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Archive for the ‘Introducing Shakespeare’ Category

By Folger Education

 

According to students at Phelps Architecture, Construction, and Engineering High School, a lot.

When Ashley Bessicks’ students finished their Hamlet unit, her 10th grade students at Phelps ACE High School, a DC public school, were on fire for Shakespeare. They wanted to know more about this play and the man who wrote it, so we worked with Ashley, who studied here last summer, to arrange for a special field trip. On June 8th, the students visited the Folger, where they took a tour of the historic building and its current exhibition, performed on our stage, and—this is pretty extraordinary—got up close with some rare books from the collection: Paul Robeson’s promptbook for Othello, versions of Hamlet from 1603, 1604/5, and 1623, John Barrymore’s promptbook for Hamlet, Ortellius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, and more.

Here’s what the Phelps students—who are pretty extraordinary themselves—had to say about studying Shakespeare at school and at the Folger this year. We feel so honored to have worked with Ashley and her impressive students!

Damola:

The Hamlet play in class and the trip to the Folger Library was a great experience for me that I believe strongly helped me in numerous ways, from the Hamlet essay I had to write for class to the finals. The play we performed in class gave me a better and clearer understanding of the whole story because I played the role of Hamlet in my scene, and the collaboration with my group team helped me to feel and actually understand the real story.  I was able to portray the character of Hamlet in my scene to the best of my knowledge and that helped me understand most of his emotional problems he had and how he made the poor decisions to expose his family’s secrets and to confront his mom.

The trip to the Folger Library gave me another view of Shakespeare and why he chose to write his plays and other literary poems the way he did. I learned about Mr. and Mrs. Folger and how their love for Shakespeare encouraged the building of a library and importing different works that he wrote. Finally the whole experience which included the acting, reading, and trip was so fantastic that it made me develop a love for Shakespeare too.

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Anika:

Hamlet was an interesting play. It included drama, comedy and heart clenching events. It was remarkable. Not only this, but I’ve learned a valuable lesson from Hamlet. I learned that adversities can either make you stronger or make you weak. When facing adversities true colors are revealed based on how you react to what’s going on. In Hamlet’s case, he became crazy.

In addition, learning how to act for a play was an unforgettable experience.  We engaged in multiple activities and games. We did this to get prepared, and to put on our acting shoes. This was great, especially for someone like me. I’ve never been to a play or acted in one, and to be involved in a famous play and learn techniques to help me act and understand stage actions were amazing. I am glad I had the chance to act out the play Hamlet.

Chelsea:

My experience with working with the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, in Mrs. Bessicks’ class was fun and informational.  When we divided up the scenes and started working in groups to pick our setting and our costumes we got into the mind Shakespeare and the characters he created. It makes you think where the scene would take place. And how it would affect the character/s. It opens your mind and gives you a measureless understanding of how each character is feeling and why they are feeling that way.

I would recommend that when it comes to teaching plays in high school that working with them like the way we did with Hamlet would benefit all students. Learning this way gave us a chance to be the character and analyze how that character became the person that they are in a specific scene, which in the end then causes us to be more interested in what we are learning. I believe that working with Hamlet this way helped me have a deeper understanding of the play even though I had read it before.

 

Ashley Bessicks is an English teacher in DC Public Schools and an alum of the Teaching Shakespeare Institute 2014.

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By Folger Education

 

Here are what Gina Voskov’s students are saying now that they’ve wrapped up their Shakespeare unit on Twelfth Night. To trace their journey, check out their comments before and during the unit.

 

Lois: 

Unfortunately, this is the end of our Shakespeare unit and I feel unhappy leaving this unit but also some relief as I had some hard time with understanding his writing. Though some would think that learning this would be boring and would be uninteresting. However I think otherwise because I believe that it’s not about the content but the way you teach it that makes it memorable. Personally, I prefer performing Shakespeare with others than reading it because just reading it made it hard for me to understand the words. It also enabled me to get some insight from my fellow group mates about how they thought about it.

While performing it forced me to think in that and other character’s shoes and how they would act in the current situation. What I really liked about it was dressing up as the character you’re playing and then acting him/her out, pretending this scene is actually happening in real life. The characters for this play were very different in their own way, enabling you to put your own interpretation in playing them. Continuing about Shakespeare’s writing, it was a bit difficult for me to comprehend because he would write in Old English. As a result, you would have to read in between the lines to truly grasp what he’s saying. The meaning is also found if you look hard enough, not only that but also looking up words to be able to follow and perform well. But overall, I hope that you enjoy learning it as much as I did.

