Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Musings #1: Shakespeare and Teaching

It’s often said that a teacher needs to entertain students to hold their interest in the content being taught.  If true, then I envision the classroom as a theater in the round with the cast of students and teacher making optimum use of the entire space rather than just sitting in static rows.

Teaching Shakespeare to ELLs
Globe Theatre; source: Wikimedia Commons
Otherwise, the room resembles the “sage on a stage” with the teacher as a font of knowledge standing at the front lecturing to students. 

I prefer the second half of that phrase, the teacher as “guide on the side” because I like to facilitate learning and let my students discover knowledge for themselves.  (Alison King first wrote about these two approaches in a 1993 article in College Teaching; see a preview here.)  Besides, I find it more fun to teach that way.  However, with ELLs, I recognize that it is sometimes necessary to provide direct instruction; for example, to pre-teach new vocabulary or to provide background information in order to expedite a lesson.

But even when I was the sage, my classroom was still a stage and I was the director of the show.

Teaching Shakespeare to ELLs
My former classroom; source: The ESL Nexus
Every lesson I produced had the potential to be a drama, comedy or tragedy.  Certainly my students brought their own drama into my room--particularly the middle school girls who were the ultimate drama queens.  On occasion, I felt that a lesson was a tragedy because nothing went right and time was wasted, such as when I had an Internet-based lesson planned and we spent way too long trying to get online instead of doing the intended work.
Teaching Shakespeare to ELLs
Tragedy and Comedy masks; source: Pixabay
Fortunately, however, comedy was more prevalent because I was usually able to find ways to infuse my lessons with humor.  My students felt comfortable when they were in my class and they weren’t afraid to speak out, something that didn’t happen all the time in their other classes.  Sometimes students were so relaxed that they called me mami, which everyone found humorous.

(This post contains affiliate links. That means that I make a small commission if you purchase the book below but it's at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!)

I’ve only taught Shakespeare once, when a class of fourth graders and I read a version of Romeo and Juliet adapted for younger readers.  You can find the book here.
Cover of book titles "Romeo and Juliet for Kids (Shakespeare Can Be Fun!)"
Get a copy for yourself HERE
In that class, the play actually was the (main) thing and then, my classroom really was a stage.  It was a lot of fun.

And I still have the class vocabulary book the students created.