Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Humanities Education’ Category

At the end of last week’s Teacher Tuesday, I shared a link to a video, Interpreting Shakespeare, with our Master Teacher Sue Biondo-Hench. In one section of the video, around 3:10, Sue breaks her students into groups to interpret and perform a single passage from Henry IV, part 1. They each interpret how performing one character’s speech as a group lends them insight into the text. They don’t have to make natural performance choices as if it is their single moment onstage delivering a soliloquy – rather, they’re approaching the text chorally to show different ways of interpreting complex text with their voices, movements, and group dynamics. This doesn’t necessarily mean they read it all together in unison – they can assign individuals lines or words to make them stand out, whisper or shout, create tableaux (stage pictures) to set the scene or its tone, or anything else they deem necessary to their point.

Choral Reading

Students perform at the 2013 Secondary Festival

A choral approach like this can be especially useful for group discussions. It gets small groups discussing their interpretation, which they then share with the whole class. No group will make all of the same choices, after all, because there are so many different ways to say and do any passage or scene – why not try a bunch and see what works? Discussing everyone’s choices (and knowing that none are “wrong”) gives the students more control and less fear of interpreting the text.

We have a few examples of teaching modules which use a chroal approach:

Complexity of Character in The Merchant of Venice: In this play, especially, no one is wholly “good” or “bad.” In this lesson, high school student groups take on a character apiece and perform one or two passages of text for that character to determine what their character is like, and in what ways they are complicated.

Shakespeare Sound Out: Building Atmosphere: For elementary and ESL/ELL students, getting over the language together is especially easy when approached chorally. With text from Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, students use the rhythm and word choices in the text to determine the tone of the scene, and incorporate their choices into a performance.

Sonnet Performance: Shakespeare’s Sonnets as Scripts: The choral approach can even apply to poetry! As Louisa Newlin and Gigi Bradford say, “Breaking a sonnet down into parts for different speakers and presenting it dramatically can help students to listen carefully to the language and hear different “voices” in the poem.” Students shed some light on these sometimes ambiguous poems to create their own meanings.

How else would you use the choral approach with your class? Other plays, poems, or even books may be ripe fodder for a group to tackle. Have you used a chorus before? How did it go?

Read Full Post »

Inspired, today, by David Tennant‘s affirmation in the power of performing Shakespeare, today we’re rounding up some of our favorite Teacher to Teacher videos about performance in the classroom. Getting students on their feet is one of the most important things we stress about working with Shakespeare’s language – they are, after all, plays!

Teacher to Teacher Title Screen - Performing

What can be nerve-wracking for everyone, though, is the thought of being”onstage.” In your classroom, though, it’s certainly not about putting up a full performance – perhaps not even a whole scene – it’s about saying the words out loud and discovering the action that supports the language and makes it more dynamic.

Some students like getting up to read in front of the class – but a lot may hang back. Get your audience involved as reactors and directors, as explained in these videos by Tory Virchow and Erica Smith:

Finally – see performance-based teaching in action with Sue Biondo-Hench and her students from Carlisle, PA. From group activities to personal reflection, her students find ways to bring Shakespeare’s language to life!

How do you incorporate action in your classroom?

Read Full Post »

The amount of new technology springing up around us can be dizzying, especially when our students are picking it up so quickly. Much of their daily life is conducted online – so how can our classrooms extend into that area of their life?

Teacher to Teacher - Technology

In these Teacher to Teacher Videos, we’re highlighting some ways teachers are using technology and the internet to engage their students even more deeply in their Shakespeare studies:

Videos in class are tried-and-true, but sometimes might feel like a cop-out. In this video, Josh Cabat gives us several ways in which to use video effectively as a teaching tool with many active applications to try right away!
 

 

Why should you even consider using new technologies? “It’s collaborative, and it’s available 24 hours a day,” says teacher Robert Barker. Students can connect in their own time to their classwork and each other – strengthening their connection to the material.
 

 

Finally – you don’t even have to use the technology during class-time. Assigning online homework in a “flipped” classroom, according to Greta Brasgalla, gives you more time and more material to discuss in class.

 
 
You can hear more from Robert and Greta from their recorded “What’s Done is Done Online” webinar from last spring.

What technologies are you trying in your classroom? How are your students responding to it? Let us know in the comments!

