Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Topic: Teaching Shakespeare

10-second review: Some thoughts on teaching Shakespeare.

Title: “Shakespearean Ruminations and Innovations.” Michale LoMonico, Folger Shakespeare Library. English Journal (September 2009), 21-28. The secondary school journal of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Thoughts on Teaching Shakespeare:

Focus on unlocking Shakespeare’s language. It is more important to get students to like Shakespeare than it is to get them to understand every word. The best way to get students to like Shakespeare is by getting them to perform Shakespeare. Acting out a scene is a form of close reading. Sometimes it is better to teach just part of a play rather then the whole play. Select scenes from several plays that are linked thematically.

Shakespeare is for students of all ability and reading levels, of every ethnic origin, in every kind of school The best way to use video may not be showing the tape or DVD from the beginning to the end. Studying Shakespeare’s life doesn’t help students understand his plays [but studying Elizabethan times to explain a line, does]. Designing Globe Theaters out of sugar cubes and Popsicle sticks, making Elizabethan newspapers, designing costumes, doing a scavenger hunt on the Internet, and doing a report on Elizabethan sanitary conditions have nothing to do with a student’s appreciation of Shakespeare’s language.

Comment: What techniques worked in teaching Shakespeare with your teachers or your students? I remember vividly what worked with me and forty to fifty other boys in Senior Science F of my high school. The Christian Brothers taught in our high school in Philadelphia and Brother Henry, a florid-faced man who also happened to be athletic director was our English teacher. To say that I and the other boys in my class were lukewarm students in English would be an overstatment.

And then Brother Henry began to read aloud to us The Merchant of Venice. We followed along in our anthologies. He loved Shakespeare. As he read, he interspersed his comment, “This is great stuff.” He read excitedly and with emotion and when we reached the part about the pound of flesh and no blood, we were all sitting on the edge of our seats. I have never forgotten that lesson in Shakespeare. RayS.

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