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Archive for January, 2015

Photo: PBS

 

The second season of Shakespeare Uncovered begins on January 30th.  The Folger has been asked to work with WNET THIRTEEN to create support material for teachers and their students. I’ve been lucky to have seen the series already and want to share some of the highlights with you.

Some of the Learning Media Resources have already been posted. Each resource takes clips from the episode and includes Teaching Tips, Discussion Questions, Handouts, and the appropriate Standards.  Take a look at these:

Just as PBS did with Season 1, all episodes will be streamed for free and available on DVD. I encourage you to watch them. Here is the schedule for Season 2:

  • January 30
    • A Midsummer Night’s Dream hosted by Hugh Bonneville
    • King Lear hosted by Christopher Plummer
  • February 6
    • The Taming of the Shrew with Morgan Freeman
    • Othello with David Harewood
  • February 13
    • Antony & Cleopatra with Kim Cattrall
    • Romeo and Juliet with Joseph Fiennes

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By Corinne Viglietta

 

Shakespeare was a maker (39 plays, 154 sonnets, lots of new words, and more), and he wrote about making things, too. In Shakespeare we meet makers of all kinds: noisemakers, grave-makers, jig-makers, hornmakers, peacemakers, ballad-makers, ropemakers, gallows-makers, shoemakers, cuckold-makers, card-makers, widow-makers, sailmakers, and makers of manners.

Fast-forward four centuries. There’s buzz around the Maker Movement in education, and students all over seem to be tinkering, creating, hacking, and working on maker projects that cross—and disrupt—traditional subject areas. As a result, experts say, students are becoming skilled innovators and problem-solvers who feel confident and excited about new challenges.

When we think of today’s (and tomorrow’s) brave new makers, we might picture 3-D printers, gadgets, and design labs. That makes sense, but doesn’t it also make sense to talk about making in the English classroom?

 

"Making"

What does “making” look like in the English classroom? And where does Shakespeare fit in? (Photo credit: Corinne Viglietta)

 

According to Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager, a good maker project can happen almost anywhere. It simply must engage students in the creative process and have these 8 elements.

Does making language, making meaning, count? Was Shakespeare a maker in today’s sense of the word? Can—and should—English classes make other stuff, too? What lessons can we learn from hands-on makerspaces? How can making be assessed? Tell us what you think—and show us what making looks like in your classroom.

 

Are your students makers? How does making play a part in your teaching of Shakespeare and other texts?

 

 

Let’s start a conversation! We’re collecting your responses and sharing them on Twitter. Tweet us (@FolgerEd) your stories and images, or email them to me at cviglietta@folger.edu.

 

 

Corinne Viglietta is Assistant Director of Education at the Folger. She has taught English in DC, Maryland, and France.

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By Jill Burdick-Zupancic

 

Midterms.

This word always evokes a bit of panic in my mind. It feels like some kind of “super assessment” I’m expected to give to my students. Even in my seventh year as an educator, it’s a jarring word; however, the past three years, since my experience at the Teaching Shakespeare Institute at the Folger, I’ve started to look at this time of year a little differently.

Of course as English teachers, we want our students reading closely and analyzing text for something – characterization, big questions, effects of figurative language, etc… – and this is the time of year, through Shakespeare, that I assess how far we’ve come from those first days in September. If you’re familiar with the education department at the Folger, or you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve heard “close reading through performance” before. Every year, at midterm time, the power of this statement is solidified for me.

At the time I’m writing this blog, we’re through Act IV of Macbeth. I spend a lot of time with film versions of the play throughout our study, this year it’s Polanski, the Folger production, and Goold’s version for PBS, and while we never watch anything straight through, we’ll look at a specific scene (the opening witches scene, the “dagger” soliloquy, Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene) in each version.

I remind the students that each of these directors has made conscious and analytical decisions regarding anything from movement, facial expressions, pacing and pauses when delivering the lines, costumes, body language, and so on. Now through Act IV, the students do a stellar job identifying choices that these director’s make and discussing why, in the context of the play as a whole, they’re made. (more…)

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By Peggy O’Brien

I am writing today—on Martin Luther King’s real birthday—because his presence in the world and in my life had so much to do with why I became a teacher, and because the words that he left with us continue to challenge and inspire so many of us.  We need that inspiration . . . perhaps especially right about now.

