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Posts Tagged ‘Introducing Shakespeare’

By Gina Voskov

Julia Marlowe playbill for Columbia Theatre, Brooklyn, March 27, 1893. (Folger Collection)

Julia Marlowe playbill for Columbia Theatre, Brooklyn, March 27, 1893. (Folger Collection)

 

NYC teacher and Folger National Teacher Corps member Gina Voskov is back with the third installment in her series “Inside the Classroom,” in which her students share their experiences with Shakespeare at different points throughout their Twelfth Night unit. You can read the first installment here.

 

We are about five classes into Twelfth Night, and, as promised, my three 7th graders, Won Jae, Lois, and Alexandra, are back with some reflections about the opening of the unit. Enjoy!


 

Won Jae: Now that I think of it, Shakespeare isn’t that bad. As I said before, Shakespeare always used to bore me, and I didn’t think very importantly of it. But the thing is, after I had a few lessons of Shakespeare, I didn’t think it was as bad as I thought it would be. One of my favorite things we did in the beginning of our unit was the first one, when we tried to say the word, “O” in many different tones. I was surprised to see how different it can sound when we try to say the word in a different tone! For example, when we tried to say the word in an excited way, the tone became very high-pitched, while when we tried to say “O” in a tired way, we dragged the word in a low pitched voice. I believe that this exercise was used to train our voices so when we read Shakespeare, we can use various tones.

However, my favorite activity was when we did this activity called, “Slugs versus Clods”. It was when our class broke into two groups, and we had a script to follow, and they were full of insults that were used during Shakespeare’s time. We were supposed to state the insults as one whole group, but tension built up and people started to raise their voices and stop following the script. The thing I’m really looking forward to is acting out the play, which will be the final for our Shakespeare unit. I hope that we do a lot of acting in the future while we continuously read and learn about Shakespeare.

 

 

Lois: Twelfth Night is the play being learned in class and my experience with it grows every time. In class, we’re learning about stressing words and the tone used when reading from Shakespeare’s play, as well as understanding its context, scene blocking and doing many other activities. The activity I liked and seemed easy was “If music be the food of love, play on!” This line comes from the character called Orsino, who believes that if music is feeding his love for Lady Olivia, then let the music keep playing. Our class had replaced the words “music” and “love” to our own words and what we think this blank would ‘feed’ what. (For example: “If Netflix be the food of relaxation, binge on!”)

I also liked the activity of journaling, answering two questions: The first question was “What does it mean to be lovesick?” and the second was “How do people act when they’re in love?” I liked this one because we got to answer in a way that makes us think about love and how people would think about it and their actions. Also, it made us think about how Orsino felt about Lady Olivia.

An activity I thought seemed difficult was the complements. It was difficult for me because the words written on the sheet were unknown to me and there was so many. Hence, it wasn’t easy to make sense of the words and form a correct sentence that could be understood. However, the work done helped me in ways to read and learn more on Twelfth Night by knowing that depending on tone and stress of words, it enables the audience to interpret many things. Further, learning chorally and individually helped me learn because thinking by ourselves makes us think deeper, and hearing other’s thoughts puts together a bigger picture for us.

 

 

 

Alexandra: Ms. Voskov introduced the unit by doing an activity to become familiar with the vowel ‘O’- an exclamation and way of conveying emotion that Shakespeare commonly uses. Having done a similar exercise before in my acting class, I was pretty curious to how the students in my class would respond. I definitely felt like there was a positive response when we went around the classroom reading a line from Shakespeare containing ‘O’. I was happy to see that most everyone really understood how Shakespeare had intended for the actor to read the line.  Another exercise that we have done so far, beginning the play Twelfth Night, is exploring the first line of Orsino’s soliloquy: “If music be the food of love, play on!” We then substituted ‘music’ for something else that we were passionate about and substituted ‘love’ for what our particular passion feeds. I really enjoyed this exercise. I had never done anything like it before, so it was really refreshing. Having seen this passage countless times before, I also definitely feel like I am now able to look at and understand it differently, already achieving a goal of mine when it comes to studying Shakespeare in class!

 

Gina Voskov is a 7th grade English teacher at the United Nations International School in New York City. She has taught English and Humanities for eleven years in public and private schools, in Connecticut, Brazil, and New York City. She is a Folger National Teacher Corps member and attended the Teaching Shakespeare Institute in 2012.

