approach develop executive function.

Here are a few of the activities that worked for us.

Shadows

One of the activities we used was “Shadows,” a method for students to get familiar with the physical space of the theater, experiment with their range of motion, and understand the contrasting emotions of the main character of The Winter’s Tale, and the catalyst for the action of the play, Leontes.  In “Shadows,” one student acts as “Good” Leontes and another student follows as his “Shadow,” enacting contrasting lines from “Good” Leontes.  Leontes wore a white mask or hat, and Leontes’ shadow followed wearing a black mask or hat.

Leontes Leontes’ Shadow
Stay your thanks a whileWell said, Hermione Too hot, too hotI am angling now

(see full activity Shadows).

Seven-Minute Version

To better understand the plot and the language in the play, the students frequently performed “Winta: The Seven-Minute Winter’s Tale”.  Every student enacted at least one line as a teacher read the narration and cued the students.  The lines were designed for both readers and nonreaders, who would say their lines with a prompter.

e.g.

NARRATOR:  Leontes is sorry (12).  But it’s too late.  His wife is dead and his baby is gone.  Antigonus has taken Perdita to Bohemia and leaves her in an abandoned place (13).

Student lines:

12)  I have deserved all tongues to talk their bitterest.

13) There weep and leave it crying; and, for the babe is counted lost forever, Perdita.

(See full activity)

Emotion Chart

AHM Emotion Chart

Chart with different degrees of emotions

A frequent reference during many of these activities, rehearsals, and performance was the emotion chart.  It offered visual cues for nonreaders and some subtle emotional distinctions for the more dramatic players.  It was based on the work of Christine Porter in Mary Ellen Dakin’s Reading Shakespeare with Young Adults.

(See full Emotion Chart )

AHM Shakespeare 2013 -3

Three students smiling after performing The Winter’s Tale

Creating sound effects for the play–using voices, Foley techniques, and audio editing tools–was fun, engaged us in the text, and was a real crowd pleaser during our performance.  We used the Audacity audio editing program to create numerous sound effects (e.g. party, bear, sheep, crying baby, stone breaking apart).

Adaptive Use Musical Instruments

AHM Shakespeare 2013-4

Student using AUMI

One piece of software that was particularly useful was Adaptive Use Musical Instruments (AUMI).  It allowed students with limited mobility to create music for the show.  A user can create music or activated sounds with a variety of gross motor movements.

Embedded Word Files

To use the sound effects and music during the show we embedded they audio in a Word document.  These sounds added production value and also worked as a memory device for the actors.  Embedding mp3 files in a Word document is a standard, though underused, feature in Word that proved valuable during activities, rehearsals, and performance.  We opened the file with the script and played the sounds along with the production.

AHM Embedded Word File

A screenshot of a Word file with audio embedded

Good Script and Prompting

Our director Terry MacSweeney from Actor’s Shakespeare Company did an excellent job of abridging Shakespeare’s language to a 30-minute show.   He devised a system of cue cards, scripts and prompters that aided our actors just enough.

In Conclusion…

This was the Actor’s Shakespeare Company’s fifth production at A. Harry Moore.  This year the work was a part of the NJCU Educational Technology Department’s Partnership and Projects Program.

The production was organized by Marissa Aiello, a speech language pathologist at the school, with assistance by Matt Masiello, a speech language pathology intern.

Christopher Shamburg is a Professor of Educational Technology at New Jersey City University.  He is a workshop leader and consultant for the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Education Division.

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Folger Educatin Intern Samantha Smith writes about her experience at our Elementary Educators’ Conference

On the last day of the 2013 Shakespeare in Elementary Education Conference at the Folger Shakespeare Library, students from Capitol Hill Montessori took to the stage in the Folger Theatre to perform a short play entitled “Much Ado About Shakespeare.”  The play’s title summed up the three-day conference in which I was able to watch educators, authors, and graduate students talk, shout, and jump their way through nine presentations highlighting different ways to introduce children to Shakespeare’s text.  To me, the smiles and articulate answers of the Capitol Hill Montessori students as they replied to questions posed by educators in the audience illustrated the theme of the conference, which centered on how engagement with Shakespeare’s plays positively influences elementary students’ academic, artistic, and personal growth.