 

Alexandra: 

Now that our Shakespeare unit comes to an end, I feel disappointed that it’s over, as well as proud and accomplished. When I look back on this unit, I will remember the work that we did to understand Shakespeare’s text as well as finding our character’s’ motives, exploring body language, and finally, I will remember the experience that I had preforming Shakespeare in front of an audience!

Personally, having come in to this unit familiar with preforming (and the contents of) Shakespeare’s work, I was not surprised to find that I could again relate to the character I portrayed and that I found the movement and character work we did with Twelfth Night a breath of fresh air.

My big understanding of Shakespeare in general, and what I take away from this unit, is that it is relatable to anyone, if you know where to look. I enjoy that when you learn what Shakespeare really meant by a word or phrase, or discover a twist in the storyline, the language barrier seems to break down, making it possible for a student or actor to really convey the meaning to any audience member, whether it be by just simply using tone of voice, or by elaborating with movement, interaction or even simple props and costumes.

Although we don’t have an abundance of knowledge to why Shakespeare wrote his plays, or even who he was as a person, I find it fascinating to know that each of his plays presents a major challenge to the actor or student, but helps them immensely along the way, with little hints hidden in the text about how to create the world of the play, almost as if the script itself was a guide.

Overall, Shakespeare has been my favorite unit of the year! I really feel that the work that our class did to understand Twelfth Night benefited me and the time spent rehearsing for our final performance really paid off.

 

Gina Voskov is a 7th grade English teacher at the United Nations International School in New York City. She has taught English and Humanities for eleven years in public and private schools, in Connecticut, Brazil, and New York City. She is a Folger National Teacher Corps member and attended the Teaching Shakespeare Institute in 2012.

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By Gina Voskov

Julia Marlowe playbill for Columbia Theatre, Brooklyn, March 27, 1893. (Folger Collection)

Julia Marlowe playbill for Columbia Theatre, Brooklyn, March 27, 1893. (Folger Collection)

 

NYC teacher and Folger National Teacher Corps member Gina Voskov is back with the third installment in her series “Inside the Classroom,” in which her students share their experiences with Shakespeare at different points throughout their Twelfth Night unit. You can read the first installment here.

 

We are about five classes into Twelfth Night, and, as promised, my three 7th graders, Won Jae, Lois, and Alexandra, are back with some reflections about the opening of the unit. Enjoy!


 

Won Jae: Now that I think of it, Shakespeare isn’t that bad. As I said before, Shakespeare always used to bore me, and I didn’t think very importantly of it. But the thing is, after I had a few lessons of Shakespeare, I didn’t think it was as bad as I thought it would be. One of my favorite things we did in the beginning of our unit was the first one, when we tried to say the word, “O” in many different tones. I was surprised to see how different it can sound when we try to say the word in a different tone! For example, when we tried to say the word in an excited way, the tone became very high-pitched, while when we tried to say “O” in a tired way, we dragged the word in a low pitched voice. I believe that this exercise was used to train our voices so when we read Shakespeare, we can use various tones.

However, my favorite activity was when we did this activity called, “Slugs versus Clods”. It was when our class broke into two groups, and we had a script to follow, and they were full of insults that were used during Shakespeare’s time. We were supposed to state the insults as one whole group, but tension built up and people started to raise their voices and stop following the script. The thing I’m really looking forward to is acting out the play, which will be the final for our Shakespeare unit. I hope that we do a lot of acting in the future while we continuously read and learn about Shakespeare.

 

 

Lois: Twelfth Night is the play being learned in class and my experience with it grows every time. In class, we’re learning about stressing words and the tone used when reading from Shakespeare’s play, as well as understanding its context, scene blocking and doing many other activities. The activity I liked and seemed easy was “If music be the food of love, play on!” This line comes from the character called Orsino, who believes that if music is feeding his love for Lady Olivia, then let the music keep playing. Our class had replaced the words “music” and “love” to our own words and what we think this blank would ‘feed’ what. (For example: “If Netflix be the food of relaxation, binge on!”)

I also liked the activity of journaling, answering two questions: The first question was “What does it mean to be lovesick?” and the second was “How do people act when they’re in love?” I liked this one because we got to answer in a way that makes us think about love and how people would think about it and their actions. Also, it made us think about how Orsino felt about Lady Olivia.

