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Archive for the ‘Introducing Shakespeare’ Category

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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by Corinne Viglietta

Students working with Shakespeare's text. (Photo credit: Lloyd Wolf)

Students working with Shakespeare’s text. (Photo credit: Lloyd Wolf)

 

New semester, new plays! A lot of teachers are kicking off, or getting ready to kick off, a Shakespeare unit, so we thought we’d talk about what to do on those first days. From having students put some verse on its feet to creating a tempest in the lunchroom, these activities will build confidence, interest, and skill—and help your students make lasting connections to Shakespeare’s language.

 

  1. Tempest in the Lunchroom – Chicago Teacher Joe Scotese talks about how to “bring students to the text”—and have some fun—on day 1.
  2. Seven Ages of Man – In one of our most popular blog posts ever, South Carolina teacher and Folger National Teacher Corps member Debbie Gascon shares her tips for starting the school year—or any literature unit. Even if you’re not teaching As You Like It, student performances of Jaques’s speech make for a fabulous introduction to the words and worlds of Shakespeare.
  3. Multiple Readings of the Romeo and Juliet Prologue – In Folger National Teacher Corps member Julia Perlowski’s activity, students read the same passage in a variety of ways—chorally, in small chunks of texts, in student pairs, with annotation, with discussion, and with a pattern in mind. An excellent way to get students making their own discoveries about Shakespeare’s language!
  4. Famous Last Words – North Carolina teacher Leslie Kelly shares her approach to one of Folger’s most popular ELL resources—the “Famous Death Lines” activity. Why not start with the end of the play, practice some language, discuss the plot upfront, and make room for a rich exploration of words and ideas?
  5. Interpreting Character – Sue Biondo-Hench, a teacher in Pennsylvania and member of the Folger National Teacher Corps, shows how to introduce students to Shakespeare through close readings of character.

Try these out and let us know how they went. We’re on Twitter (@FolgerEd) and Facebook!


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

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by Sam Sherman
Folger High School Fellow, Class of 2014

Folger High School Fellows, Class of 2014

Folger High School Fellows, Class of 2014

I don’t think I just speak for myself when I say that Shakespeare makes all the more sense when it is performed as opposed to it being examined from text. After all, Shakespeare wrote plays, not novels.

Shakespeare wanted actors to play out his work on the stage in a way that communicated a powerful message that is relevant to the present state of the human condition. I think that a lot of us – teachers and students alike – forget that. Sifting through lexicons, examining centuries-old texts, and trying to understand Early Modern England, we as human beings lose sight of the relevance that Shakespeare has on other areas of history, and even our present. That’s what Folger Theatre’s production of Julius Caesar helped me realize.

The production of Julius Caesar at the Folger carried excellent thematic detail. The show began when actors dressed in ragged, hooded cloaks walked out on stage. These wraiths (very fitting considering Halloween was only about a week and a half ago) spoke in haunting whispers about the Ides of March, foreshadowing what was to come in the play. The whole picture gave me goose-bumps and it was all the more frightening as the red glow from the soothsayer’s bowl illuminated the stage.

Nafeesa Monroe (Soothsayer), Julius Caesar, directed by Robert Richmond, Folger Theatre, 2014. Photo by Teresa Wood.

Nafeesa Monroe (Soothsayer), Julius Caesar, directed by Robert Richmond, Folger Theatre, 2014. Photo by Teresa Wood.

The first half of the play was pretty consistent with incorporating these wraiths throughout that portion of the performance.

The second half took an interesting turn when the ensemble seemed to switch out the wraith cloaks for soldier’s attire. The uniforms looked like they could’ve been from around the WWI or WWII eras.

I thought the switch from the leather bound medieval garb of the first half to the trench-coat, gas mask-wearing, rifle bearing look of the second half was a peculiar choice, but talking to the actors after the performance allowed me to understand why that decision had been made.

JaBen Early (Octavius Caesar), Julius Caesar, director by Robert Richmond, Folger Theatre, 2014. Photo by Teresa Wood.

JaBen Early (Octavius Caesar), Julius Caesar, director by Robert Richmond, Folger Theatre, 2014. Photo by Teresa Wood.

As it happens, British director Robert Richmond was inspired by the WWI memorial in England, and as it is the 100th anniversary of that conflict, he borrowed themes from the memorial and incorporated them into his rendition of the play.

The actor Michael Sharon (who played the title role) expressed that much of what Caesar’s death was about involved fighting to sustain the freedom of the Roman Republic, whereas WWI had a lot to with protecting the freedom of nations like Great Britain from the imperialism of countries such as Germany. I thought it was brilliant to put Julius Caesar in a context that was modern and relatable to the contemporary audience.

Michael Sharon (Julius Caesar), Julius Caesar, directed by Robert Richmond, Folger Theatre, 2014. Photo by Teresa Wood.

Michael Sharon (Julius Caesar), Julius Caesar, directed by Robert Richmond, Folger Theatre, 2014. Photo by Teresa Wood.

We often lose sight of the fact that Shakespeare wrote plays that utilized what the theater had to offer for that time period specifically. His plays are in no way limited by new conceptualizations. If anything, they’re enhanced. I often find that Shakespeare is performed at its best when interpreted in new formats.

We can try to decipher as meticulously as possible whatever we can about how Shakespeare’s plays were performed back in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. It’s something that is important to grasp, that’s for sure.

Yet, at the same time, when directors put plays into contemporary settings, be it Julius Caesar placed in WWI or maybe even A Midsummer Night’s Dream purposed as a late night rave – students and teachers alike will be able to grasp Shakespeare’s reasons for writing his works, maybe more so than they would in a traditional Elizabethan environment. This way, Shakespeare remains alive and relevant just as much as a play by Tom Stoppard or August Wilson would be and not just fade into something from “way back when.”

Continuing the conversation about Shakespeare as a living piece of theater is not only an exciting mission for any educator, but must be something they constantly try to achieve, not just for themselves, but for their students.

Folger Theatre’s production of Julius Caesar performs through December 7, 2014. Learn more at www.folger.edu/theatre.

Learn more about Folger Education’s High School Fellows program.

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