Archive for the ‘Folger Education’ Category

By David Fulco


Students performing the Dumb Show from Hamlet . (Image: David Fulco)

Students performing the Dumb Show from Hamlet . (Image: David Fulco)

At the end of TSI 2014, I made a pledge that I would not read the syllabus to my class on the first day of school.


After a summer collaborating with some of the most innovative teachers in the country, it did seem a shame that I would return to my classroom and fall back into the trap, albeit a safe trap, of

going over rules and regulations, expectations and procedures on that first day.


Couldn’t the first 45 minutes of the year be used for a better purpose? Shouldn’t the first 45 minutes of the year be used for a better purpose?


(What does it say about me that I hear Peggy O’Brien’s voice in my head when I ask myself those questions before the start of each school year?)


For the past two years I have asked my 10th grade students at The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology in the South Bronx, New York City to perform Tableaux Vivants on the first day of school. As a reference for our still life poses, I use the original text of the Dumb Show from Hamlet (3.2.144-156). That the students aren’t familiar with Hamlet or won’t read Hamlet as sophomores, is not a problem. The Dumb Show stands alone, allowing you to discuss as much, or as little, about Hamlet as you would like.


What I do:


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By Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger


A title page on a Shakespearean printing press. (Image: Folger Library)

A title page on a Shakespearean printing press. (Image: Folger Library)

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to participate in a printing workshop at Folger using a replica of a printing press like the ones used in Shakespeare’s time. The invention and popularity of the printing press changed the way books were produced, increasing the output and cutting the cost of making a book. This was a technological revolution of its time, initiating an “information revolution” like the internet did in our day. Participating in the printing workshop reminded me of the power of the book.


Several months ago, I visited Maggs Brothers, a dealer of rare books in London. There I was able to see and handle several rare books. There’s something amazing about being in a room full of books that may have been a special possession of someone who lived in London while Shakespeare was there. Perhaps someone saved and carefully selected this volume, took days to select a particular binding, and kept it in a place of honor in her home. The value of any book includes a history of ownership, of discovery, of excitement. While I was in Maggs, one of the dealers had a package of books delivered. His delight at the receipt of these books was fascinating. He called his colleagues to watch him open the box and unwrap the books, showing each one and sharing the story of how he had discovered it.


In our day of desktop publishing and printing on demand, as well as tablets, the value of a book as an object is sometimes hard to remember. My experience at the printing workshop was a great reminder of how much effort went into the creation of a single volume.


First, we apprentices had our orientation. As all the participants were women that day, none of us would have been involved in printing in Shakespeare’s day when all compositors, printers, and publishers were men. But we forged ahead.


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By Folger Education


In this month’s Bard Notes, Peggy O’Brien asked our teaching colleagues one question: What’s the most compelling sentence—from the mouth of a student or a teacher or a principal — that you’ve heard in the last week?

(Image: Folger)

(Image: Folger)

And…wow! Here’s what you shared:


“We are ALL here to learn.” – Maureen Berzok


“One of my students said this a few days ago: ‘I never realized how much power a text can have when you just look at the words.’” – Chasidy Burton


“A returning student said to me, ‘I used my first paycheck from my first summer job to buy a giant poster of Walt Whitman for my bedroom.’” – Margaret Mackinnon


“This year we started school with Whitman’s ‘Oh Me! Oh Life!’ and as a culminating activity each of my students had to write their verse.  Here is one of my favorites, from my student Emily in 10th grade pre-AP English:  ‘I am only a minute, insignificant being who aspires to be able to unravel the fabric of the universe and stitch it back in a manner fathomable for mankind; I have my work cut out for me.’” – Judy Perrone


“My most profound sentence came from a student who turned in his six-word memoir poster a few days late. He had a rough start to the year and was a student who raised my concerned teacher antennae pretty quickly, but I think he’ll be ok. His memoir message: “My head is above the water.” Sometimes, that’s all we can ask, isn’t it?” – Stefanie Jochman

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By Emma Remsberg


At the end of June, I started my internship at the Folger Shakespeare Library. It was an exciting and busy time for the Education office, every spare table space being used to house an intern.


