Archive for June, 2011

A recent blog entry by Caitlin Griffin asked how young is too young to start reading Shakespeare.  We’ve worked with students from third grade through high school, but we do know of one school system, the Denver Public School System, that has students from kindergarten through high school actively engaged in speaking Shakespeare’s text.  The kindergartners speak famous lines, and other students tackle short pieces of text and scenes from the plays.  And they do a great job. Students are having lots of fun with the language.  So, you’re never too young to “speak the speech,” right?

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Drawing by Catalina Dipple.

Last week I asked How Young is Too Young to start teaching Shakespeare? The few responses seemed to agree that it’s good to get younger students speaking the words early on, but not necessarily studying the plays.

But where do you begin?

Mike has stated earlier that the language is the best place to begin teaching Shakespeare – not a backstory of the Globe, or Shakespeare’s life, or even the plot of a whole play.

Activities like  “You are Quoting Shakespeare” with “Try Your Hand at Shakespeare” show students that the language may be more familiar than they think.

Where would you begin? Do you start with a history of Shakespeare for context? With the plot of a kid-friendly play? Do you show a film to set the scene?

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As we announced this spring, the Folger Shakespeare Library has partnered with Oxford University and the Harry Ransom Center to launch Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible. The project is chockfull of resources that educators may find useful (as well as relatable to studying Shakespeare), including information on the language of the King James Bible and how central word choice became to the King James Bible translation.

Over the weekend, British media announced that Prince Charles contributed two verses (Genesis 1:1-2) to The People’s Bible, a handwritten Bible being produced in the UK in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. Although the KJB translators probably had little idea that their text would still be used by members of the royal family centuries later, they did choose their words carefully. In some cases, the translators made adjustments to previous English versions of the Bible. For example, William Tyndale, one of the first people to translate portions of the Bible into modern English, rendered the first verses of Genesis like this:

In the beginning God created heaven and earth. The earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the deep, and the spirit of God moved upon the water.

In the King James version, the verses appear like this:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

In fact, for many readers, the version of the verse as it appears in the King James Bible has become the standard and other translations sound odd. In the Bishops’ Bible, produced in 1568, Isaiah 60:1 reads: “Get thee up betimes, and be bright, for thy light cometh, and the glory of the Lord is risen up upon thee.”

While it may be a stretch to imagine such language resounding from a pulpit today, the Bishops’ Bible remained a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I and her personal copy is in the Folger Shakespeare Library collection. With the “Compare Translations” feature, it is easy to note differences in the language of the King James Bible and earlier translations and see how much has changed—or not—over the years.

For younger users, the “Hear a Translation” activity offers the chance to both see and hear differences in two versions of well-known Bible verses. This activity can make a great introduction to discussing how word choice can change how a reader (or listener) reacts—something as applicable to Shakespeare as it is to the King James Bible translation.

Amy Arden is a Communications Associate at the Folger Shakespeare Library and developed the content in the “Kids” portion of the Manifold Greatness website.

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We’ve had quite a focus lately on Shakespeare for Kids. The question for a lot of teachers, though, is how early can students begin studying Shakespeare?

What do you think?

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The English-Speaking Union and the Folger Shakespeare Library are conducting two-day institutes across the country this summer.  The first was held in Fort Lauderdale this week, and I had the opportunity to be there and participate with more than 20 teachers.  This was a great experience for all of us.  Have you attended a workshop, institute, and/or professional development program this school year that was an excellent experience?  What made it so good?

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Your school books are packed, the desks cleaned, the chalkboard (or smartboard) cleaner than it’s been since August. You close the books on another school year.

We, too, are closing the books on the 2010-2011 school year, and we look forward to new faces, places, and things to try next year!

As we prepare, we want to know what YOU want. What can we provide that would aide you in the classroom? What resources are you looking for?

We would like to see more discussions going on in our comments on this blog. If you have any questions you’d love to see answered by a national pool of teachers, or ideas you’d love to see discussed here, do email them to educate@folger.edu and we’ll make sure they’re seen!

