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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Miazga’

By Danielle Drakes

 

“High School teachers, you are the keepers of the flame.” – Dr. Peggy O’Brien, Director of Education

Two Brains Running

 

 

Earlier this month, the Folger Shakespeare Library collaborated with WQED’s August Wilson Project on a event sponsored by PNC Bank focused on teaching August Wilson and William Shakespeare right alongside.

 

The day included:

Building the Instructor’s Library: Key References for Teaching August Wilson. Presentation by Dr. Sandra G. Shannon, Founder of the August Wilson Society and Professor, Department of English, Howard University.

 

Wilson and Shakespeare in Your Classroom. Presentation and Resource Packet by Teaching Shakespeare Institute alums Mark Miazga (2008) and Amber Phelps (2012), Teachers of English, Baltimore City College High School, Baltimore, MD.

 

Reflections and Perspectives on Wilson. Q & A with Riley Temple, Lawyer, Activist, and Co-Founder of True Colors Theatre Company.

 

Two Bards Ranting. An active language workshop using text from Wilson’s King Hedley II and Shakespeare’s Hamlet led by Caleen Sinnette Jennings, Playwright and Professor of Theatre, American University.

 

Documentary screening: August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand. Introduced by Deesha Philyaw, Manager, The August Wilson Education Project.

 

August Wilson quote

 

Are you teaching Wilson and Shakespeare, let us know!

 

Want to know more?  Check out Teaching Shakespeare Institute alum Mark Miazga’s wrap up, Epiphany in Baltimore.

 

Stay tuned for digital versions of our resources from this amazing day of professional learning!

 

Danielle Drakes is a theater practitioner in Washington, DC and manager of school programs at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

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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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Join us as we add to our list of summer reading recommendations by English teachers and for English teachers!


brian-boyd-lyricsCorinne Viglietta, an English teacher with BASIS DC in Washington, DC, offers these selections:

– My first pick is Brian Boyd’s Why Lyrics Last: Evolution, Cognition, and Shakespeare’s Sonnets. We all love the plays, but Boyd reminds us why Shakespeare’s sonnets are worth teaching, too. Drawing on psychology and history, Boyd argues that the sonnets reject narrative form in order to explore “the possibilities of verse without stories.” What I like most about Boyd’s approach is its emphasis on close, line-by-line reading, especially reading for patterns. Students working on explications of complex verse can look to this book not just for exemplars but for a celebration of the power of the lyric.

– My second pick is Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones. DC teachers will recognize the street names and landmarks in this now classic collection of short stories (often compared to Joyce’s Dubliners), but every reader can relate to these profoundly human tales of hope, loss, and community. “The First Day” is an unforgettable walk in a young student’s shoes. I remember feeling extremely honored to be an English teacher after I first read that story.


Mark Miazga, an English teacher in Baltimore, recommends these books:

– Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — a page-turning reflection on race, immigration, and identity. It feels like one of the first great novels about the internet age (blogging is a key component), yet it also has a timeless feel to it. Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet is a recent discovery as well–a moving, sprawling Australian family saga built with beautiful, lyrical language.

– A non-fiction book I recommend is the 2011 collection of James Baldwin’s writings released under the title The Cross of Redemption. It contains his essay “Why I Stopped Hating Shakespeare”, which is great, but, in general, I think he’s a major under-appreciated voice whose writing, especially his non-fiction, can be riveting and life-changing.


See our blog post from Tuesday for even more recommendations, and tell us about your own favorites in the comments below.

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By Mark Miazga

The International Baccalaureate (IB) English Higher Level curriculum and assessments are still an ideal place for Shakespeare, even though the revision of the curriculum a couple of years ago no longer makes his inclusion compulsory. While he does not fit into Part I Works in Translation of the curriculum (at least in an English speaking school), he works well in Detailed Study (Part II), Groups of Works (Part III), or Free Choice (Part IV).

I’ve been an IB English instructor for seven years, and have used Shakespeare plays each year, including Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, Othello, and Richard III. I currently use Shakespeare in Detailed Study, and Shakespeare is, of course, ideal for close study. Furthermore, IB is interested in students knowing the implications of the genres that they are studying: for example, how the study of a Drama is different than studying a novel or non-fiction. They are not interested, so much, in students being able to write essays about, say, celestial imagery in Romeo and Juliet or mirrors in Richard III. Instead, they want students to be able to analyze the choices that the playwright has made and how these choices create meaning.

With this in mind, putting students in the mind of the playwright – or a director or actor – is the best way to help students to do well on the IB assessments. The assessment for Detailed Study is a 10-minute oral discussion recorded with the teacher, and students will have to answer, without rehearsal or notes, authentic questions about the experience of reading the play. Therefore, putting students in authentic assessment experiences in the classroom – making them directors, letting them cut scenes, encouraging them to play around with the language and the setting, compelling them to think about and explain why they made the choices they made – is the best way to prepare students for an authentic 10-minute oral assessment about the play. (more…)

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