Reflecting on my internship, it’s hard to choose a favorite part. I love the milieu of the Education office—fun, smart, and very witty – and I really enjoy the work that I’ve been doing with museum programs. But perhaps most of all, I am incredibly grateful for all of the opportunities that I’ve had to explore the Folger as an institution. Being able to delve into the “nooks and crannies” of the Folger was super exciting, and I’m really glad to have had that chance.


For instance, every two weeks I attended the “Practical Paleography” workshops hosted by EMMO. They’re very fun, helped me to brush up on my Latin over the summer, and introduced me to secretary hand (which utterly baffled me at first, and still does – but in a fun way).


I was also assigned a Reading Room project (finding examples of the “To Be” speech in American culture). I cannot fully express how thrilling it was to be in the Reading Room of the Folger, to work with rare materials, to have my own shelf right next to the stained glass window depicting the Seven Ages of Man. The Reading Room is hands-down my favorite physical space in the Folger. I think I could happily live there forever, but for now I’m content just to do research.


What else? I got to operate a Gutenberg-style printing press – setting my name in type, inking the form, rolling the paper through the press, etc. I went to afternoon teas and chatted with readers about their research. I sat in on fascinating lectures and workshops with faculty of the Summer Academy, which brought 29 teachers from around the country here to the Folger for a week on Hamlet.


The Education team encouraged me to take advantage of any opportunities that appealed to me, so I did. I spent my summer not only learning about museum education but also exploring everything the Folger offers, doing things I never could have dreamed of when I submitted my application. I’ll miss this internship, miss the folks in Education, miss being immersed head to toe in Shakespeare. But at least I know that when I return to school, I’ll be able to do so with reinvigorated enthusiasm about the Bard, a “Folger Library loves me” T-shirt, and a whole lot of stories to tell.


Emma Remsberg is the Museum Programs Intern at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She studies Greek, Latin, and Medieval Studies at Swarthmore College. She just started dabbling in paleography.

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By Casey Christenson


“Yeaahhhhhh, a close reading.  So, liiiikkkkkeeeee, what do you mean?”


Inevitably and understandably this is a strategy I must visit and revisit with my students each year. This time it’s while I’m handing out photocopies of Barbara Ascher’s “On Compassion,” and it has only been about twenty-four hours since the last time I was asked to explain my expectation.  “It will probably look different for each of you.  It’s evidence of your engagement with the text.  It’s kind of like having a conversation with a piece of writing.” I’m always okay with the uncomfortable looks on my kids’ faces.  What does a close read look like, and more importantly FEEL like, for a seventeen-year-old anyway?


When I consider how intimidating it must be for a young reader to personally engage with a piece of writing, I remember what it felt like to stand on the Folger stage for the first time.  Sure, I’d probably read Hamlet’s lines at least two dozen times on my own and with my students, but standing on the stage where actual performers became Hamlet was incredibly overwhelming.  How was I, in all my non-actor ways, going to BE Hamlet and deliver my lines to the beautiful Ophelia?  Enter prompt book assignment stage left.

Paul Robeson's Othello prompt book.

Paul Robeson’s prompt book for Othello. (Image: Folger Shakespeare Library)


As my partner Chasidy and I read through our assigned script together, our observations and questions came naturally: How would Hamlet say this?  What would he be doing? What would Ophelia’s body language say?  The experience was about nothing more than piecing together what we knew to be true about our beloved characters and bringing them to life as we came to know them.  Our own past encounters played a role, but our prompt books were the evidence of OUR conversation with Hamlet.


My week at the Folger reminded me of how vulnerable we can be with a text if we so choose.  Our experience with a piece of literature is so incredibly personal.  I’m grateful I got to be a student again and was reminded of the process that opens us up to the worlds our favorite writers create for us.


Do my students fully understand this amazing process? Not so much, but if they realize it’s less about the grade, and more about implementing a strategy that will enable them to having a potentially meaningful conversation with the works created by some of the greatest writers ever to put pen to paper, I’ll take a smudged, over-highlighted, but closely read, photocopy of “On Compassion” any day.



