Posted in Collaborative learning, ELA, English, Literature, Writing assignments

Chapter 37: Texting with Antigone

About 11 years ago, I worked with a young teacher at an interest-based digital-media magnet school who was struggling to get her sophomores to write. At the time, I oversaw part of the magnet program, and I nudged her to think in terms of our school’s theme.

To that end, I asked her one question: “Do the kids text?”

Of course they did, she said. All the time. It was driving her nuts; we were supposed to confiscate their phones if they used them in class, and for a while, that seemed to be all we did all day.
Continue reading “Chapter 37: Texting with Antigone”

Posted in ELA, English, Literature, Shakespeare, Success

Chapter 29: Come, Ye Spirits

Confession time: Lady Macbeth was one of the reasons I became an English teacher.

My senior year, I was sure I hated Shakespeare. After all, we’d read Romeo and Juliet my freshman year and Julius Caesar my sophomore year, and I’d hated both.

At the time, I was a hopeless Andrew Lloyd Webber fangirl. I had fallen in love with Evita over the summer. And my teacher knew it.

By the time she got done describing Lady Macbeth, I was the ruthless Scottish queen’s biggest fan. I spent hours at the local city library, reading Contemporary Literary Criticism. I cut class to spend afternoons poring over back issues of Shakespeare Quarterly at SIU’s Morris Library. (I swear I am not making that up.) I drew elaborate pen-and-ink illustrations of my favorite scenes from the play. And, of course, I memorized the speech from Act I, Scene 5, in which Lady Macbeth invokes the spirits, reciting it before scholar-bowl tournaments to hype myself up and daydreaming about teaching it to a roomful of bright-eyed seniors.

This morning — 26 years, 900 miles, and an English degree later — a bright-eyed senior taught me something about that speech.

A girl had just read the first lines of Act II, Scene 2 — “That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold./What hath quenched them hath given me fire” — when a boy raised his hand.

“Do you think that could be the spirits she was talking about the other day?” he asked.

My jaw dropped.

Shakespeare LOVED puns. He played with words constantly. We talk about that a lot in class. And yet, somehow, neither my teacher, nor my British lit professors, nor my Shakespeare professor, nor I, nor any of the umpteen critics whose work I read in Shakespeare Quarterly stopped to consider that if you were a mean drunk — as Lady Macbeth implies she is — the “spirits that tend on mortal thoughts” might be more liquid than ethereal.

I don’t know whether that was Shakespeare’s intent. But it makes sense, and it’s certainly given me food for thought as I revisit an old favorite with kids who are seeing it through fresh eyes.

Emily

Posted in ELA, English, Humor, Lesson plans, Literature, Shakespeare, Shenanigans, Tools

Chapter 21: Roasted by the Bard

NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of four posts on easing your students into Elizabethan English without terrifying them.

You’ve taught your kids scansion. You’ve introduced them to Shakespeare’s poetry. You’ve given them a little taste of his humor. You’ve pushed them to think about his language. But they’re still not quiiiiiiiite convinced they’ll be able to understand his plays. He’s just too fancy.

Today is the day you take him down a peg or two. Continue reading “Chapter 21: Roasted by the Bard”

Posted in Dr. Seuss, ELA, English, Humor, Kinesthetic, Learning styles, Lesson plans, Literature, Poetry, Scansion, Shakespeare, Tactile, Whimsy

Chapter 18: Sam-I-Am(b)

NOTE: This is the first in a series of four posts on easing your students into Elizabethan English without terrifying them. 

I didn’t take any fun pictures of this next lesson, because I was too busy clapping (more on that in a minute), but as I prepare my sophomores for our Hamlet unit, I have to share my favorite trick for introducing kids to Shakespeare:

Let Dr. Seuss do it for you. Continue reading “Chapter 18: Sam-I-Am(b)”

Posted in Curriculum, ELA, English, Lesson plans, Literature, Reflection, Student-led learning

Chapter 14: Let the Kids Drive

If I could give new teachers just one piece of advice, it would be this:

Let the kids drive.

Yes, you’re the one with the degree in education. Yes, you’re the one who knows the Common Core standards. Yes, you’re the one who’s seen the blueprint for the flavor-of-the-week standardized test. But your kids are the ones who know themselves, and that might be more important. Trust them. Seize the teachable moments, and let the kids drive — the lesson, the unit, even the curriculum if necessary.

Here’s what that looks like in practice: Continue reading “Chapter 14: Let the Kids Drive”