Read Full Post »

Teacher to Teacher Title Screen - Getting Started

For the next few weeks, we’ll be running a feature on one of our favorite online resources: our Teacher to Teacher videos! In these short clips, teachers share their favorite Shakespeare plays, ideas for teaching, and resources for the modern classroom. This week, let’s start generally with ideas for introducing your students to Shakespeare.

First things first: we know that the language can be a big hurdle for many students on Day 1. In this video, Joe Scotese describes how getting students on their feet to find the action in the words builds their confidence for the days to come. You can teach Joe’s own Tempest in the Lunchroom to try it out!

But where to begin? Leslie Kelly tells us that we don’t have to start with the opening lines of the play – instead, why not start with the characters’ deaths? Having fun with an overly-dramatic death scene will give them more ownership over performing the language, and give them a sense of play. Teach Leslie’s ESL/ELL-friendly Famous Death Lines.

Finally, are you stuck teaching only one play? Scott O’Neil gives his arguments for incorporating speeches from all over the canon into any unit. Not only will learning the speeches familiarize students with the language, they might never be exposed to certain plays, otherwise! Scott’s already compiled his favorite speeches from King Lear for his class. What speeches would you use?

 

What’s your favorite way to introduce Shakespeare? Tell us about your Day 1 experiences in the classroom in the comments below!

Read Full Post »

Yesterday I stumbled upon this video from Australia’s ABC in 2011 about Shakespeare and his hip relevance to today’s audience. Excited, I started the video, and felt my face twist into a confused squint.

AU Shakespeare in Schools

A lot of their statements are great! Shakespeare was a great writer. His plays have survived for centuries. His language can be difficult because it’s very stylized, and once you “click in” it rolls more easily. However, they sort of veer off the point when they’re talking about these things for a modern audience. The stories are a part of what keeps Shakespeare alive, but the stories were all (or mostly) taken from other sources. Shakespeare’s language has survived, as well. It’s not just because we can make Romeo “emo” that we relate to the characters today, it’s because they are saying things that we think and feel as well.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [abridged] is a really fantastic show, but it – on its own – is not “Shakespeare.” I do love that show, and it adds an element of fun that students would respond to – but it’s not the only way to make Shakespeare fun!

What do you think? Why do you think Shakespeare is relevant, and how do your students find connections to his plays?

Read Full Post »

Shakespeare’s plays are considered by many to be the pinnacle of high art – lovely language with high philosophy and idealized characters. But not everyone is ideal, and many words and turns of phrases are… well… not exactly dinner-table talk. 

Shakespeare was writing to be entertaining, and his Elizabethan audience was just as entertained by uncouth humor as our own modern audience – except now instead of playing on words about being “hung,” we now see Will Ferrell’s butt. Where today we have websites dedicated to parsing out each offensive moment in each movie or television show for our protection from smut, what could Shakespeare be censored for?

The government of Shakespeare’s time wasn’t so concerned about jokes with bad taste (though those jokes do abound!), but were rather more concerned with political uprisings and religious offenses. During Shakespeare’s own lifetime, playwrights were especially susceptible to suspicion from above as their words entertained masses of people, and could plant the seeds of an idea subtly. Every new play had to be approved for performance by the Master of the Revels, who looked the pieces over for any possible sedition. Shakespeare and his contemporaries were often questioned for their work, and sometimes it had very awful consequences. You can read more about 16th century censorship at PBS’s In Search of Shakespeare site.

William Shakespeare. Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, and tragedies. London, 1632. Folger Shakespeare Library.

William Shakespeare. Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, and tragedies. London, 1632. Folger Shakespeare Library.

Over time, different audiences have determined what is offensive to them in Shakespeare’s work. A second folio of 1632 in the Folger collection, seen here, bears the work of a censor for the Holy Office in Spain, Guillermo Sanchez. In the name of religious piety, Sanchez blotted out whole swaths of Shakespeare’s language, and cut Measure for Measure out of the book in its entirety. Nahum Tate rewrote a happy ending for King Lear in 1681 that wasn’t altered in performances for almost 200 years.

Outside of the realm of censorship, but just as famous for its alteration, David Garrick, a famous Shakespearean actor, rewrote the end of Romeo and Juliet so that Juliet awakes just after Romeo drinks the poison so that they briefly see each other alive before their final demise. You can see a comparison of these scenes in performance on the mobile tour video for the Folger’s next exhibit, Here is a Play Fitted.

