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By Deborah Gascon

When I introduced myself as one of the master teachers (the other was the fabulous Michael LoMonico) to the 29 teachers participating in the Folger’s first Summer Academy, I told them the Folger was a magical place.  I thought about the unicorn painted on a screen on the ceiling of the Folger theater and the quote around it from As You Like It:  “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.”  A magical and mysterious image surrounded by magical, mysterious words.

 

This indescribable magic was a feeling I felt during my first experience at the Folger in 2012 that I just couldn’t express or convey through words (mine or Shakespeare’s) during the academy introductions.  But a week later, after five very long and very full 12-hour days, every participant came to understand that magic and mystery that my words couldn’t describe, and I was privileged, once again, to see how Folger Education can transform a teacher’s life, his/her students’ lives and classroom practice.

 

I knew that to help everyone understand that magic and the mystery in our short week of the Summer Academy, some work would be involved.  And boy, did we work.

Hamlet's speech from Quarto One. (Image: Deborah Gascon)

Hamlet’s speech from Quarto One. (Image: Deborah Gascon)

 

We read.  We read Hamlet (using the 3-D Shakespeare strategy described here). Then we read Hamlet again and compared the Quarto One “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy which doesn’t include “that is the question” but rather “I there’s the point.”  Yep.  It was changed!  Then we read the 1604 version of Hamlet.  Then we read the 1623 First Folio version of Hamlet.  I think you get the point about how much we read.  But with every reading came deeper understanding and a closer connection with Shakespeare’s words.

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Summer Academy participant Jennie Brown shares her experience at the mid-way point of Summer Academy 2015 which took place from July 5-10, 2015. 

By Jennie Brown

Jennie Brown arrives at Summer Academy 2015 (Image: Jennie Brown)

Jennie Brown arriving at Summer Academy 2015 (Image: Jennie Brown)

Where do I even begin to describe my experience so far (only on day 3!) of the Teaching Shakespeare Institute’s Summer Academy 2015 at the Folger Shakespeare Library in DC?!  Mind-blowing, awesome, humbling, exciting, the list goes on and on.

From workshops with theater professionals and esteemed educators to sword-fighting (yes, I said sword-fighting) on the lawn, to classes with Folger scholars and master teachers to interacting with the Folger collection of rare books, this is one week that will never be forgotten. Below, I’ve put together some of the highlights of this journey so far. [If you know me, you know you’ll find pictures below as well!]

  1. Amazing Teachers: There are 28 amazing, like-minded, Shakespeare-crazed teachers here with me at the Folger Library, and every single one has a passion for bringing the best of Shakespeare–his words–and ways to teach his language back to the classroom.
  2. Hands-on Teaching Workshops: Where do I even start with this? Mike LoMonico opened the week discussing Shakespeare’s language; he had us on our feet addressing one another in Shakespearean terms of endearment (even though some sounded more like insults). We worked with him and with his fellow Folger master teacher Debbie Gascon (who is amazing!) on close-reading strategies that can be applied not only to Shakespeare’s works, but all other units of
    Jennie Brown on the Folger stage. (Image: James Brantley)

    Jennie Brown on the Folger stage. (Image: James Brantley)

    study.

    Both LoMo’s and Debbie’s work and the plethora of strategies and teaching material they gave us will be used in my classroom, and in all of our classrooms throughout the country. Without doubt!

  3. Amazing Lectures from Scholars: The director of the Folger Library, Dr. Michael Witmore, spoke with us after “homeroom” on day two about thedigital direction in which the Folger is moving, and showed us new digital tools that give us a whole new way to look at the plays.Professor Sandy Mack had me questioning everything I thought I knew about Hamlet, and his old world vs. new world discussion — mind-blowing!  I could hear that man lecture every day!
  4. Folger Education Faculty and Staff. Honestly, I was nervous and intimidated when we first arrived at dinner on Sunday night. But after the first thirty minutes, Peggy O’Brien and Corinne Viglietta had welcomed all of us into the Folger family with open arms, immediately putting me (and many others) at ease.
  5. Acting Workshops. I haven’t been on the stage in years, and the workshops with Michael Tolaydo and Caleen Jennings made me see just how much Shakespeare’s words come to life when spoken on the stage. This will happen in all of our classrooms!