An activity I thought seemed difficult was the complements. It was difficult for me because the words written on the sheet were unknown to me and there was so many. Hence, it wasn’t easy to make sense of the words and form a correct sentence that could be understood. However, the work done helped me in ways to read and learn more on Twelfth Night by knowing that depending on tone and stress of words, it enables the audience to interpret many things. Further, learning chorally and individually helped me learn because thinking by ourselves makes us think deeper, and hearing other’s thoughts puts together a bigger picture for us.

 

 

 

Alexandra: Ms. Voskov introduced the unit by doing an activity to become familiar with the vowel ‘O’- an exclamation and way of conveying emotion that Shakespeare commonly uses. Having done a similar exercise before in my acting class, I was pretty curious to how the students in my class would respond. I definitely felt like there was a positive response when we went around the classroom reading a line from Shakespeare containing ‘O’. I was happy to see that most everyone really understood how Shakespeare had intended for the actor to read the line.  Another exercise that we have done so far, beginning the play Twelfth Night, is exploring the first line of Orsino’s soliloquy: “If music be the food of love, play on!” We then substituted ‘music’ for something else that we were passionate about and substituted ‘love’ for what our particular passion feeds. I really enjoyed this exercise. I had never done anything like it before, so it was really refreshing. Having seen this passage countless times before, I also definitely feel like I am now able to look at and understand it differently, already achieving a goal of mine when it comes to studying Shakespeare in class!

 

Gina Voskov is a 7th grade English teacher at the United Nations International School in New York City. She has taught English and Humanities for eleven years in public and private schools, in Connecticut, Brazil, and New York City. She is a Folger National Teacher Corps member and attended the Teaching Shakespeare Institute in 2012.

 

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By Gina Voskov

Act 1 from "Twelfth Night". (Photo: Folger Education)

Act 1 Scene 2 from “Twelfth Night”. (Photo: Folger Education)

NYC teacher and Folger National Teacher Corps member Gina Voskov is back with the second installment in her series “Inside the Classroom,” which takes us into her middle school classroom during a Shakespeare unit.

Today, we hear Gina’s perspective as teacher, and Thursday, we’ll hear from her students. You can read the first installment here.

 


 

So we’ve begun our unit on Twelfth Night, a play I love but haven’t taught before. My colleague and I are looking through the Shakespeare Set Free teacher book for ideas, but, like much of what guides what I do in the classroom—as I imagine it does for you, too—this most recent idea came from a student.

 

I asked everyone to buy copies of the Folger edition of the play. Our end goal is to perform a scene of students’ choosing, so I wanted them to own the book to write in. As we were looking over the opening lines, I noticed one boy slyly holding his copy up higher and more awkwardly than everyone else. Snaking my way behind him, I saw he had a brand new copy of the “No Fear Twelfth Night” hidden inside the Folger edition. When he saw I’d discovered his not-so-sneaky antics, I asked him if I could hold onto the book: there was some studying I needed to do.

(more…)

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By Michael LoMonico

The First Folio

The First Folio (Photo: Luna)

One week ago, we announced the selected cities for the Traveling Tour of First Folios, and it was immediately posted on Facebook. Within a few days, there were nearly 200 comments. We were amazed at the ecstatic reactions. Here are some of the best:

  • Finally, I’ll get to see one. It’s been on my bucket list for some time. Love Shakespeare. 
  • Man, I have to go 100+ miles to see it? So be it.
  • I’ll have to go to Providence RI to see it – it’s so close! What an experience & privilege! 
  • Let’s go together when it comes! 
  • Yay! I can’t wait to for it to come to CLE!! 
  • Road trip to Detroit! My old stomping grounds: Wayne State, Detroit Institute of Art and Detroit Public Library. Wonder when folio will be there?? 
  • It’s coming to little ol’ nowhere Vermillion, SD! 
  • When are we going? FIELD TRIP! 
  • Madison Wisconsin!!!! 
  • Close enough to home-Norman, OK 
  • This elicited a gasp from me that caused everyone in the room to look up! Go KC! 
  • Wonder of wonders, the Cleveland Public Library will get a visit. 
  • Woo hoo! San Diego! 
  • Yet another reason to relocate to Tucson by next year! 
  • It’s time to plan a 2016 road trip 
  • Kansas City yes!!! 
  • Cool, maybe I will go see it in Boulder! 
  • Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, Pa. Is very convenient from where I live. 
  • Know you are excited that it is coming to Raleigh! 
  • Yay! If I can make it out there, I’ll visit the Folio in Amherst! What a pleasure! I have a facsimile copy, but seeing the real thing is a dream. I hope it has an aroma. 
  • I heard 2016 in San Diego. Very exciting. 
  • The Parthenon will be the perfect venue in Nashville, with Athena’s gratitude. 
  • Wilmington is one of the cities scheduled. Yay. 
  • Conway AR!!! Yeah! 
  • So excited a First Folio will be coming to Emory’s Carlos Museum in Atlanta! 
  • Kansas City Public Library: Hooray!!! 
  • Thank you for bringing Shakespeare to Reno! So excited! 
  • Road trip to Kansas City, anybody? 
  • Yea!!!! Within two hours drive…TWICE!!!! 
  • It’s coming to Nashville! 
  • Why, yes, it will. Iowa City: UNESCO Creative City of Literature. 
  • OU gets another reason for visiting the campus!
  • South Bend. I can do that! 
  • You will be able to see this at the public library in San Diego and we get it in Seattle. Don’t know dates yet. 
  • Yippee! I wonder how many copies I will get to see. 
  • Glad this will be at the Art Museum here in Santa Fe. Also at the DIA in Detroit.