Victorian audiences were so appalled by apparent homosexual overtones in the sonnets, that they dismissed the idea that Shakespeare even wrote them. Oscar Wilde, persecuted at that time for much the same reason, wrote a short story in which characters go mad over many years examining the sonnets for hidden meanings, The Portrait of Mr. W. HOthello has a long history of criticism, as well, being called “disgusting” by US  president John Quincy Adams for its depiction of a mixed-race couple. The Folger’s former exhibit, Shakespeare in American Life examines the experience of African Americans with Shakespeare.

Even today, there are just some things a modern audience would rather not see or hear when it comes to Shakespeare. We don’t want to see filthy humor mixed in with the glorious art – but some of the best art comes from being a mix like that, and Shakespeare was a true master of this mix of elements that both comfort and disquiet us – for whatever reason. Measure for Measure is still a difficult play to produce – after all, its plot hinges on a Puritanical political figure attempting to force a nun to sleep with him. As Michele Osherow said, this play and those like it are closer to modern drama in that it makes us ask harder questions of ourselves and our world – and that’s not always a comfortable experience, be we queens or commoners.

Read Full Post »

One of the things we regularly like to see is students taking command of Shakespeare’s language as they say it. Showing us what the words mean to them, and making the character saying these words their own.

William Shakespeare's Flying Circus, 2011. Photo by Duy Tran.

William Shakespeare’s Flying Circus, 2011. Photo by Duy Tran.

That doesn’t always mean seeing a whole play exactly as Shakespeare wrote it. We’ve seen ownership take many forms in our festival – including schools that pull quotes or scenes from the entire canon to tell their own story with them. Perhaps they collected scenes about friendship to explore the theme; or used quotes with keywords to re-tell another story. One particularly memorable festival group once parodied the entire Twilight saga using only lines from Shakespeare for a very funny 20 minutes. The year before that, they performed scenes from Monty Python’s Flying Circus the same way. And they were using Shakespeare’s language!

Below are two YouTubers doing much the same thing: Hank Green (singer, songwriter, vlogbrother), wrote a song using only insults from Shakespeare’s texts, and the channel Chicken Shop Shakespeare takes bite-size bits of Shakespeare’s words and performs them in their own world. (Their very first video, Romeo lamenting his banishment, was filmed in a fast-food chicken place.) These artists have taken Shakespeare’s words and made something of their own from them, and it’s awesome.

 

Have you done any projects like this with your students? Share them with us! We loved it when teachers sent in videos of their kids making Shakespeare their own for our “Shakespeare Remix” during our first Electronic Field Trip!

Read Full Post »

After spending so much time in the original texts of Romeo and Juliet this month to compare them to the Fellowes’s adaptation (billed in ads as “Shakespeare’s,” hence the frustration), I went home to my very large shelf of Shakespearean adaptations to remind myself of some great examples of how that text has been explored in different ways. As I did with Macbeth and Hamlet in the past, I’ll reserve a separate upcoming post for movies based on the star-cross’d lovers, and reserve this post for books.

Shakespeare himself was an adapter, re-writing the timeless legend of the doomed lovers from several sources. In Shakespeare’s Storybook, Patrick Ryan shares many possible inspirations that Shakespeare may have used, including Romeus and Juliet translated from the French by Arthur Brooke and Il Novellino by Salernitano Masuccio, among others. He didn’t claim the story, he re-told it in a way his audience would appreciate in his own words and put his own name on his work. What about Shakespeare’s work makes it so ripe for adaptation, but still somehow overshadows the adapters themselves?

romeo's exIt’s wonderful to read a familiar story from someone else’s point of view. One of my favorite novels about this play is Romeo’s Ex by Lisa Fielder. Creatively, Fielder explores the life of the character who sets much of the action in motion and yet is never seen onstage in Shakespeare’s play. Rosaline, a Capulet herself, is not interested in the love-struck Romeo, and is even less interested in her family’s dangerous quarrels with the Montagues. If your students could write the story from another character’s point of view, who would they pick?

warm bodiesWhen You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle is a young adult novel set in the present day which asks if Romeo and Juliet were really right for each other at all, or if they were always going to lead to their own destruction. What does it mean to be “star-cross’d?” Then there’s the futuristic Warm Bodies which gives the love story a new twist with one side of the warring factions being zombies. What is it about human (or zombie) nature that makes us so prone to hating the “others?”

