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Archive for the ‘TSI’ Category

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 Jill Burdick-Zupancic

 

Midterms.

This word always evokes a bit of panic in my mind. It feels like some kind of “super assessment” I’m expected to give to my students. Even in my seventh year as an educator, it’s a jarring word; however, the past three years, since my experience at the Teaching Shakespeare Institute at the Folger, I’ve started to look at this time of year a little differently.

Of course as English teachers, we want our students reading closely and analyzing text for something – characterization, big questions, effects of figurative language, etc… – and this is the time of year, through Shakespeare, that I assess how far we’ve come from those first days in September. If you’re familiar with the education department at the Folger, or you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve heard “close reading through performance” before. Every year, at midterm time, the power of this statement is solidified for me.

At the time I’m writing this blog, we’re through Act IV of Macbeth. I spend a lot of time with film versions of the play throughout our study, this year it’s Polanski, the Folger production, and Goold’s version for PBS, and while we never watch anything straight through, we’ll look at a specific scene (the opening witches scene, the “dagger” soliloquy, Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene) in each version.

I remind the students that each of these directors has made conscious and analytical decisions regarding anything from movement, facial expressions, pacing and pauses when delivering the lines, costumes, body language, and so on. Now through Act IV, the students do a stellar job identifying choices that these director’s make and discussing why, in the context of the play as a whole, they’re made. (more…)

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By Mark Miazga

It’s January 6th and many people are celebrating epiphanies today. In keeping with this theme, I’m sharing with you a life-changing discovery I made in my own classroom: a teaching epiphany.

I teach at a large urban public high school in Baltimore City, and, like many large public high schools, we find ourselves placed under a microscope that examines our students’ scores on externally assessed tests and puts them all over the front page of the newspaper.

My district, my superintendent, and my principal all feel pressure to showcase strong test scores, and, of course, as a classroom instructor, I feel this pressure too. Indeed, my annual evaluation and salary are partially tied to how well my students perform on standardized tests.

Because of this, a few years ago, I began the process of pushing away some of my “fun” activities in class. No more, for example, putting Friar Lawrence on trial in my 9th grade classroom for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, or acting out all of August Wilson’s Fences in class. There just wasn’t enough time for these “extra and fun” activities anymore; there was too much to do, too many assessments for which to prepare. (more…)

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Folger Shakespeare Library

Folger Shakespeare Library

By Mark Miazga

When I started my career, Shakespeare intimidated me. I became an English teacher in part to share my love of reading with students, but I never had loved reading Shakespeare.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but my entire 13 years of public and Catholic schooling in both southwest Michigan and suburban Detroit yielded just one Shakespeare play: a reading of Macbeth in the 10th grade.

And, even though I devoured books and mainly loved English classes, the experience with Shakespeare wasn’t a good one; I remember sitting in rows, reading the play aloud, my teacher explaining lines afterwards. Nothing else.

Flash forward a few years, and I’m a high school English teacher on my own in a large urban school in Baltimore City. I held my own, for the most part, but my teaching of Shakespeare felt like the weakness in my game.

Even though I used the Shakespeare Set Free series at times, I didn’t feel confident enough to take many of the risks that the series entailed. I spent way too much time trying to make kids understand the plot, and devoted much of my energy to explaining lines, just like that uninspiring teacher I had in the 10th grade.

By the end of the unit, I think my students could probably describe some foreshadowing or celestial imagery in Romeo and Juliet, but were they any more confident in reading Shakespeare the next time they picked up a play? Would they be going to a Shakespeare play on their own when it one was being performed around town? What would they remember about their experience with reading Shakespeare 10 years from now? It was definitely “not much”.

So I applied to the 2008 Teaching Shakespeare Institute, describing much of what I just told you: that Teaching Shakespeare was a bit scary to me and I wanted to be a better Shakespeare teacher.

And the four weeks here at the Folger changed my teaching life and continue to have an impact on my students and me every single unit that I teach.  (more…)

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Gabriel Fernandez

Gabriel Fernandez

Before the 2014  Teaching Shakespeare Institute began, we did a couple blog posts with some reflections from TSI alumni from 2010 and 1991.

Now, with the 2014 TSI behind us but still fresh in our minds, we’d like to share another set of reflections from a TSI alum, Gabriel Fernandez, who participated in the 2012 program.

Gabriel teaches for the Upward Bound program for future first generation college students in San Antonio, TX, at Palo Alto College and is currently developing a Shakespeare program for Boystown in San Antonio and the Juvenile Corrections Center in San Antonio. He has taught at the high school level for five years.

Here are some of his answers to the questions we asked.

How did TSI change the way you teach?

TSI made me more perceptive of my students’ needs in regards to Shakespeare and more engaging as a teacher of his works. It also brought me closer to the eternal questions that he continues to ask of every generation.

(more…)

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What is it about the Teaching Shakespeare Institute that led one alumnus to describe it as “the best way on the planet to learn more about Shakespeare and become a better teacher”?

We’re proud of the 30-year milestone that TSI reached this year, proud of the impact it’s made on American education since the first summer institute in 1984, and proud of the legacy it’s created.

And we’re proud of the latest crop of teachers to go through our program! We’d like to share some photos of the 25 educators who spent four weeks at the Folger this summer. What an amazing time for all!

These photos show teachers collaborating together, learning from scholars, investigating primary source material in the Folger’s Reading Rooms, challenging themselves with performance-based teaching techniques, and using technology to build effective classroom material.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

See even more photos in our Flickr gallery.

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As we draw near to the end of the first week of TSI, we wanted to give you a glimpse into how things are going so far.

The days are just packed! Our TSI teachers have acted on the Folger stage, looked through rare materials in our Reading Room, interacted with scholars in focused seminars, worked through curriculum ideas, and much more.

(more…)

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