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Lots of new Shakespeare films are in the pipeline, so now may bew a good time to post some updates:

  • Coriolanus, directed and starring Ralph Fiennes is scehduled for a November 2011 release. It also stars Vanessa Redgrave, Gerard Butler, and Brian Cox and was filmed in Serbia and Montenegro.
  • King Lear, directed by Michael Radford and starring Al Pacino is in pre-production, and no other cast members have been announced.
  • Also in pre-production is a new version of Romeo and Juliet, starring the 14-year old Hailee Steinfeld, who recently appeared in True Grit. Her appearance has already caused some controversy since the director calls for a nude scene.

And then there are the odd ones like:

  • // Hamlet A.D.D  Here’s the descriptiion from imdb.com: “Hamlet is an easily distracted prince who is not quite ready to do the task at hand. Challenged to kill his uncle Claudius by the ghost of his recently dead dad, Hamlet enthusiastically proceeds to do everything but. From practicing stage acting in the 1800s to producing a television drama in the 1950s, from dancing at the discotheque in the 1970s to culinary prankery in the distant future, Hamlet always manages to find something to distract himself from taking revenge for his father’s murder. Shot entirely in front of a green screen, HAMLET A.D.D. features live-action characters in a colorful cartoon world.”
  • Messina High is based on Much Ado About Nothing, and not much info is available on it at this time. It is directed by and stars Owen Drake as Benny Highcliff (get it?) and Kandice Melanokos as Bernice Leonard. Not unexpectedly, you can finf the film on Facebook.

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~by Holly Rodgers

Educators often face the difficult task of engaging students who are increasingly distracted by the fast-paced technology driven society in which we live.  Although Elizabethan times moved at a slower pace, Shakespeare faced the same daunting challenge as teachers today, keeping the attention of such a diverse population. While Shakespeare’s audience differed more in terms of social classes than ethnic diversity, he still had to write plays that would reach audiences on all levels.

As an elementary ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) educator, when I began to consider using Shakespeare in the classroom, I was looking for a meaningful way for my students to experience language.  What began as an experiment to give my students a taste of the Bard became the cornerstone of my students’ language instruction.  While some teachers feel that Shakespeare should be saved for high school English class or reserved for only gifted students, I felt that my ESOL students should not be denied the many benefits that early positive experiences with Shakespeare can bring.

Holly's Students perform a scene from Richard III in the 2010 Emily Jordan Children's Festival at the Folger.

As a result of incorporating Shakespeare’s works into my curriculum, my students became more confident, increased their English proficiency skills and felt distinguished among their peers.  Often second-language learners feel behind their native English speaking peers and struggle to close the achievement gap.  By experiencing Shakespeare at such an early age, English Language Learners (ELLs) are able to prepare in advance for more in-depth study of the plays and sonnets, thus facilitating the closing of that gap.

Elementary Shakespeare education can serve as both intervention and enrichment language instruction since it provides both support and challenge for all students.  Because Shakespeare wrote for everyone, his works are ideal for students of all ages, language backgrounds, and economic levels.  How can you bring Shakespeare into your classroom?

Holly Rodgers is an elementary school ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher in Fairfax County, Virginia.  She will be a presenter at this year’s Folger Elementary Educators Conference and has created ELL (English Language Learner) and elementary focused lesson plans for the Folger Education Website.  In 2010, her students performed at the Emily Jordan Folger Children’s Shakespeare Festival and were also featured on the Verizon cable program Push Pause.  She has spent her varied educational career as both a language and music teacher.  She earned her M Ed in Multilingual/Multicultural Education from George Mason University and her BME in Instrumental Music from Louisiana State University.

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Jennifer Ventimiglia’s classroom at Paul Public Charter School in Washington, DC is alive with literary inspiration in the form  of books, posters, and most importantly to us Shakespeare! Ms. Venti’s 6th grade English as a Second Language students have been studying Shakespeare all year long with our Shakespeare Steps Out  program.

Beyond that they have gone the extra mile with added activities and lessons that extend the sessions provided by Folger. Most importantly they had fun, which was evidenced in this memory book video sent to us by the class.

Ms. Venti began her journey at the Folger by using online resources and attending our first Elementary Education Conference in 2009. She has inspired me as much as Shakespeare has inspired her and her students!

Start (or continue) your journey with our Elementary Educators’ Conference June 23-24!

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