AfterlivesSeveral other novels like Robin Maxwell’s O, Juliet and Juliet by Ann Fortier take on more contextual Italian history and explore what could have doomed the pair in their own time. Still others, like Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors and The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper approach both Shakespeare’s play and the Juliet legend from the perspectives of teens and consider our desire to change the tragic course of events. There is also a chapter devoted to Romeo and Juliet in the non-fiction  Shakespearean Afterlives by John O’Connor that explores the ongoing cultural perception of the couple, and our immediate instinct to compare any romantic boy or tragic girl to this particular pair.

This is, of course, just a small sampler of the many many books that take on Romeo and Juliet as inspiration. I enjoyed reading them all (some more than others) since each new perspective gave me something new to think about in Shakespeare’s play. Do you have any favorite book adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, or have you read one of these books? Please tell us about it!

Read Full Post »

I first came to the Folger as a high school freshman participating in the Secondary School Shakespeare Festival. I was playing Dogberry, the lovable constable with a penchant for malapropism, in my high school Shakespeare Club’s abbreviated staging of Much Ado About Nothing. My first Festival was incredible – the extreme energy and love for Shakespeare I found there were only matched by the equally thrilling second and third Festivals I attended. I was hooked.

Here’s a photo from the 2010 Secondary School Shakespeare Festival at the Folger – I’m playing Perdita, with my friend Ethan as Florizel, in The Winter’s Tale

Here’s a photo from the 2010 Secondary School Shakespeare Festival at the Folger – I’m playing Perdita, with my friend Ethan as Florizel, in The Winter’s Tale.

Having loved the Festivals, I wanted to see if I could get more out of the wonderful resource that is Folger Education. During the fall semester of my senior year of high school, I was accepted to the Folger’s High School Fellowship Program. Twice a week for three months, fifteen fellow students of Shakespeare from around the DC metropolitan area and I got to take advantage of all the Folger had to offer – seeing the Folger’s production of Othello (and chatting with its director, Robert Richmond), discussing Much Ado About Nothing with Folger Director Dr. Michael Witmore, and touring the Folger’s Reading Room were just some of the program’s highlights.

After going to the Festivals and participating in the Fellowship, I knew that I wanted to learn more from the Folger and became a summer intern for the Education Division. This is my second summer working with Education, where every day is unique. Generally, I’ve helped to plan curriculum for Shakespeare for a New Generation and develop the script for the acting ensemble Bill’s Buddies, which has taught me fun various ways to bring Shakespeare into the classroom. Another major benefit to interning at the Folger is the constant opportunity to learn. Between last summer’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute and this summer’s Conference on Teaching Shakespeare in the Elementary Classroom, there seems to be an endless stream of guest lecturers and entertaining workshops to enjoy.

To any students in the DC metropolitan area, I definitely recommend checking out what the Folger has to offer. Even if you’re not sure how you feel about Shakespeare now, try coming to a Secondary School Festival to see if your mind might change; if you know you’re a die-hard fan, apply to the High School Fellowship Program or the poetry seminar Shakespeare’s Sisters. As for me, I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing as a career – I’m toying with majoring in English, Education, or some combination thereof – but I know that I want to stay connected to the Folger, and I’m excited for whatever the rest of my summer with Education may have in store!

Read Full Post »

~by Christopher Shamburg, New Jersey City University

Shakespeare can be a powerful tool for the cognitive, emotional, social, and linguistic development of all kids.

I saw this phenomenon when working with the students of A. Harry Moore School in Jersey City, a comprehensive school for students ages 3-21 with severe medical, physical, and cognitive disabilities.   This year a group of 14 students did a variety of production-based activities with Shakespeare, culminating in a performance of The Winter’s Tale in June.

Students take a bow after performing The Winter's Tale.

Students take a bow after performing The Winter’s Tale.

A production-based approach is where kids come to understand Shakespeare through performance and technology—using Shakespeare’s Language.  It’s based in the Folger Teaching Method, and it’s great for all kids for several reasons.

