Archive for December, 2013

We’re turning back the clock a few years, to revisit a blog post from Christmas 2009, written by Mike LoMonico. ‘Tis the season to be jolly and maybe think about Shakespeare.  Here are a few tidbits for your holiday pleasure.


Read Full Post »

Flipped classrooms are getting a lot of buzz right now. Can the model be used to successfully teach Shakespeare?

In a flipped classroom, instruction is offered during homework time (often in the form of short videos online), and teachers focus more on implementation activities while students are in the classroom.

Advocates say that students engage more with the material, have more opportunities to ask their teachers questions, and take more ownership over their learning with this model. If a student doesn’t understand an instructional video the first time, he or she is able to watch it again. But some critics say that this model creates problems for students who don’t have access to technology outside of school.

The New York Times Opinionator blog recently looked at the effects of the flipped classroom on Clintondale High School near Detroit, the first American high school to do a complete flip.

And in a segment about flipped classrooms that aired last week, PBS NewsHour interviewed Justin Reich, an educational researcher at Harvard University.

“What is exciting to me about the flipped classroom is that it gets teachers asking two really important fundamental questions,” Reich said. “What are the best ways for me to use my time, especially the very precious time I have in classrooms with my students, and then, what are the kinds of direct instruction that I could provide that could be digitized so people could watch it again?”

So, how about teaching Shakespeare’s plays in a flipped classroom? High school teacher Greta Brasgalla shares her ideas and methods in this video from the Folger’s “Teacher to Teacher” series:

In what ways are you experimenting with “flipped classroom” techniques? Do you think it’s a positive trend? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments below.


Read Full Post »

The Folger Shakespeare Library is a hotbed of education staff, scholars, actors, directors, curators, librarians, docents, and digital geeks in Washington, DC, teamed up with teachers all over the country – in an endless collaboration focused on your teaching and your students’ learning.

What do we believe about teaching and learning? Read on:

1. We believe that teachers are the most important and the most powerful people on earth. Period.

2. All students should have access to Shakespeare’s rigorous texts and compelling ideas. Students at all levels of proficiency can and should engage deeply with these plays.

3. You and all of your students can dive into, engage with, and make sense of these complex texts with great success. This work will enhance your students’ close reading and analytical skills. Yours, too. And all of you will have an enormous amount of fun in the process!

4. It’s all about the language. Approach, connect with, and befriend Shakespeare’s language head on. Your students’ direct connection with his language is the key to unlocking the plays – and everything in them. We don’t mean you, as teacher, translating for them. And we don’t mean using those “made easy” books. We mean THEM speaking and moving and figuring out HIM… words, lines, scenes, plays. His language in the mouths of your students is splendid and exciting all on its own. And it is the essential step that results in sending his ideas into their brains.

5. So… if you are teaching Shakespeare the way you were taught, you might need to give that up. If you are teaching Shakespeare from those dumbed-down versions of the plays created by publishers who believe that both you and your students are not smart enough to understand the real thing, throw them out. Right now.

6. The Folger continues to produce – with and for teachers – ever-evolving sets of language tools, active close reading strategies, performance techniques, and pathways through the plays that are energizing and fun, and that relentlessly focus on text. In DC and all over the place, we teach teachers how to do this work. A poorly kept secret: teachers use these tools and strategies to teach all kinds of literature, and subjects way beyond English.

7. Using these tools and strategies, you and your students work in the plays rigorously and vigorously in the way that scholars and actors do. Your students make their way actively – reading closely, thinking deeply, and citing textual evidence all over the place. They build their skills and their knowledge. And you do too. Research has shown us that learning this way dramatically increases students’ confidence – in their ability to tackle something hard, to figure it out, to “own” this playwright and his plays – and boosts their enthusiasm for learning the next hard thing: August Wilson, reconstruction, Lear, calculus, Arabic.

8. Any teacher can teach this way. You don’t have to know anything about acting or directing or any of that stuff. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. He knew how to write. You know how to teach. And if you’re worried about this last part, we can help you with that.

Peggy O’Brien is the Director of Education at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Follow her on Twitter at @obrienfolger or send her an email at pobrien@folger.edu.

Read Full Post »

In the rush of the holiday season, our director of education, Peggy O’Brien, pauses to offer these reflections, looking back at NCTE 2013 and ahead to a bright future!

On the Folger’s presence at NCTE…

  • What a thrill to be in the midst of so many English teachers!  What possibly could be better? It’s so good to be home.
  • We always want what we bring to NCTE—our sessions, offerings at the booth, materials—to be as useful to teachers as they can possibly be. People packed the sessions, many have followed up on email for more info… yes!
  • Next year, NCTE is in DC! Or, more accurately, just outside of DC. We’ll present at the conference, but we also want LOADS of teachers to come to the Folger… see a play, hang out with some rare books and manuscripts, participate in hands-on, active workshops in the Folger Theatre, and more.
  • Lots of folks interested in the Folger appsOthello, Romeo, and Macbeth.  The techie way to plunge students (and teachers) right into the play. Hamlet and the Dream out before the end of 2013. Add these to the formats the Folger already offers: wonderfully edited plays available in paperback books (as they have been for ages) and free online versions in the Folger Digital Texts (www.folgerdigitaltexts.org). Love it!
  • So happy to be distributing our new Folger Philosophy of Teaching and Learning. The philosophy’s not new, but the articulation is. It’s good to have our foundation in print.

On next week’s master class…

  • Gearing up for our Master Class on Dec. 11: Our “teacher on the street” videography team—Lauren Chavey and Beth O’Brien—asking teachers at NCTE about their greatest successes and challenges teaching R+J. Got such compelling, splendid answers.  Teaser:  With a particularly tough ninth grade class, using Marvin Gaye to get everybody into the play. Big success story!

On great teachers and educators…

  • Such a treat and a relief to be among folks who are talking passionately about good teaching, rather than the politics of the Common Core. Obviously, policy is important, but… great teaching is what really makes it all happen.
  • Met Jim Burke, whom I have described many times as in “the Mount Rushmore of English teachers.” He’s great and so are his new books on the Common Core—they are just based on solid, excellent teaching.  Perfect.
  • Big shout out to Eileen Landay and the Arts Literacy Project that she founded at Brown University… and her mention of the evidence provided by neuroscience that points to the difference between reading vs. reading and doing.

On the Folger’s Romeo and Juliet flash mob…

  • THE FOLGER FLASH MOBFABULOUS!  150+ people in the cold, in the dark, in the plaza next to the Convention Center—Boston at 6pm on a Saturday night—all having the time of their lives doing the balcony scene. Now for our big question: What collaborative, public Shakespeare do we do at NCTE next year?

Peggy O’Brien is the Director of Education at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Follow her on Twitter at @obrienfolger or send her an email at pobrien@folger.edu.

Read Full Post »

We’re truly sorry if you missed our flash mob balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, at the NCTE annual convention in Boston last month. It was a blast! To console those who couldn’t be there, and to offer a happy remembrance to those who participated, we present these videos for your enjoyment.

Our goal was to gather as many people as possible, to perform in unison an edited version of Act 2, Scene 2.

“But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?” begin the Romeos.

“Parting is such sweet sorrow That I shall say “Good night” till it be morrow,” chorus the Juliets at the end of the scene.

Yes, the image is a bit dark, but what counts is the audio – which certainly comes through loud and clear! The second video gives you a view from above.

And now this has us thinking, what other scenes from Shakespeare would make for fun flash mobs? If you’ve got ideas, we want to hear from you! Please share in the comments below.

Read Full Post »