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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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With 2013 behind us, we review some of our most popular posts from the year:

How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare

Author Ken Ludwig introduces his children to Shakespeare using particular passages, which he puts in context for them and then has them memorize. His new book shares these techniques and strategies with parents and educators.

Centos: Mix and match!

A “centos” is a poem that has been created using lines from the works of other writers and is a form that has been around for almost two thousand years. Using Shakespeare quotes in these poems can be a fun activity for students.

Plays of Preference

Why is it that Shakespeare’s messy, uncomfortable plays stick with us so?

Is Shakespeare Literature?

“The beauty of learning Shakespeare through performance is that it provides students a deeply rigorous interaction with a complex text at the same time that it stimulates their creativity and their ability to problem-solve collaboratively. Oh, and yes — it’s a ton of fun.”

 

We also revisit some popular posts that, though written prior to 2013, still got plenty of views this year:

 

What were some of your favorite Making A Scene blog posts from 2013? What blog topics should we explore in 2014?

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We’re turning back the clock a few years, to revisit a blog post from Christmas 2009, written by Mike LoMonico. ‘Tis the season to be jolly and maybe think about Shakespeare.  Here are a few tidbits for your holiday pleasure.

(more…)

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Photo by Cathal McNaughton for Reuters

Photo by Cathal McNaughton for Reuters

The world welcomed the newest arrival to the British Royal Family yesterday, and now we know that Prince William and Duchess Catherine are taking their noble son home.

They haven’t announced the names of the baby, yet, so we’ll do some postulating from this side of the pond. After all, England is the land of Shakespeare, so we’ll look to our friend for some princely monikers:

(a modest selection from BabyCenter.com)

And from Will’s late play, Henry VIII (though this speech praises Elizabeth I, it is an appropriately hopeful speech for the young royal family):

Archbishop Cranmer

Let me speak, sir,
For heaven now bids me; and the words I utter
Let none think flattery, for they’ll find ’em truth.
This royal infant—heaven still move about her!—
Though in her cradle, yet now promises
Upon this land a thousand thousand blessings,
Which time shall bring to ripeness: she shall be—
But few now living can behold that goodness—
A pattern to all princes living with her,
And all that shall succeed: Saba was never
More covetous of wisdom and fair virtue
Than this pure soul shall be: all princely graces,
That mould up such a mighty piece as this is,
With all the virtues that attend the good,
Shall still be doubled on her: truth shall nurse her,
Holy and heavenly thoughts still counsel her:
She shall be loved and fear’d: her own shall bless her;
Her foes shake like a field of beaten corn,
And hang their heads with sorrow: good grows with her:
In her days every man shall eat in safety,
Under his own vine, what he plants; and sing
The merry songs of peace to all his neighbours:

Congratulations to William and Kate, and to the new baby prince – whom I, at least, will call Demetrius Jamy until I am told otherwise.

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ShakMag-logo-titl2

I was fortunate to be the co-founder and co-editor of Shakespeare Magazine, a publication of Georgetown University and Cambridge University Press. Together with my co-editor, Nancy Goodwin and later, Martha Harris, we were in existence from 1996 to 2003. Our audience was mainly teachers, but our reach extended to theater companies and the general public.

 Until recently, some of our archives lived on our Website, created and hosted by Amy Ulen. But alas, all things come to an end (or do they?) and the site was closed. But I managed to salvage the featured articles from the site, and I’ve posted some of my favorites below. I hope you enjoy them.

summer99

One of my favorite features of the magazine was the Broadsheet, located on the inside back cover. Simply stated, these were one-page, copy-ready handouts for teachers.  I’ve converted several of these to PDFs and posted them below. Check them out:

Exit lines
Irony
Early Modern Marriage
Aaron, the Moor
80 Odd Words
Throwing Lines
Othello Word Frequency
Rhyme

If any of you were subscribers, I’d love to hear from you, so do comment below.

winter97cover_ykld

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Shakespeare Uncovered

Image from PBS

Designer: Kevon Greene.

Image by Kevon Greene for PBS

By now, many of you readers have probably watched or recorded the first two episodes of Shakespeare Uncovered on PBS. As Caitlin Griffin wrote in her blog entry on January 17, the broadcast details are:

January 25th, 9-11pm EST: Macbeth with Ethan Hawke and The Comedies with Jolie Richardson.

February 1, 9-11pm EST: Richard II, with Derek Jacobi and Henry IV, and Henry V with Jeremy Irons.

February 8, 9-11pm EST: Hamlet with David Tennant and The Tempest hosted by Trevor Nunn.

Designer: Karen Brazell.

Image by Karen Brazell for PBS

But the good news is that each of the hour-long shows will be available for streaming at the Shakespeare Uncovered site after they are broadcast, so if you missed the Macbeth or Comedies episodes, stream away.

But what you probably don’t know is that several Folger Education folks served on WNET’s Education Advisory panel. I was lucky enough to be part of this panel along with Peggy O’Brien, Kevin Costa, Josh Cabat, and Sue Biondo-Hench. We were joined by Joan Langley from Oregon Shakespeare, Chris Anthony from LA Shakespeare Center, and Bill Heller from Teaching Matters.

In addition to previewing all six episodes and spending a day at WNET’s headquarters in NYC, several of our group created lesson plans for the PBS site. And Peggy O’Brien has written some fabulous Teacher Viewing Guides for all six episodes (as of now on the first two are available.)

The PBS site also has a two activities: “Which Shakespeare Character are You?” (Apparently, I am Rosalind?) and “Anatomy of a Scene.”

So now we’d like to hear from you. Tell us what you think of the shows, and more importantly, how you might use the videos and lesson plans with your students.

Image from PBS

Designer: Karen Brazell.

Image by Karen Brazell for PBS

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Isaac Taylor after Henry Howard. Timon of Athens. Act 4. Scene 1. Without the Walls of Athens – Timon. Engraving, 1803. Shelfmark PR2752 1807c C.4 V.7 Sh.Col.

Folger Education was part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s World Shakespeare Festival Conference last September, presenting a workshop, participating in a symposium on using technology in teaching Shakespeare, and represented on a panel discussing Shakespeare.  It was an energizing and inspiring conference.  While we were in London, my colleague and I had the opportunity to see Timon of Athens at the National Theatre.  The production was part of the World Shakespeare Festival, a celebration of William Shakespeare as the world’s playwright.  My reaction after seeing the performance was that it was too bad that more people wouldn’t get to see such an incredible production — and see Simon Russell Beale, who has been called the “greatest stage actor of his generation.”  So, imagine my joy when I discovered that the production will be available in selected theaters in the US on November 1st.  This is a production not to be missed.  The Guardian called the play, “A fable about the toxic nature of a ruthlessly commercialised world.”  The play is directed by Nicholas Hytner, and Time Out wrote that Hytner “… hurls Timon into the 21st century….”  This is a play not often staged, and one that will resonate with audiences in the States.  A list of broadcast locations is available. When you see it, or if you teach it now, it would be great to get your take on its relevance for students and/or to today’s audiences.

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