In 2008, Folger Shakespeare Library’s Education Division held another of its Teaching Shakespeare Institutes for secondary school teachers. Among the applications we received was one from Harvey Sadis, an elementary school teacher who lived in Seattle, Washington. Because the grant was focused secondary school teachers, we did not offer a seat to Harvey. Upon hearing the news that he did not get a spot in the Institute, Harvey wrote me a strongly worded email. My initial response to Harvey was that we had more than a sufficient number of secondary school teachers to fill the Institute, but had there been a scarcity of participants his application would have been strongly considered. He wrote back that I was missing the point.
“Elementary school teachers are teaching Shakespeare,” Harvey noted in another email. In fact, Folger Education’s Shakespeare Steps Out program, which we offer to schools in DC and surrounding communities, encourages teachers in grades 3-6 to teach the Bard’s work. Therefore, why weren’t we considering offering an institute for elementary school teachers? So began an email correspondence between the two of us over the next few months.
In the fall of 2008, Folger Education began to explore the possibility of developing a two-day conference for elementary school educators. With the help of our Development Office, we were able to secure funding to host a two-day conference in June 0f 2009. We invited Harvey, among other educators with experience working with elementary school teachers and our Elementary Education Program Coordinator, to participate in developing the conference. We made 30 spaces available for the conference at a modest fee of $25. And guess what happened? All of the spaces were filled, and filled by teachers from DC, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Texas! Teachers were eager for the chance to learn more about teaching Shakespeare through performance and ready to share what they had been doing, often alone, in their classrooms and schools.
Folger Education’s Elementary Shakespeare website is an outgrowth of that conference, of Harvey’s strongly worded email back in the spring of 2008. We invite you to read what Harvey has to say about teaching Shakespeare in the elementary school classroom, to use his lesson plan on Macbeth, and the lesson plans of several other teachers we’ve added to the page. Most of all, we invite you to send us your lesson plans for possible inclusion on the site. Send them to email@example.com. In a future blog, I’ll link to a template to use when preparing lesson plans. And don’t forget to visit our Shakespeare for Kids page. It’s filled with activities your youngsters will enjoy! Stay tuned!