Working with Shakespeare
from NCTE INBOX 4-7-12
William Shakespeare's birthday is just a few days away! While there are many ways to approach Shakespeare in the classroom, the Council Chronicle article "The Play's the Thing: Getting the Most Out of Shakespeare" shares effective methods for teaching Shakespeare. These approaches develop reading and interpretation skills, providing benefits that outlast a particular unit. Find more ideas with the following resources from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org.
The Voices from the Middle article "Where There's a Will, There's a Play" (M) describes a popular yearly activity at one middle school in which a production of a Shakespearean comedy becomes the centerpiece of an interdisciplinary unit on the Elizabethan Period involving language arts, social studies, math, science, music, art, technical education, home economics, and the learning center. The Tempest is one of the model texts. After reading The Tempest or any other play by William Shakespeare, students work in small groups to plan, compose, and perform a choral reading based on a character or theme as shown in Constructing New Understanding through Choral Readings of Shakespeare (M-S). View the video of students performing their choral reading.
"Character Connections: A Multigenre Approach to Studying Shakespeare" (S) shares a multigenre character study project for high school students as a way for them to engage closely in the study of Hamlet. As a culminating activity, students compile all of the pieces of this character study to present as a final portfolio. In the ReadWriteThink.org lesson plan Analyzing Character in Hamlet through Epitaphs (S), students compose epitaphs for deceased characters in Hamlet, paying particular attention to how their words appeal to the senses, create imagery, suggest mood, and set tone.
"Stop Reading Shakespeare!" (S) from English Journal shares the idea that to be fully appreciated, Shakespeare's plays must be experienced as they were intended -- produced by actors on a stage and watched by an audience. In the lesson plan All's Well That Sells Well: A Creative Introduction to Shakespeare (M-S), students compare attending a performance at The Globe Theatre with attending a modern theater production or movie. They then create a commercial for an Elizabethan audience promoting a modern product. Learn more in the Shakespeare-themed issue of English Journal.
In Reading Shakespeare with Young Adults (M-S), the author explores different methods for getting students engaged -- and excited -- about Shakespeare's plays as they learn to construct meaning from the texts' 16th-century language and connect it to their 21st-century lives. The lesson Star-Crossed Lovers Online: Romeo and Juliet for a Digital Age (M-S) invites students to explore the modern significance of an older text, such as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, by asking students to create their own modern interpretation of specific events from the drama.
"Using Shakespeare's Plays to Teach Critical Thinking and Writing Skills" (C) from Teaching English in the Two-Year College describes classroom exercises and writing assignments through which students can use Shakespeare's plays to develop their own thoughts about various social and personal norms, develop an empathetic yet critical understanding of others' positions, and learn to express their own ideas more fully.
Many times, teachers give only a short introduction before students begin studying a Shakespeare play. "Introducing Shakespeare" (C) describes the use and creation, over time, of these introductions to many different plays by Shakespeare.
Still want more? See this collection of resources on Shakespeare from NCTE.
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