As a college senior eager to blend my academic interest in Shakespeare with my desire to work with young students, it was heartening to talk with professionals of different backgrounds who demonstrated diverse ways to encourage their students to study and enjoy Shakespeare’s plays.  All of the participants in the conference shared a love of Shakespeare’s words but each drew on his or her own education, training, and personal interests in ways that reinforced for me that there is no solitary path leading to a career based on engagement with Shakespeare’s plays.   Ken Ludwig, best known for his Tony-award winning plays and musicals, explained how he combined his writing talents with the enjoyment he felt teaching his own children to memorize passages from Shakespeare in his book, How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare.  Author and musician Daeshin Kim shared how his daughter’s positive response to nursery rhymes as a language-learning tool sparked his interest in composing short children’s songs sung from the point of view of Shakespeare’s characters.  As I read Mr. Kim’s book, A Horse With Wings, and listened to a song sung by Cordelia entitled “I don’t know what to say,” I was as delighted to learn about such an innovative way of sharing Shakespeare with children as I would have been listening to Mr. Kim’s songs as a pre-school student.  I learned that my lack of crafting talent was unchanged from my pre-school years while participating in a craft-based lesson by Holly Rodgers (a teacher from Fairfax County public schools) for The Merchant of Venice, which demonstrated a visual and tactile way to connect ESL students with Shakespeare.  The effectiveness of performance-based teaching was reinforced for me as I participated in Renee Vomocil of The Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s examples of warm-up games, Virginia Palmer-Fuechsel’s combination of spoken word and movement activities, and the movement-based exploration of Romeo and Juliet led by OSU/RSC Stand Up for Shakespeare educators Lorraine Gaughenbaugh and Anna Meyer.  These exercises made me excited to act portions of the plays I so enjoy reading.  The effectiveness of these lessons on younger students was clear when I watched Jennifer Ventimiglia’s class in the Czech Republic dramatize sonnets and heard from Dr. Barbara Cobb about how her Shakespeare in the Schools Partnership Initiative was successful in getting children excited about Shakespeare.

A line from recent Georgetown University graduate Angela Ramnanan’s presentation on her master’s thesis best summarized the conclusion I took away from the conference: ‘results obtained from the research project provide compelling evidence of Shakespeare’s relevance in our current curriculum based on his cultural and linguistic influence.”  There is indeed much to do to further incorporate Shakespeare education in elementary school curriculum, and I was delighted to have the opportunity to learn about so many ways that educators are already inspiring their students to love Shakespeare.

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There may be snow on the ground, but Spring is in the air at the Folger.  As the Cherry Blossoms in Washington prepare to bloom, so do our local budding Bards as they prepare for the student festivals right around the corner. While the high school students will stomp the boards in just a couple of weeks at our annual Secondary School Festival, their younger comrades in the elementary grades will give them a run for their money in mid-May during our 34th Annual Children’s Festival. The work of all of these youngsters in their grappling of the text, their connections to the intricate characters and relationships in Shakespeare’s plays is sometimes inconceivable and without a doubt exciting.

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On the heels of our Children’s Festival is the equally exciting Conference on Teaching Shakespeare in the Elementary Classroom. So for all of those who would like to know what this work looks like, now is your chance to join the movement. We are excited to host both local and national educators as we experience the incredible work being done with primary level students and Shakespeare.

As we share our stories, we’ll also experience and hear the stories behind two newly published books that should be welcomed additions to your Shakespeare for kids library.

Internationally acclaimed playwright Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor, Crazy for You) joins us as our keynote speaker. Adding author to his long list of accomplishments, Ken will talk and give a demonstration from his newly published book How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare (available June 11). We’ll also be joined by Daeshin Kim, writer and composer of the picture book and CD, A Horse with Wings: Songs for Children Sung by Characters from Shakespeare. Hear about Daeshin’s journey to re-creating the stories of Shakespeare’s characters through music and the voice of a child.

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To see a full list of our conference presenters and to register, check out http://www.folger.edu/eec.

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