    Jennie Brown in the New Reading Room. (Image: James Brantley)

    Jennie Brown in the New Reading Room. (Image: James Brantley)

  6. Rare Materials. TOUCHED. A. FIRST. FOLIO. Do I really need to say anything more?

 

So, basically EVERY SINGLE THING we’ve done so far has made the list of highlights. This is truly an experience I will NEVER forget, and thanks to everyone at the Folger for this opportunity! From the faculty and staff, to the librarians, guest speakers, and security guards! You have ALL made this such an enjoyable experience for me.

AND DID I MENTION, WE ARE ONLY JUST STARTING DAY 4?!

I can’t wait to see what else is in store for us!

Jennie Brown teaches 9th grade English at Annville-Cleona Secondary School, Annville, PA. She can be found at @jenniekaywrites on Twitter.

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By Folger Education

Last week 29 teachers joined for a week-long Summer Academy on Hamlet. Check out how much fun we had.

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By Folger Education

 

We’re in the middle of our first-ever Summer Academy: a jam-packed week of learning with 29 passionate teachers from all kinds of schools all over the country. You’ll be hearing from them in the coming months as they reflect on their time at the Folger and take this week’s big ideas and strategies right into their classrooms. In the meantime, check out these tweets and images—they’re a pretty great slice of this invigorating Summer Academy life!

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By Greta Brasgalla 

 

This year, I became the English Instructional Coach at my school. My job includes creating and modeling lessons for a huge English department (we have over 3000 students in grades 10-12).

 

One of the best activities that I modeled was using the prompt book. Of all of the Folger activities, this is probably my favorite because it can be modified easily for any reading you do in the classroom.

 

More can be found here: Editing as Close-Reading: Cutting and Performing Complex Texts

 

For our Senior teachers, we used a version of the prompt book/tableaux for students to break down their reading of Paradise Lost. Each group was in charge of creating a tableau for the section of the poem. I  gave the teacher my special “prop box” filled with random wigs, costumes, and other props. Eventually, my prop box was passed throughout the English hallway as students did prompt books on Jane Eyre, King Lear, and Taming of the Shrew.

 

For one of our staff developments,  I  modified the prompt book for each grade level’s drama selection: Antigone, Streetcar Named Desire, and Macbeth/Hamlet. The teacher’s loved this activity because it was a new way to look at close reading. We are inundated with data that suggests close reading is the best activity for students, but many teachers have a hard time teaching this and keeping their students engaged. Prompt books not only teach the necessary skills for close reading (identifying key elements, tone, character) but they also keep the students engaged. My students have never had more fun than when they were performing their cut scenes, chapters, sections of a text.

Students close read The Masque of the Red Death (Image: Greta Brasgalla)

Students close read The Masque of the Red Death (Image: Greta Brasgalla)

Finally,  I  was also in charge of planning our Fall Intersession. This is a week long session to remediate students who have failed state assessments. These are our most at-risk students. They don’t want to be at school during vacation and they pose disciplinary challenges. Even though these students need the most engaging lessons, remediation most often entails lots of worksheets and boring seatwork.  I  resolved that we would change that this year. I  paired our English teachers with our Theater teacher and each level did a prompt book and performance of an Edgar Allan Poe story. We combined each short story with a poem as well. The kids had a great time and guess what? No discipline issues. We also got them to do a close reading of a very difficult piece of literature. Below is a picture of their performance of The Masque of the Red Death.

 

Next time you want students to tackle a scene (Shakespeare or otherwise), consider using a prompt book activity. Get out your own prop box and watch the magic happen!

 

Greta Brasgalla is an English Curriculum and Intervention Coach at El Dorado High School in El Paso, Texas.

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By Folger Education

 

In February, when the Folger launched its exciting new website, we posted our first set of revamped teaching modules, which include assessment ideas, writing prompts and technology tools (where appropriate), and connections to the Common Core Anchor Standards for English. Just this week, we posted another round of great teaching modules: this time, on Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Shakespeare's Sonnets, Folger Edition (Image: Folger Library)

Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Folger Edition (Image: Folger Library)

 

If you’re thinking about teaching the sonnets next school year—or maybe even this summer—check out these lessons below, which spring from the work of Dr. Louisa Newlin and Gigi Bradford with the Folger’s “Shakespeare’s Sisters” program, a semester-long seminar on poetry for local high school students. Try these out with your students and let us know how they go!

