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Archive for the ‘Shakespeare’ Category

By Stefanie Jochman

 

Debbie Gascon’s brilliant advice to start the school year with Shakespeare has made my hot, humid classroom one of the coolest places to be on the first day of school. This year, my freshmen and I

Shakespeare in a Mug (Image: Stefanie Jochman)

Shakespeare in a Mug (Image: Stefanie Jochman)

played a game of “Shakespeare in a Mug,” my modification of “Shakespeare in a Can,” an activity I learned from Michael Tolaydo and Caleen Jennings at the 2014 Teaching Shakespeare Institute. The results? A fun 45 minutes that taught me a lot about who my students are and what they need in the year ahead.

Here’s how it works:

 

Materials:

  • 3 mugs or small containers
  • 2 sets of short lines from Shakespeare plays printed on small strips or squares of paper (I used insults from Romeo and Juliet, a play we will study in a few months. As Jennie K. Brown suggested in her post, compliments create an even more welcoming atmosphere.)
  • 1 set of places/ situations printed on small strips or squares of paper (I chose places and situations that would be familiar to students (i.e. Green Bay’s own Lambeau Field, our local shopping mall, the principal’s office, the Oscars)

Directions:

  1. Pair students and have them choose who will be partner “A” and partner “B”
  2. Partner “A” takes a line from one mug. Partner “B” takes a line from the other mug.
  3. Partner “B” also selects a location/situation from the third container
  4. Allow time for students to plan a small improvised scene that takes place in their location/situation and involves both of their lines. I also allowed students to add a line or two of their own to help set the scene if necessary.
  5. When time is up, students perform their brief scenes for the class, and everyone earns a round of applause!

What I discovered:

  1. My students need models. When they first received their lines and situations, my freshmen struggled to figure out what their lines meant, how they fit together, or why someone might utter them in their chosen situation, but after I modeled a quick scene with a brave volunteer (we were rival Packers and Bears fans who got into a scuffle at Lambeau), they understood what to do.
  2. My students are kind and brave. One line that made it into my mix was “Go thy ways, wench” (2.5.46) from a conversation between the Nurse and Juliet. It’s not an insult in that conversation, but it sounds like one. A boy who had been partnered with a girl picked the line from the mug and quickly asked to exchange it; his refusal to call a classmate “wench” made my heart melt a little bit. Later in the week, I asked students to write letters of introduction. A few students admitted to being very nervous about public speaking, but they took on the “Shakespeare in a Mug” challenge with gusto!
  3. Shakespeare on Day 1= Critical thinking on Day 1: Students had to puzzle out the tone of their performance by thinking about what words meant and what lines sounded like when read aloud. When groups weren’t sure about how to fit their lines into their situations, a few questions about the conflicts, meetings, or actions that normally happen in their location—a process not unlike using context clues to determine a word’s meaning—were all they needed to put the scene together.

“Shakespeare in a Mug” is open to interpretation. When I first played “Shakespeare in a Can,” partners kept their lines a secret from each other, but I modified the game to create more opportunities for conversation and collaboration on the first day of the new year. I’ve read about other versions of this activity that use small groups rather than partners. “Shakespeare in a Mug” also doubled as my classroom icebreaker; I required partners to learn fun facts about each other introduce themselves to the class prior to their performances.

Were the scenes perfect? No. Did we laugh a lot? Yes. Did my students learn that my classroom will be a safe place to collaborate, make mistakes, and be creative? I hope so. And did I get a snapshot of the funny, kind, shy, smart, creative, bold, goofy, determined, friendly, inspiring learners my students are? Absolutely.

 

Stefanie Jochman teaches 9th grade and International Baccalaureate English classes at Notre Dame de la Baie Academy in Green Bay, WI. She received her BA in English and Secondary Education from St. Norbert College and her MA in English from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Stefanie is a proud alumna of the 2014 Teaching Shakespeare Institute.

 

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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 Quintin Burks

 

Well, it’s that time of the year again; the leaves are starting to change, the nights are getting cooler, and the school year has begun. As I start to see new and familiar young faces fill the hall of my school, some filled with excitement and some apprehension, I’m reminded of just how important the beginning of the school year is. Every year, it becomes more and more apparent to me just how important the first few weeks of instruction are in setting the tone for my entire class. It is for this reason that Shakespeare has become my go-to for starting the year off right.

 

Though it may seem crazy to start students off with literature that they most likely identify as especially difficult or only for the intellectual elite, the immediate dispelling of these popular myths by interacting with Shakespeare’s works is a profoundly beneficial practice. Students actively engage with Shakespeare’s words and, in so doing, are empowered by a form of success that seems, and is, particularly momentous. Moreover, teaching Shakespeare according to the Folger Approach produces a high level of investment in your class because it is ridiculously fun, in addition to being incredibly effective.

 

One approach to beginning the year with Shakespeare is to teach a variety of excerpts instead of an entire play. I find that this approach is particularly beneficial, because it allows students to develop the literacy skills that we are trying to teach, without some unintentional road blocks that come with reading an entire play. Instead of trying to remember plot and character details (which are sometimes highly confusing, even in short plays like Midsummer) students will be focused on working with short excerpts from a variety of plays that serve, for all intents and purposes, as a whole play.

