Education Week - November 9, 2016 - 19
It's the primary challenge facing anyone teaching
Shakespeare, said Peggy O'Brien, the director of education at the Folger Library.
"You have to teach students to get inside the play
and find their way around," she said. "There is
power in knowing you have a process by which you
can unlock language that is hard and complicated
The best way to do that, O'Brien and many teachers
contend, is to get students on their feet and performing.
Multiple Ways In
They say it's also important to give students multiple
opportunities to listen and watch as a play like "Macbeth" is being read aloud or performed.
That's another area where basic technology can help.
Cavalluzzo, for example, plays a CD with an audio recording of an actor reading Macbeth's soliloquy.
"All I want you to do for the first time through is hear
it," he told the class.
Then he invited a student to read the same soliloquy aloud. The rest of the students followed silently
on their tablets.
Next, Cavalluzzo told the class their real work for the
day was finally ready to begin.
"You know something about Macbeth's character,"
he said. "Let's really look at how Shakespeare uses
language to get us there."
Ultimately, said Dakin, the literacy coach and master teacher, it's important to consider the reason why
schools still teach classic literature at all.
"It has this amazing ability to make us question ourselves and wonder and remain unsure," she said. "I
think that's where we need to be sometimes."
With Shakespeare, teachers say, getting students to
that place requires "getting tangled up in complexity." That often means reading and discussing and
writing about the same scenes and characters multiple times, in multiple different ways, from multiple
different points of view.
Like many teachers, Cynthia Lombardi, another 20year veteran of the Mineola High English faculty, believes such work happens best when students can hold
a printed book in their hands and commit their own
thoughts to paper.
"I'm old school," she said. "My resources are a notebook, a pen and pencil, and a brain."
The results of her approach are archived in spiralbound journals that each of Lombardi's students creates. Included are pages and pages of "deep thoughts"
that emerge from creative-writing activities. Lombardi
A Twitter Conversation
Together with the Folger Shakespeare Library and the National
Council of Teachers of English, Education Week
asked teachers to share their stories,
I made Macbeth LOLCats
tips, and ideas for teaching
to help friend teaching
Shakespeare on Twitter, using
the hashtag #teachmacbeth.
Read more responses at
@BenjaminBHerold @educationweek @ncte For
elem, just do the death scenes. Kids loves acting
out death scenes :)
@FolgerLibrary digital def takes away
from the personal contact, sense of
Have students choose a Macbeth scene to rewrite
and perform as A) modern day scene B) from
another POV #teachmacbeth @tgpollok
@BenjaminBHerold I prefer to let students read
#shakespeare on a device. It gives them entirely
new methods for annotating text @ncte #ipaded
Great resource for watching productions
from around the world is MIT Global
The Changing Face of Literacy / www.edweek.org/go/changing-literacy
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