Archive for the ‘Midsummer’ Category

By Diana Darwin and Nancy Howard


Imagine children, not much taller than yardsticks, clearly and passionately performing lines from Romeo and Juliet. Simply dressed in blue T-shirts for the Montagues, red T-shirts for the Capulets, and yellow tees for the Prince and his family (a few wore mustaches and many carried swords), they projected proudly as they enacted an abbreviated version of this play.  They were energized—and energizing—nine-year-old children from a public charter school here in DC. At the end of the day, we asked their teacher how the students came to own the language. He replied, “Practice, lots of it.”


This is the kind of magic behind the Emily Jordan Folger Shakespeare Children’s Festival: elementary students speaking Shakespeare’s language as if it were written for them (and we believe it was!).


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Children understand and enjoy Shakespeare when given the chance to perform it! The comedic spirit of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was alive and well presented by a cast of students who were having so much fun the audience couldn’t resist. Young Pyramus understood the humor in taking such a long time to die…and the audience responded with happy laughter and applause. The community of learners in the Folger Theatre inspired and supported each other, demonstrating throughout the week the value of the arts and humanities.


It seems to me that perhaps the most important lessons learned from the arduous preparation made by all these students is their ability to do things they thought were hard. Their work learning lines and presenting characters demands that children stretch beyond the familiar and risk trying new things. We believe that the growth that we witness in these young people is only a glimpse of an unlimited future ahead.


Nancy Howard and Diana Darwin both taught Eighth Grade Language Arts and produced/directed theatrical productions at George Washington Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia.  After retiring in 2006, they  became docents at Folger Shakespeare Library.

Read Full Post »

By Corinne Viglietta

Which poem is in your pocket ? (Source: F. Nivelon, The rudiments of genteel behavior, 1737. Folger Collection. )

Which poem is in your pocket ? (Source: F. Nivelon, The rudiments of genteel behavior, 1737. Folger Collection. )

Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day, everyone! We’re taking a little break from our Teaching Twelfth Night with Technology series to celebrate the power of verse with you.

If you’d like some ideas for engaging students and colleagues in this national poetry fest, or if your pocket is without a poem (gasp!), keep reading.

When I was teaching high school English, today was my favorite day of the year—and a big community day for our school. A few weeks before Poem in Your Pocket Day, the faculty and staff—STEM teachers, humanities teachers, support staff, administrators, librarians, you name it—would select which poem they’d be carrying on this day. (Awesome colleagues, right?)

Then, the English teachers would get together and use those poems to create school-wide Poem in Your Pocket scavenger hunts for all of our students. For instance, students might have to recite the first line of Ms. Jackson’s poem (“We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks) or reflect on the anaphora in Mr. Williams’ favorite poem (“If” by Rudyard Kipling).

Or they’d have to share their favorite words from one of the many wonderful Billy Collins picks among the adults.  And there were always two key rules for students: 1) you must ask the adult to read the poem out loud before you ask your scavenger hunt question, and 2) poetry should be buzzing in every corner of school during breaks, passing periods, and lunch—and even during class time, as long as your teacher allows!

By the end of Poem in Your Pocket Day, we grown-ups had gotten to read some of our favorite poems out loud, dozens of times. More importantly, though, students had gotten to hear their teachers and principals and coaches—most of whom were not English teachers—speak some verse and talk about what poetry means to them. I loved one 11th grader’s excuse for being woefully late to lunch: she was asking the Spanish teacher about the finer points of translating a Neruda sonnet.

Speaking of sonnets, you might think that they’re the only way to go if you want to carry Shakespeare in your pocket today. Not true. Shakespeare’s plays are full of poetry, and here are just two of the many examples. Feel free to carry one of these in your pocket today!

Poem #1:

From Romeo and Juliet, 1.5


ROMEO, [taking Juliet’s hand]
If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
O then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do.
They pray: grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.
Then move not while my prayer’s effect I take.
[He kisses her.]


Poem #2:

From A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 5.1


If we shadows have offended,
Think but this and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearnèd luck
Now to ’scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long.
Else the Puck a liar call.
So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
[He exits.]


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

Read Full Post »

By Folger Education

The testimonials keep coming in, and they’re so much more compelling than anything we could say about the Secondary School Shakespeare Festival. Thank you, festival friends! And happy reading, teachers everywhere!


Students at the Secondary Student Festival (photo: Kate Ryan)

Students at the Secondary Student Festival (photo: Kate Ryan)


I am an 8th grader at Center City Public Charter School. My class performed the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. From our teachers we learned that Shakespeare was a poet and he wrote plays that were performed on stage in his theatre. We also learned vocabulary of Shakespeare to prepare us for our performance. I honestly enjoyed our performance at the Folger Theatre. Practicing our lines made us learn responsibility, which helped us succeed. When we remembered our lines we became proud and started to use emotion and come into character. I played Demetrius, a male character, and I am female. I wanted to play a male because it was more of a challenge than playing a woman. Also, I know that in Shakespeare’s time men had to play women because it was considered immoral for people to watch women perform. I had fun playing Shakespeare games in between plays and watching other schools perform. We were the youngest of the group, being in middle school. We saw how advanced and devoted to character the other schools were and felt proud for getting recognized for our first performance.

  • Ramani, student, Washington, DC


There is something so very powerful in words.  They have the power to build and in the wrong mouths, the power to destroy. In the glorious Folger Theatre, the words of Shakespeare took on life and power of their own.  In the mouths of over a hundred high school students the immortal lines of Shakespeare were fresh and new. The talented students from Catoctin High School and Sherwood High School breathed a fresh life into familiar characters such as Macbeth and Caliban.  Montgomery Blair High treated us all to a lovely interpretation of Pericles – not read by many adults, let alone 15-year-olds!  Queen Elizabeth School delighted us all by performing a lively retelling of Comedy of Errors – with actual twins!

The Mistress of the Revels and the team around her made everyone feel loved, welcomed, and well cared for.

But the most powerful words all day were the words the students shared with one another. Students shouted and cheered for peers. Students critiqued one another with generosity and grace. The power of kind words reigned. By the end of the day everyone had made a hundred new friends.  Emails were exchanged, selfies (groupies) were taken, and hugs were given freely and eagerly.  It was a magical day where words were celebrated and we all were blessed to have been there.

  • Karen Stitely, teacher and drama director, Thurmont, Maryland


Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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


Read Full Post »

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


Read Full Post »

Shakesbear the mascot

Shakesbear, the club mascot.

By David Fulco

After-school programs find a way to weave themselves into the fabric of a school. At my school, all sixth and seventh grade students participate in after-school activities from 2:15-4:30pm, five days a week.

It has been more than evident during the school day that students are not only enjoying their after-school activities, but also building an appreciation for them.

Students in “Fit Club” ask for apples instead of candy at lunch. Students in “Computer Technology” build radio-controlled robots and walk them from class to class. There is a buzz and an energy in the air after school that is palpable.

And what of the Shakespeareans working through A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

The work my seventh grade Shakespeare troupe is doing after school is also starting to permeate the rest of their school day. In ELA, students are writing crossover pieces in a dystopian unit in which they choose 2-3 characters from different tales to create mash-ups of plots and themes. Titania has made an appearance in a story with Maleficent – the connection between the Indian boy and Aurora perhaps supplying the crux of the story arc.

“Helena from the Bronx” is now a popular drawing for the students to doodle in their notebooks. Helena wears her hair in a tight bun with a midriff shirt and a belly button ring, with a speech bubble saying, “The more I love, the more he hateth me”. (1.1.204)

But perhaps the most influential… (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 964 other followers