 

Even though I liked school and loved some of my teachers, when I was growing up, I had never thought about a life in teaching.  Not even for a minute.  In 1968, as a college junior in Washington, DC, however, I began to be educated by the Civil Rights Movement:  noticing who rode DC buses where, realizing who worked for whom, standing on the roof of my dorm watching parts of this city burn during the riots that erupted after Dr. King’s death.

Out of all of that came my conviction that to help people connect to the power of their own brains was probably the most important kind of social activism on earth.  (I have never stopped believing this.)   After graduation, I started teaching in a DC public high school.  And so it went. (more…)

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The epiphanies continue! Today is the anniversary of the death of Irish writer James Joyce, whose famous epiphanies, a century later, still inspire conversation and inquiry. (Plus, did you know that Hamlet was a major source for Joyce, who gave a series of lectures on Shakespeare?)

We think it’s fitting, then, today, to offer a second installment of your teaching epiphanies. Read on, get inspired, and keep doing the most important, life-changing work on the planet!

Students  in James Sheridan’s classroom at YesPrep Houston

Students in James Sheridan’s classroom at YesPrep Houston

 

 

Six months later, I still own my TSI monologue; now my students perform to know the joy of owning Shakespeare too.

  • Stefanie Jochman, Wisconsin

 

 

Before we start Shakespeare, I ask if anyone knows how to rap badly.  After we hear a couple of examples, I ask why bad rap is bad rap.  It usually does not take too long to steer the discussion to one of “beats” and rhythm.  Then I ask the students if they have ever been bothered by people not knowing how to pronounce their names. Next I post poetic feet and we figure out which students’ names fit each category.

Here are how some of this year’s names fit: Iamb (- ‘ )  Chrisbel, Rajiv, Shiann, Luis Troche ( ‘ -) Blanca, Louis, Kaitlin, Chandler Spondee  ( ‘  ‘ ) Anna, Dennis, Maya, Manny Anapest (-  –  ‘ ) Netiffah, Alyna (A-lean-a) Dactly ( ‘  –  – ) Emely, Samuel, Stefanie, Jaivonni.  With a playful class, this can go on for more than one day as students purposefully mispronounce names. For many this serves as an epiphany about how rhythm drives how we communicate (and miscommunicate.)

  • Ginny Schmitt DeFrancisci, New York

(more…)

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As a follow-up to Mark Miazga’s fabulous story about his teaching epiphany, we invited you, our readers, to share revelations from your classrooms, and… wow! You and your students blew us away! Here’s what you had to say:

 

Epiphany in Folger Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: Orsino realizes that the young page Cesario is in fact the woman Viola. Source: Scott Suchman

Epiphany in Folger Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: Orsino realizes that the young page Cesario is in fact the woman Viola. Source: Scott Suchman

My epiphany came when I realized that getting students to act and move would impact them so much more deeply than merely reading. Handing over control to my students became a scary but exhilarating experience as they took the reins and directed their own scenes from The Scottish Play! Over 30 students last February took to the stage at a coffeehouse, performing in front of one hundred peers, family members, and teachers making our annual Shakespeare Festival the best one yet! I am continually amazed by the creativity and daring that students display when given support, freedom, and high expectations.

  • James Sheridan, Texas

(more…)

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By Mark Miazga

It’s January 6th and many people are celebrating epiphanies today. In keeping with this theme, I’m sharing with you a life-changing discovery I made in my own classroom: a teaching epiphany.

I teach at a large urban public high school in Baltimore City, and, like many large public high schools, we find ourselves placed under a microscope that examines our students’ scores on externally assessed tests and puts them all over the front page of the newspaper.

My district, my superintendent, and my principal all feel pressure to showcase strong test scores, and, of course, as a classroom instructor, I feel this pressure too. Indeed, my annual evaluation and salary are partially tied to how well my students perform on standardized tests.

Because of this, a few years ago, I began the process of pushing away some of my “fun” activities in class. No more, for example, putting Friar Lawrence on trial in my 9th grade classroom for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, or acting out all of August Wilson’s Fences in class. There just wasn’t enough time for these “extra and fun” activities anymore; there was too much to do, too many assessments for which to prepare. (more…)

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