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By Folger Education

 

OK, everyone. Your students and fellow teachers have so many compelling things to say that we simply had to keep posting your responses to our Bard Notes call. Read on, and enjoy. We hope that you’re all still loving this school year! Thanks to colleagues like you, we sure are.

 

“Michael, an 8th grader in Lexington City Schools, examined a 16th century hornbook and said, ‘And he wrote all that, with a shorter alphabet than ours?’” – Eric Wilson

 

“In answer to a meeting icebreaker, ‘What would you do with a million dollars?’ Response:  ‘I’d like to give a lot away; I’ve always wanted to.’” – Bill Lambert

 

“This fruit tastes so good, it’s like getting to know someone.” –Ari Brooks

 

“At Thursday’s open house last week a former student of mine, now in 7th grade, approached me.  We hugged and I admired how much he’d grown since I last saw him in third grade.  His one and only question for me was… ‘Mrs. Everson, do you still teach Shakespeare?  I was so touched…he remembered performing Macbeth in our third grade class!’” – Mrs. Everson

 

Hotspur would never consider paternity leave.” – Gregg Marshall

 

“‘You have to meet kids where they’re at,’ said Elinor Scully, Head, The Langley School” – Robin Tatu

 

“Most compelling moments of the last week: A new teacher orientation speaker who read the poem ‘First Lesson‘ by Phillip Booth. Carries such beautiful and touching messages for both teachers and students at the beginning of a new school year!” – Julia Wharton

(Image: Folger)

(Image: Folger)

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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 Jennie K. Brown

 

Jennie K Brown's class reads Shakespeare. (Image: Jennie K. Brown)

Jennie K Brown’s class reads Shakespeare. (Image: Jennie K. Brown)

After my summer experience at the Folger Shakespeare Library, I decided that I was going to get my students up and moving around my classroom in some sort of Shakespeare activity within the first three days of school. And guess what? I did just that!

On day two of the new school year, I ditched the rules and procedures protocol, and instead, each of my classes participated in a Shakespeare compliment activity (an activity that I first experienced first-hand this summer). I do something similar to this in March when we begin Romeo and Juliet; however, instead of Shakespeare compliments, they spew Shakespeare insults at one another. I never thought this was something my 9th students could handle on day 2, but I was totally wrong! (more…)

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We revisit Julia Perlowski’s active lesson surrounding Romeo and Juliet‘s Prologue from 2014.


 

By Julia Perlowski 

William Fox presents Theda Bara in William Shakespeare’s masterpiece Romeo and Juliet, 1916. Folger Shakespeare Library.

William Fox presents Theda Bara in William Shakespeare’s masterpiece Romeo and Juliet, 1916. Folger Shakespeare Library.

If the use of Shakespeare’s early modern English is under attack in some “regular” and “honors” English classrooms, just think about what the reaction might be to the use of such rigorous text in an Intensive Reading class!

At Pompano Beach High School, I am not only the ONLY drama teacher, I am also the ONLY reading teacher. I teach all levels of reading from grades 9-12. While I am producing Romeo and Juliet in the auditorium during fourth period with my drama students, I am reading the same texts way out in portable 3 during first and second periods with my striving readers.

I believe that a text does not have to be changed among students of a variety of abilities… just the TASKS! One may “perform” Shakespeare by acting it out or by engaging in ANY activity that requires one to read closely and critically to execute the task. With struggling readers, there is great power in reading and re-reading and re-reading, for that is how even the best of readers grasps meaning, nuances, and depth.

Here is the “performance” task around the R&J Prologue for my Intensive Reading Class:

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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

This post you’re about to read was viewed, shared, and liked more than almost any other on our blog last school year. Since its original publication, both Debbie Gascon, the high school teacher who wrote it, and Folger staff, have heard from teachers all over the country who loved—and tried out, to great results—Debbie’s ideas. If you’re looking for a way to make your classroom joyful, active, collaborative, and, yes, just the right kind of challenging—right from day 1—look no further. Try out a few of Debbie’s tested strategies for getting students on their feet and into complex texts in minutes. And let us know how it all goes: shoot Corinne Viglietta an email at cviglietta@folger.edu. Wishing you and your students a happy, productive return to school!


 

Eighteen years ago, days before my first year teaching began, my principal gave me the best advice I’ve ever heard about the first day of school. She simply said, “Make the students want to come back.” She told me to forget the syllabus and classroom procedures—the students won’t retain those rules and did I really want my first impression to be about how to ask for the bathroom pass?

As suggested, I followed through with my hopefully-memorable plans on that first day. When I ate dinner that night (in my pjs because I was so exhausted!) I had visions of my eighth graders at their dinner tables telling their families about their invigorating English class. I’m still not sure if that happened, but they all came back the next day with smiles on their faces and eager to learn. They were optimistic. And so was I.

With that advice in mind, on the first day of school for the past two years I’ve incorporated Folger performance methods in my lesson plans.  What a difference this has made. No longer were my sleepy seniors glaring at me (and the clock) and no longer were my freshmen struggling to sit still in a desk after a summer of hyperactivity.  Instead, students were on their feet, participating and laughing (and learning!).

Here are some quick methods to get the students up on their feet and loving the first day (and every day after!) in your classroom:

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