Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’

By Folger Education

We’re back with the second half of your summer reading recommendations. Be sure to read till the end for a bonus list!


Book Title Author
Portrait of a Lady Henry James
Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan Tiffany Stern
Romeo is Bleeding (Movie) Peter Medak
Room Emma Donoghue
Ruby Cynthia Bond
Savage Inequalities Jonathan Kozol
Secrets of Acting Shakespeare: The Original Approach Patrick Tucker
Shakespeare in Kabul Stephen Landrigan and Qais Akbar Omar
Shotgun Lovesongs Nickolas Butler
Siddhartha Herman Hesse
Slaughterhouse V Kurt Vonnegut
So We Read On Maureen Corrigan
Sons and Other Flammable Objects Porchista Khakpour
Speaker for the Dead Orson Scott Card
Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel
Teach as if Your Hair is on Fire Raif Esquith
Teach Like a Pirate Dave Burgess
The Alchemist Paulo Coelho
The Art of Racing in the Rain Garth Stein
The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Junot Diaz
The Cuckoo’s Calling Robert Galbraith
The Dinner Herman Koch
The Garden of Evening Mists Tan Twan Eng
The Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins
The Giving Tree Shel Silverstein
The God of Small Things Arundhati Roy
The Golden Bowl Henry James
The Golem and the Jinni Helene Wecker
The Grand Design Stephen Hawking
The Harry Potter series J.K. Rowling
The Hidden Girls of Kabul Jenny Nodberg
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Rebecca Skloot
The Invisible Man Ralph Ellison
The Kingdom of Ordinary Time Marie Howe
The Last Illusion Porchista Khakpour
The MaddAddam trilogy Margaret Atwood
The Mathematician’s Shiva Stuart Rojstaczer
The Mockingbird Next Door Marja Mills
The Neapolitan Novels Elena Ferrante
The Palace Walk Naguib Mahfouz
The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
The Rocks Peter Nichols
The Secret Life of William Shakespeare Jude Morgan
The Show Child Eowyn Ivey
The Six Wives of Henry VIII Alison Weir
The Smartest Kids in the World, and How They Got That Way Amanda Ripley
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle David Wroblewski
The Thirteenth Tale Diane Setterfield
The Universe in a Nutshell Stephen Hawking
The Weight of Blood Laura McHugh
The Woods Harlan Coben
Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII’s most Faithful  Servant Tracy Borman
Time and Again Jack Finney
Ulysses James Joyce
Unbroken Laura Hillenbrand
War and Peace Leonid Tolstoy
What it is Lynda Barry
What She Left Behind Ellen Wiseman
White Oleander Janet Fitch
White Teeth Zadie Smith
Wings of the Dove Henry James
Year of Wonders Geraldine Brooks



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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 Sara Lehn

Teachers have long taken advantage of students’ love of music as a tool for the classroom, writing catchy tunes to act as mnemonic devices, playing educational songs and music videos, and so on.  Watch students in the hallway or cafeteria and you will inevitably find them with headphones blaring, blocking out the world.

As a singer, music speaks to me because of how it reflects the raw emotion of the human soul, and had you asked me at the age of seventeen what song best defined who I was, I could have answered quickly and without hesitation with a choice that clearly illustrated my mindset at the time.

I find that many of my students have an equally personal connection to their music. As a result, I have started to consider the ways that music can be used in the classroom as a tool to reflect the most human part of literature: the characters.

I ask students a simple question: what song represents this character the way your “anthem” represents you?  There is no wrong answer to this question, but a thoughtful response requires careful character study and exploration of textual evidence.  Students need to consider questions such as:

  • What does this character want?
  • What matters most to this character?
  • What emotions does this character most prominently feel?
  • What are the most significant personality traits that the character exhibits?

These questions can instigate a thoughtful and deep exploration of characterization within the text.  Students may also decide that more than one song choice is necessary, as characters frequently change and develop from one moment to the next. (more…)

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The Folger has just added Shakespeare’s sonnets and poems to Folger Digital Texts, which means that the complete works of Shakespeare as edited by the Folger Shakespeare Library are now available online for free. (Bonanza for teachers!)

Alberto Sangorski. Songs and Sonnets by William Shakespeare. Manuscript, 1926. Folger Shakespeare Library.

Alberto Sangorski. Songs and Sonnets by William Shakespeare. Manuscript, 1926. Folger Shakespeare Library.


Using Folger Digital Texts, you can read and search the sonnets, Lucrece, The Phoenix and the Turtle, and Venus and Adonis. It’s the same familiar text as the one that appears in the Folger Editions, so you can be confident that everything’s been vetted by the experts.

Do you need some ideas for teaching the sonnets? You can find a variety of lesson plans on the Folger website.