Casey Christenson teaches AP Literature and American Literature at Northview High School in Johns Creek, GA.  She was a participant in Folger’s Summer Academy 2015 during which time she felt a lot of feels.  Casey is human to two dogs, two cats, and two frogs, likes the color blue, and thoroughly enjoys writing ridiculous biographies about herself.

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By Folger Education

We’re back with the second half of your summer reading recommendations. Be sure to read till the end for a bonus list!


Book Title Author
Portrait of a Lady Henry James
Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan Tiffany Stern
Romeo is Bleeding (Movie) Peter Medak
Room Emma Donoghue
Ruby Cynthia Bond
Savage Inequalities Jonathan Kozol
Secrets of Acting Shakespeare: The Original Approach Patrick Tucker
Shakespeare in Kabul Stephen Landrigan and Qais Akbar Omar
Shotgun Lovesongs Nickolas Butler
Siddhartha Herman Hesse
Slaughterhouse V Kurt Vonnegut
So We Read On Maureen Corrigan
Sons and Other Flammable Objects Porchista Khakpour
Speaker for the Dead Orson Scott Card
Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel
Teach as if Your Hair is on Fire Raif Esquith
Teach Like a Pirate Dave Burgess
The Alchemist Paulo Coelho
The Art of Racing in the Rain Garth Stein
The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Junot Diaz
The Cuckoo’s Calling Robert Galbraith
The Dinner Herman Koch
The Garden of Evening Mists Tan Twan Eng
The Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins
The Giving Tree Shel Silverstein
The God of Small Things Arundhati Roy
The Golden Bowl Henry James
The Golem and the Jinni Helene Wecker
The Grand Design Stephen Hawking
The Harry Potter series J.K. Rowling
The Hidden Girls of Kabul Jenny Nodberg
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Rebecca Skloot
The Invisible Man Ralph Ellison
The Kingdom of Ordinary Time Marie Howe
The Last Illusion Porchista Khakpour
The MaddAddam trilogy Margaret Atwood
The Mathematician’s Shiva Stuart Rojstaczer
The Mockingbird Next Door Marja Mills
The Neapolitan Novels Elena Ferrante
The Palace Walk Naguib Mahfouz
The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
The Rocks Peter Nichols
The Secret Life of William Shakespeare Jude Morgan
The Show Child Eowyn Ivey
The Six Wives of Henry VIII Alison Weir
The Smartest Kids in the World, and How They Got That Way Amanda Ripley
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle David Wroblewski
The Thirteenth Tale Diane Setterfield
The Universe in a Nutshell Stephen Hawking
The Weight of Blood Laura McHugh
The Woods Harlan Coben
Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII’s most Faithful  Servant Tracy Borman
Time and Again Jack Finney
Ulysses James Joyce
Unbroken Laura Hillenbrand
War and Peace Leonid Tolstoy
What it is Lynda Barry
What She Left Behind Ellen Wiseman
White Oleander Janet Fitch
White Teeth Zadie Smith
Wings of the Dove Henry James
Year of Wonders Geraldine Brooks



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By Peggy O’Brien


In our June issue of BardNotes, I posed four questions to y’all.  Three of them were requesting your advice about our blog and some new directions it might take.  I snuck in the fourth question, purely for my own selfish purpose.  I asked you what I should read this summer.

Summer Reading. (Image: James Brantley)

Summer Reading. (Image: James Brantley)


Thanks to the many, many of you who sent responses to some or all of the questions.  They were wildly helpful.  We’ll be back in a bit about the blog, but for now . . . the books you recommended!   A completely fabulous list.  And since many of you said, “Send us the list!”  we’re doing just that.  In all, 126 recommendations.  Data point that is amazing to me:  only two titles were recommended by more than one of you.  You are a fascinating and eclectic group of readers!  Two or three of you recommended All The Light We Cannot See and Americanah.


In this blog post, you’ll find the first half of the list.  In our next post, the rest of the list plus a bonus.  We got so excited about your recommendations that we decided to ask our squad of summer interns–two undergrads, a recent high school grad starting college next month, and a rising high school junior–for their reading recs too.


We’re having kind of a wild summer here.  Hope yours is restorative and big fun. (more…)

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