 

  1. Easing into Shakespeare with a Modern Sonnet
  2. Petrarch, Father of the Sonnet
  3. Close Reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets
  4. The English Sonnet: Michael Drayton
  5. Sonnet Performances: Shakespeare’s Sonnets as Scripts

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By Angela Ward

 

“Ay, is it not a language I speak?”

All’s Well That Ends Well 2.3

 

As a drama and US history teacher in Southern California, I use a cross-curricular approach to Shakespeare because of my passionate belief that Shakespeare connects us, to our past, to ourselves, and to each other. This acting centered, ELL-based approach to Shakespeare and history requires two to three class periods.  The real quest for me is to inspire students to understand how and why Shakespeare is relevant.  The overlying goal that I have as a teacher is to convince students that Shakespeare is universally important for everyone, and speaks to all of us, regardless of our home language.

In any language, students speak and learn at their best when they feel safe, connected and loved, so we connect with each other using basic acting/theatre warm up exercises.  We warm up the facial muscles, especially the “articulators”, by making crazy faces, instructing students to chew imaginary bubble gum in various sizes, yawn, make noises by blowing air, and finally graduating to a “WOW” sound.  When the students can put different meanings into the “WOW” sounds, I place them with a partner to learn a Shakespearean greeting, and then instruct them to put different actions behind their greetings.  We’ll switch partners, and learn a word or phrase from the Shakespeare text I am introducing that day, using the same process.

Students performing Shakespeare in Angela Ward's class. (Image: Angela Ward)

Students performing Shakespeare in Angela Ward’s class. (Image: Angela Ward)

This serves as a vocal warm-up, and a simple physical warm-up follows.  We conclude the warm-up phase with a “rhythm exercise”, which involves clapping and stomping out a beat, then adding a new, longer text to the beat. If I am teaching a unit on slavery, I use Frederick Douglass’ favorite play: Othello.  Students are “feeling” the rhythm of the text in their bodies while learning lines – without worrying about correct pronunciation or what the text is “supposed” to mean.  They are focused on working together, and staying in rhythm.  After succeeding, we look at the acting adage I have written in large letters on the white board:  “IT’S NOT THE WORDS…IT’S THE ACTION BEHIND THE WORDS!”  Students then choose an action, which they perform while speaking the text they’ve now memorized.  Wild group applause (and laughter) follows each effort!

Next, the group assembles with highlighters, pencils, and graphic organizers.  I provide a list of cognates, signal words, homophones, and synonyms students will find as we read together, along with a character map. There is no need to provide a vocabulary list for words in the scene: students use context clues, and, if necessary, glosses on the left-hand side of their Folger editions. If I am teaching a unit on slavery, as mentioned above, I pass out copies of a scene – or lines — from Othello, along with a class copy of the Folger Othello. Students are encouraged to highlight and mark up their texts. I introduce Frederick Douglass, with pictures and illustrations. I explain that Shakespeare was his favorite author and invite students to make connections between selected passages from both Douglass and Shakespeare.

Then we really dig into Othello. The scene we now read includes the lines they’ve memorized earlier. Working with a partner, students read aloud to each other.  They speculate why Frederick Douglass loved the play. They analyze the scene and agree upon an “action behind the words”.  We then look at pictures of Frederick Douglass, and his home – where a picture of Othello hung over his fireplace.  We look at images of slavery in America, and read excerpts from Douglass’ autobiography.  We consider the similarities and differences between Othello’s experience as an African in Venetian society and Douglass’ experience as an African American in antebellum America. We create a graphic of words and images from the Othello text that relate to our study of Douglass. Students draw character maps of Frederick Douglass’ life during the particular period we’ve studied from his autobiography, using the Othello character map as a blueprint.

Finally, students share their discoveries in a way that feels comfortable. They choose a performance, or they share their decorated map or graphic. The purpose of this lesson is to introduce big questions around slavery and identity, increase vocabulary, and improve critical thinking and reading skills.  My greater goal is to inspire an appetite for Shakespeare and make connections with his work!

 

Angela Ward holds an MFA in theatre, and did post graduate work with the Royal National Theatre in London, and Playwrights Horizons, New York. She attended a Folger teacher training at the University of Nebraska, and runs a high school theatre department, in addition to teaching United States history, and various ESL classes at a Southern California high school.

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