 

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By Gina Voskov

Act 1 from "Twelfth Night". (Photo: Folger Education)

Act 1 Scene 2 from “Twelfth Night”. (Photo: Folger Education)

NYC teacher and Folger National Teacher Corps member Gina Voskov is back with the second installment in her series “Inside the Classroom,” which takes us into her middle school classroom during a Shakespeare unit.

Today, we hear Gina’s perspective as teacher, and Thursday, we’ll hear from her students. You can read the first installment here.

 


 

So we’ve begun our unit on Twelfth Night, a play I love but haven’t taught before. My colleague and I are looking through the Shakespeare Set Free teacher book for ideas, but, like much of what guides what I do in the classroom—as I imagine it does for you, too—this most recent idea came from a student.

 

I asked everyone to buy copies of the Folger edition of the play. Our end goal is to perform a scene of students’ choosing, so I wanted them to own the book to write in. As we were looking over the opening lines, I noticed one boy slyly holding his copy up higher and more awkwardly than everyone else. Snaking my way behind him, I saw he had a brand new copy of the “No Fear Twelfth Night” hidden inside the Folger edition. When he saw I’d discovered his not-so-sneaky antics, I asked him if I could hold onto the book: there was some studying I needed to do.

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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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In honor of #ThrowBackThursday, we’re sharing one of the more popular videos from our Teaching Shakespeare series.

Sue Biondo-Hench, a curriculum specialist (and alumna) of the Folger’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute and an English teacher at Carlisle High School for more than 29 years, often starts off a new Shakespeare unit by having students explore character and motive using a key passage of text—sometimes just a single line.

 


“What makes Interpreting Character such a successful exercise,” says Biondo-Hench, “is its multiple points of focus. Students explore a play-specific character, engage in performance-based methods for interpreting the text, and learn how Shakespeare’s language allows for multiple meanings”.

Interpreting Character uses scenes from Henry IV, Part 1  and centers on Prince Hal, but the exercise works equally well for any Shakespeare play—or any other play!

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By Kevin Costa

Whenever I begin a Shakespeare play with my students in my two-year course, The Institute for Shakespeare and Renaissance Studies at McDonogh School, I get the class working on text from just about Day One. I don’t spend a lot of time setting up with talk about Shakespeare’s life or with the history of the period — there’s plenty of time for that later, if at all.

Owiso Odera (Othello) and Ian Merrill Peakes (Iago), Othello, directed by Robert Richmond, Folger Theatre, 2011. Photo by Carol Pratt.

Owiso Odera (Othello) and Ian Merrill Peakes (Iago), Othello, directed by Robert Richmond, Folger Theatre, 2011. Photo by Carol Pratt.

When I first started this course, I would choose the play we’d cover for two years, but this fall I took a different approach. My students and I looked through the Complete Works, and we read bits and pieces of plays that I thought they might like. This year, I think we may have looked at the moment in Othello where Iago helps convince Othello that Desdemona has been unfaithful (3.3). Then we also read through the two scenes in Measure for Measure where Angelo propositions Isabella to sleep with him (2.2 & 2.4).

If you have a choice of play from which to chose, this is a compelling way to have students own their experience from the get-go. In other words, get students hooked by offering some of a play’s “greatest hits.” Once they have a taste of something they like, they’ll certainly want more since a well-chosen scene can really awaken their curiosity for the whole work.

If you don’t have a choice in play, that’s no problem at all. Here are some ideas for some of the most-taught titles.

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Folger Library Exterior: Bas relief: Julius Caesar

by Gina Voskov

One of the courses I teach at my school is 6th grade Humanities, and next up in our year’s curriculum plan is learning about Ancient Greece and Rome. I’m excited about getting the kids up and out of their seats for this class, and the best way I can do that is by getting them to interact with Shakespeare.

For this unit, I’ll be giving them some Julius Caesar, the Cinna the Poet scene in particular. This scene never fails to get all kids speaking, thinking, and moving. It’s also just about the easiest scene in the books with respect to language–there’s none of that stuff that turns so many kids away–the thee‘s and thine‘s and whatnot. I love giving this scene to groups of kids at the start of the year because it’s a great way to build community. But now that we are 3/4ths of the way through the year, I’m going to open our unit with performance. This scene will definitely have them asking questions about history, which is what we teachers hope for, right? (more…)

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As you probably know, April 23 is Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, and the Folger Education staff wants to get everyone involved in the celebration. So we are hosting a Balcony Scene Flash Mob Festival. It’s simple. It’s fun.  And it will get a lot of people speaking Shakespeare.

UNCWe hope to get groups from all across the country to take part.

So please join us! (more…)

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