As for the other three poems, here’s some good contextual material to rely on:


Shakespeare’s long poem Lucrece takes place as Rome becomes a republic. As a minor epic (a popular genre in Shakespeare’s time), it centers on figures of seemingly secondary importance: Sextus Tarquinius, the king’s son, and Lucrece, the wife of his friend. (Read more)

The Phoenix and the Turtle

The poem by Shakespeare now known as “The Phoenix and Turtle,” or “The Phoenix and the Turtle,” was first printed with no title; it was one of several additional poems in the 1601 publication of a long poem by Robert Chester. In the classical tradition, the mythical phoenix consumes itself in fire, from the ashes of which another phoenix is born. In Shakespeare’s poem, the phoenix is female and the turtle (that is, a turtledove) is male. (Read more)

Venus and Adonis

With Venus and Adonis, Shakespeare launched his career as a poet. The poem is a minor epic, a genre that many poets in the 1590s chose for their first efforts. Characters in a minor epic usually come from the periphery of myth or legend; its interest is in eroticism, sophistication, and wit. Within this genre, Venus and Adonis was so successful that it was Shakespeare’s most popular published work throughout his lifetime. (Read more)

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2013 Secondary Festival

As the 2014 Teaching Shakespeare Institute approaches the end of its third week, we return to Dan Bruno’s NCTE High School Matters blog, where he has been busy sharing some of the insights he’s gleaned from TSI sessions.

Here’s an excerpt from a blog post in which Dan reviews some maxims for guiding students through performance-based learning in the classroom.

This scene is your whole play: this further reinforces the Folger philosophy that close reading on one’s feet does not require the teaching of a whole play; focus on what the scene shows us about the people in it, etc.

All plays are contemporary: despite the original context of the play, students bring their own cultural contexts and personal contexts to the plays they are reading; validating those contexts validates the student and builds confidence

Characters are defined by what they do, not what they say: helping students focus on action eases some of the anxiety with the foreign quality of the language

Words can convey many meanings: What do you mean when you say it?: this one reminds students that they have choice and ownership over their readings of the text while validating that there is no one way to play it

What does the script tell us, NOT what would we like it to tell us?: this one reminds students that everything they need to know is on this page; there is no secret code to reading Shakespeare

Dialogue is action-oriented: all utterances have a goal behind them, even if that goal is to be left alone; understanding these helps link performance movement choice to how the line is read

Good plays are about human behavior: this one links to the previous one; how do people behave when they are in specific contexts attempting to gain specific desires

You cannot play themes or literary tropes: these things are great for the world of literary analysis, but alien to the world of the actor; people don’t consider themes when they are trying to bed lovers or destroy rivals; themes arise from our reflection on those events

Do you have anything to add? What are maxims that you communicate to your students when they are doing performance-based, language-centered learning? Tell us in the comments.

Read the full blog post at NCTE High School Matters.

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Harvard University professor Stephen Greenblatt knows a lot about Shakespeare. He’s the author of “Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare,” and he came to the Folger Shakespeare Library this spring to participate in a research conference on “Shakespeare and the Problem of Biography.” But Greenblatt did not immediately latch on to the Bard in his student days. As he put it recently in an interview with the Harvard Gazette:

I was no child prodigy. In fact, I encountered “As You Like It” in Miss Gillespie’s eighth-grade class — and it seemed like the worst, most boring thing I ever read in my life. I can still remember the shudder with which I received the words “Sweet my coz, be merry.” I just didn’t get it at all. So it’s not like I awakened as a child to the wonders of Shakespeare.

Stephen Greenblatt

Stephen Greenblatt at the “Shakespeare and the Problem of Biography” conference at the Folger Shakespeare Library, April 2014. Photo by Teresa Wood.

Later in the Q&A, we learn which Shakespeare plays Greenblatt would rather have studied in middle school, how videos can make a difference in the English classroom, and at what moment the Bard was reclaimed in Greenblatt’s imagination. (more…)

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By Sue Biondo-Hench

My students have told me that studying and performing Shakespeare has made them better readers of all literature and better writers, stronger individuals and stronger leaders.

But how do we assess this growth?

There is no standardized assessment that truly measures this type of learning. And that’s an issue that challenges the credibility and viability of performance-based instruction.

When I was first asked to provide a workshop on Shakespeare and assessment last fall, I was a bit disappointed. I mean, assessment isn’t what gets me to school in the morning. But truthfully, I think about assessment all the time as I work with students and performance; it is at all stages of what I do with students. I just didn’t realize it until I began to think about what I wanted to share at that workshop.

One of the realities of assessment is that it has the power to scaffold, stabilize, justify, and transforms the performance piece for the students, for the classroom, for the audience, for administrators, and for me.


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