And then there were comments from the disappointed:

  • Really? Texas A&M?! Why not UT Austin or SMU?  Guess it’s time for a trip to Aggie Land! 
  • No! Our city will only get a can of Folger’s coffee. 
  • No Chicago? No St Louis? Libertyville, Il? 
  • Madison, WI; Why not Milwaukee, as well? 
  • I was hoping for Tampa Bay Area. 
  • Too bad upstate New York isn’t on their list
  • Man I wish it was coming to grand Rapids not Detroit 
  • Congrats, San Diego PL! San Francisco is already home to a First Folio, so we’re not as disappointed as we might be.

The dates for the stops on the Folio Tour have not yet been set, but we’ll let you know when they are. Meanwhile, Folger Education is preparing some excellent workshops and resources to accompany the Folios. We’re looking forward to coming to your state in 2016.

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In this special series we’re calling “Inside the Classroom,” we’ll follow middle school teacher Gina Voskov and her students as they embark on a Twelfth Night unit. Today, it’s all about pre-reading—check back for notes from the group throughout the learning process.

By: Gina Voskov

Photo: Gina Voskov

Photo: Gina Voskov

I am so pleased to introduce Won Jae, Lois, and Alexandra, three of my 7th grade English students.

As you’ll see, these students have a wide range of experiences when it comes to engagement in English, comfort with public speaking/performance, familiarity with Shakespeare, and with the English language. My challenge is to make the story and language accessible (and hopefully enjoyable and meaningful) to everyone.

Shakespeare’s works were formally added to our 7th grade English curriculum three years ago and the Shakespeare unit has quickly become a favorite for both teachers and students because we use the Folger approach. In two weeks, we will begin our study of Twelfth Night, a play I really love but have never taught before. My colleague and I will be using the Shakespeare Set Free materials for the play as well as other performance techniques I learned at the 2012 Teaching Shakespeare Institute.

This first post is an introduction the students have written about themselves and a brief overview of their thoughts about learning Shakespeare and studying Twelfth Night. I suspect the concerns they share with you will mirror the concerns many of your students have about learning the language. A second post will follow, mid-unit, where the three will be able to share specific activities that challenged them the most to learn. The final post will be a reflective piece after their performance project has ended.

It is my hope that my students will be able to see growth in confidence, skills, and excitement as we use the Folger approach to studying this play. It is truly a joy to be able to share these students’ words with you, and I hope you’ll check back in on their journey through our unit.

 

Meet Won Jae: (more…)

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By Folger Education

Thanks, teaching colleagues, for sharing your responses to our last post! From technology to performance, here are some of YOUR suggestions for getting started with Shakespeare. Enjoy!

Last year the following worked beautifully to engage students with the Prologue to R&J.

Start off with pairs saying the same sentence but alternating which words they stress. For instance, I would say “I want to go to the movies” with my partner saying “I want to go the movies” and so on. After the demo, students are given some fun sentences and practice with partners.  Next, I have the prologue divided into its fourteen lines printed largely onto cards. The students practice at their tables saying the line with varying emphases. Then, fourteen students stand in front of the class in order of the prologue lines and each student recites her line.  Voila! The class has read the Prologue and can move on with familiarity to paraphrasing it. This activity can be used as a way to instruct students about the function and delivery of a chorus as well.

  • Sara Davis, Decatur, Illinois

 

Here’s how I introduce Shakespeare’s language. I give students Shakespeare quotations and they make memes using this website.

  • Chris Lavold, Mauston, Wisconsin

    (Photo Credit: Chris Lavold)

    (Photo Credit: Chris Lavold)

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