1)      It is a deeply immersive experience.  In this case, students were dancing, sheering sheep, getting pursued by bears, consulting oracles, and coming tolife from marble statues.  They were engaged like they would be in a fun game or an exciting sport.

2)      These are fault tolerant activities.  You do not have to do it perfect or right to make it work well.

3)      There is a wide zone of engagement.  It’s been said that engagement occurs when there’s a balance between skills and challenge.  If a person is over-skilled, then boredom sets in.  If a person is over-challenged, then frustration sets in.  A teacher can easily balance skills and challenges with a production-based approach.

4)      It’s a great tool for building students’ executive function.  Executive function is a relatively new and helpful way of looking at brain activity.  It’s a combination of planning, working memory, multiple perspectives, and impulse control.  The methods of a production-based approach develop executive function.

Here are a few of the activities that worked for us.

Shadows

One of the activities we used was “Shadows,” a method for students to get familiar with the physical space of the theater, experiment with their range of motion, and understand the contrasting emotions of the main character of The Winter’s Tale, and the catalyst for the action of the play, Leontes.  In “Shadows,” one student acts as “Good” Leontes and another student follows as his “Shadow,” enacting contrasting lines from “Good” Leontes.  Leontes wore a white mask or hat, and Leontes’ shadow followed wearing a black mask or hat.

Leontes Leontes’ Shadow
Stay your thanks a whileWell said, Hermione Too hot, too hotI am angling now

(see full activity Shadows).

Seven-Minute Version

To better understand the plot and the language in the play, the students frequently performed “Winta: The Seven-Minute Winter’s Tale”.  Every student enacted at least one line as a teacher read the narration and cued the students.  The lines were designed for both readers and nonreaders, who would say their lines with a prompter.

e.g.

NARRATOR:  Leontes is sorry (12).  But it’s too late.  His wife is dead and his baby is gone.  Antigonus has taken Perdita to Bohemia and leaves her in an abandoned place (13).

Student lines:

12)  I have deserved all tongues to talk their bitterest.

13) There weep and leave it crying; and, for the babe is counted lost forever, Perdita.

(See full activity)

Emotion Chart

AHM Emotion Chart

Chart with different degrees of emotions

A frequent reference during many of these activities, rehearsals, and performance was the emotion chart.  It offered visual cues for nonreaders and some subtle emotional distinctions for the more dramatic players.  It was based on the work of Christine Porter in Mary Ellen Dakin’s Reading Shakespeare with Young Adults.

(See full Emotion Chart )

AHM Shakespeare 2013 -3

Three students smiling after performing The Winter’s Tale

Creating sound effects for the play–using voices, Foley techniques, and audio editing tools–was fun, engaged us in the text, and was a real crowd pleaser during our performance.  We used the Audacity audio editing program to create numerous sound effects (e.g. party, bear, sheep, crying baby, stone breaking apart).

Adaptive Use Musical Instruments

AHM Shakespeare 2013-4

Student using AUMI

One piece of software that was particularly useful was Adaptive Use Musical Instruments (AUMI).  It allowed students with limited mobility to create music for the show.  A user can create music or activated sounds with a variety of gross motor movements.

Embedded Word Files

To use the sound effects and music during the show we embedded they audio in a Word document.  These sounds added production value and also worked as a memory device for the actors.  Embedding mp3 files in a Word document is a standard, though underused, feature in Word that proved valuable during activities, rehearsals, and performance.  We opened the file with the script and played the sounds along with the production.

AHM Embedded Word File

A screenshot of a Word file with audio embedded

Good Script and Prompting

Our director Terry MacSweeney from Actor’s Shakespeare Company did an excellent job of abridging Shakespeare’s language to a 30-minute show.   He devised a system of cue cards, scripts and prompters that aided our actors just enough.

In Conclusion…

This was the Actor’s Shakespeare Company’s fifth production at A. Harry Moore.  This year the work was a part of the NJCU Educational Technology Department’s Partnership and Projects Program.

The production was organized by Marissa Aiello, a speech language pathologist at the school, with assistance by Matt Masiello, a speech language pathology intern.

Christopher Shamburg is a Professor of Educational Technology at New Jersey City University.  He is a workshop leader and consultant for the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Education Division.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,721 other followers