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Posts Tagged ‘Introducing Shakespeare’

By Scott O’Neil

 

Hotspur Wordcloud

Over the summer, the Rochester Community Players decided to try something we had never done before—put together a Shakespeare-specific summer youth program. Peter Scribner, president of the RCP’s Shakespeare Players, envisioned from the start a program that would have Rochester kids out doing Shakespeare, rather than passively reading the text. To implement this plan, he brought in a mixture of scholars and performers, with the result being a camp that reflects many of the Folger Library’s central philosophies.

 

Our inaugural year was focused on the creation of a high-school internship program, to run concurrently with our long-standing free Shakespeare in the Highland Park Bowl series, which featured a double header this summer—1 and 2 Henry IV. As part of our new program, our interns were able to engage with theatrical and academic approaches to Shakespeare as well as technical stage practices.  Our interns were with us from set-construction to closing night, including a two-week intensive where we met during the day to occupy the stage.

 

Our focus from the beginning was making sure that the experience was meaningful and fun (Peter specifically did not want the interns to ever feel like they were sitting in a classroom). We designed every activity to encourage that feeling of “doing” rather than “receiving” Shakespeare. Whether we were engaging with the plays academically (table reading, scene comparisons, exploring a First Folio facsimile or analyzing monologues) or theatrically (diction activities, projection, stage combat, or costume design), our focus was always on enjoying the language. When we worked on staging a monologue, for example, the interns used word cloud versions of their self-selected monologues to help think about them in different ways.  When they worked on diction, they attempted to recite their lines while holding corks in their mouths.

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By Deirdre DeLoatch

 

Image:

Image: Deirdre DeLoatch

This summer I had the privilege of participating in the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute: Summer Academy. During this week-long intensive program, I was given multiple strategies for teaching Shakespeare’s Hamlet and other Shakespearean works.

 

I learned that I should allow the students to perform scenes according to how they interpret the language. I should give them freedom to both direct and edit the scenes so that they will have more ownership in their individual performances. As a result of both the Academy’s suggestions and encouragement, I will no longer have a select group of students take individual parts and have the students read those parts while the other students in the class sit passively without paying attention to the text.

 

Before the first day of class, I was determined to have my class use performance when reading literature, whether it’s Shakespeare, or any other author. Knowing that my incoming seniors would have had no prior experience with Shakespeare, I thought Romeo and Juliet would work well. I also decided that I wanted all of my children to study it. The class that I knew would possibly challenge me the most would be my Integrated Co-teaching (ICT) class. Some of these students have processing disorders, developmental delay, dyslexia, and other disabilities. As a result, I decided to implement language-based, performance-rich lessons while scaffolding the text for them to dispel any anxiety or discomfort while both studying and reading the text.

 

On the first day of class, my co-teacher and I began teaching Romeo and Juliet to our twelfth grade ICT class. After dispensing with only a few formalities, we had the students form two lines in the middle of the classroom. We first asked the students about their prior knowledge of the play. About half of them had some general knowledge of the play. Next, we told the students that we were going to read the Prologue, but that each student was going to read a line of the Prologue. We read the Prologue three times to enhance their understanding of the text (for vocabulary development, we discussed some of the unfamiliar worlds and looked at word roots for some of the terms including prologue). We then asked three students to read individually the entire prologue. Lastly, we asked a series of questions to determine their comprehension. We asked the students to support their answers with evidence from the text and to rewrite the Prologue, for homework, using colloquial language. At that point, their eyes lit up and many of them became excited because we were allowing them to rewrite the Prologue in their own words. As they did this, they were close reading the original language. (more…)

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By Aleksander Zywicki

Alex Zywicki in front of the Folger. (Image: Alex Zywicki)

Aleks Zywicki in front of the Folger. (Image: Aleks Zywicki)

 

This past July, I had the great fortune of attending the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Summer Academy in Washington, D.C.

 

There, I attended lectures given by master teachers and scholars; I played the part of the Ghost in a performance of Act One of Hamlet; I held—in these two hands—Walt Whitman’s copy of the Sonnets, a letter written and signed by Henry David Thoreau, and an authentic First Folio; though, mostly, I learned in a way that I had not, in years.

 

I cannot honestly say that I have ever learned during the typical professional development opportunities that I have been offered. I have never been inspired by a webinar, nor have I been pushed towards daring, original thoughts during a mandatory workshop. I have been informed of products. I was told about strategies.

 

However, teachers know what learning looks and feels like and it does not resemble the buying and selling of a gimmick. It requires a seemingly impossible level of concentration, desire, fear and motivation. It demands that a person grow comfortable with continuously dismantling an intricate and delicate level of understanding that had once been declared, “finished,” only to be rebuilt again, and again.

 

Throughout my education I was taught to want to learn and that experience made me want to teach others to do the same. When I left Washington, I felt confident in my ability to do so, in a way that I had never known before.

 

***

 

What had convinced me so thoroughly that the skills I was learning at the Folger could lead to authentic learning for my students, was that they emphasized student engagement with Shakespeare’s words—not a watered down alternative to his words; not theories that attempt to unravel his words; just his words.

 

One of the lessons I appreciated most is titled “3-D Shakespeare.” It gets students right inside a scene, and puts that scene on its feet.

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By David Fulco

 

Students performing the Dumb Show from Hamlet . (Image: David Fulco)

Students performing the Dumb Show from Hamlet . (Image: David Fulco)

At the end of TSI 2014, I made a pledge that I would not read the syllabus to my class on the first day of school.

 

After a summer collaborating with some of the most innovative teachers in the country, it did seem a shame that I would return to my classroom and fall back into the trap, albeit a safe trap, of

going over rules and regulations, expectations and procedures on that first day.

 

Couldn’t the first 45 minutes of the year be used for a better purpose? Shouldn’t the first 45 minutes of the year be used for a better purpose?

 

(What does it say about me that I hear Peggy O’Brien’s voice in my head when I ask myself those questions before the start of each school year?)

 

For the past two years I have asked my 10th grade students at The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology in the South Bronx, New York City to perform Tableaux Vivants on the first day of school. As a reference for our still life poses, I use the original text of the Dumb Show from Hamlet (3.2.144-156). That the students aren’t familiar with Hamlet or won’t read Hamlet as sophomores, is not a problem. The Dumb Show stands alone, allowing you to discuss as much, or as little, about Hamlet as you would like.

 

What I do:

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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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