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Posts Tagged ‘teaching Shakespeare’

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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by Corinne Viglietta

Students working with Shakespeare's text. (Photo credit: Lloyd Wolf)

Students working with Shakespeare’s text. (Photo credit: Lloyd Wolf)

 

New semester, new plays! A lot of teachers are kicking off, or getting ready to kick off, a Shakespeare unit, so we thought we’d talk about what to do on those first days. From having students put some verse on its feet to creating a tempest in the lunchroom, these activities will build confidence, interest, and skill—and help your students make lasting connections to Shakespeare’s language.

 

  1. Tempest in the Lunchroom – Chicago Teacher Joe Scotese talks about how to “bring students to the text”—and have some fun—on day 1.
  2. Seven Ages of Man – In one of our most popular blog posts ever, South Carolina teacher and Folger National Teacher Corps member Debbie Gascon shares her tips for starting the school year—or any literature unit. Even if you’re not teaching As You Like It, student performances of Jaques’s speech make for a fabulous introduction to the words and worlds of Shakespeare.
  3. Multiple Readings of the Romeo and Juliet Prologue – In Folger National Teacher Corps member Julia Perlowski’s activity, students read the same passage in a variety of ways—chorally, in small chunks of texts, in student pairs, with annotation, with discussion, and with a pattern in mind. An excellent way to get students making their own discoveries about Shakespeare’s language!
  4. Famous Last Words – North Carolina teacher Leslie Kelly shares her approach to one of Folger’s most popular ELL resources—the “Famous Death Lines” activity. Why not start with the end of the play, practice some language, discuss the plot upfront, and make room for a rich exploration of words and ideas?
  5. Interpreting Character – Sue Biondo-Hench, a teacher in Pennsylvania and member of the Folger National Teacher Corps, shows how to introduce students to Shakespeare through close readings of character.

Try these out and let us know how they went. We’re on Twitter (@FolgerEd) and Facebook!


Corinne Viglietta is Assistant Director of Education at the Folger. She has taught English in DC, Maryland, and France.

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The epiphanies continue! Today is the anniversary of the death of Irish writer James Joyce, whose famous epiphanies, a century later, still inspire conversation and inquiry. (Plus, did you know that Hamlet was a major source for Joyce, who gave a series of lectures on Shakespeare?)

We think it’s fitting, then, today, to offer a second installment of your teaching epiphanies. Read on, get inspired, and keep doing the most important, life-changing work on the planet!

Students  in James Sheridan’s classroom at YesPrep Houston

Students in James Sheridan’s classroom at YesPrep Houston

 

 

Six months later, I still own my TSI monologue; now my students perform to know the joy of owning Shakespeare too.

  • Stefanie Jochman, Wisconsin

 

 

Before we start Shakespeare, I ask if anyone knows how to rap badly.  After we hear a couple of examples, I ask why bad rap is bad rap.  It usually does not take too long to steer the discussion to one of “beats” and rhythm.  Then I ask the students if they have ever been bothered by people not knowing how to pronounce their names. Next I post poetic feet and we figure out which students’ names fit each category.

Here are how some of this year’s names fit: Iamb (- ‘ )  Chrisbel, Rajiv, Shiann, Luis Troche ( ‘ -) Blanca, Louis, Kaitlin, Chandler Spondee  ( ‘  ‘ ) Anna, Dennis, Maya, Manny Anapest (-  –  ‘ ) Netiffah, Alyna (A-lean-a) Dactly ( ‘  –  – ) Emely, Samuel, Stefanie, Jaivonni.  With a playful class, this can go on for more than one day as students purposefully mispronounce names. For many this serves as an epiphany about how rhythm drives how we communicate (and miscommunicate.)

  • Ginny Schmitt DeFrancisci, New York

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As a follow-up to Mark Miazga’s fabulous story about his teaching epiphany, we invited you, our readers, to share revelations from your classrooms, and… wow! You and your students blew us away! Here’s what you had to say:

 

Epiphany in Folger Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: Orsino realizes that the young page Cesario is in fact the woman Viola. Source: Scott Suchman

Epiphany in Folger Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: Orsino realizes that the young page Cesario is in fact the woman Viola. Source: Scott Suchman

My epiphany came when I realized that getting students to act and move would impact them so much more deeply than merely reading. Handing over control to my students became a scary but exhilarating experience as they took the reins and directed their own scenes from The Scottish Play! Over 30 students last February took to the stage at a coffeehouse, performing in front of one hundred peers, family members, and teachers making our annual Shakespeare Festival the best one yet! I am continually amazed by the creativity and daring that students display when given support, freedom, and high expectations.

  • James Sheridan, Texas

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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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Happy holidays, readers! We’ll be on hiatus until January 6, 2015. Check back then for a new post—and have a very merry winter break!

 

By Sara Lehn 

Othello promptbook

Paul Robeson’s promptbook from production of Othello in 1930. (Folger Shakespeare Library)

 

Occasionally, those of us who revere the Bard speak of his works as if they are some sort of holy text. These plays contain such incredible and untouchable genius that it’s sometimes hard not to treat them with awe.

The danger is that once we start to look at a work of literature as something to be revered we cease to see it as something over which we can take ownership.  It is too awe inspiring, and what right have we, peons of the modern educational system, to touch such perfection?

The answer is, of course, that we have every right, and that teaching our students to revere these plays as paintings in a museum, to be seen and not touched, is to put up a wall between inquiring young minds and the very real and lively nature of these plays.  Instead, we need to give students the tools to take these words into their hearts and their minds and truly embrace them.

The need to dig deeply into the language is one reason that performance is such a key element of teaching Shakespeare.  Sometimes, however, jumping directly into performance can be a bit intimidating for shy students.  It can be helpful to offer other ways for students to familiarize themselves with Shakespeare’s language as part of the performance process. (more…)

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By Corinne Viglietta

HSFP students

Our competitive antedaters use new web tools to find the true origins of words attributed to Shakespeare.

We just wrapped up our (exhilarating!) 2014 High School Fellowship, dubbed affectionately by its 16 participants as “Varsity Shakespeare.”

Since September, local high schoolers gathered here every Monday to take on big questions and deep learning around Shakespeare and the humanities.

They saw productions of King Lear and Julius Caesar and performed their own cutting of Twelfth Night. And they conducted original research in the Folger collection. It was a blast, and they were fabulous!

As first-time head teacher of the Fellowship (I was teaching 8th and 9th grade English here in DC until recently), I wanted to pause and share what I learned—and how it might connect to any classroom. (more…)

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