Monday, September 3, 2012

Putting it all together: Prompt books and Performances with The Most Dangerous Game

Hope everyone is enjoying their long weekend.  It has been a crazy week!  In addition to my regular teaching job with Freshman English, I am also an online instructor for our local community college.  I teach online Freshman Comp and Research and have four sections (that's about another 100 students).  This week was spent teaching during the day and then getting home and teachings some more.  Very busy week, but I love it.  I am an online teacher for two local high schools and have another class with just community college students.

Last week, my classes put together all their new skills of performance and prompt books together.  Each group of 4 was given 4 pages of the short story The Most Dangerous Game. They were then instructed to cut 50% of their section, complete a prompt book, add in at least 3 extras (10 sec of silence, moment of laughter, line spoken directly to the audience, etc), and finally put it up on stage. They were also required to add in one prop and one costume change.

The results were fantastic.  Not only did it give us a great overview of the story, the action really helped to reinforce the theme of the story.  Their prompt book skills have improved tremendously.  They made critical choices about what to keep and what to cut.  They also made specific choices about their staging and movement.  One cool surprise was their use of sound effects and other things with the use of laptops.  Many groups chose background music or scenes to have on their computer while they performed.

I also noticed they are a lot less shy about performing.  Everyone is comfortable and out of their shells.  They take risks in their lines and movements.  Most of them even memorized their scripts!

Here is a sample script:

Rainsford on his Yacht

Here is a pic of one of my students with their group prop.  They were so creative!!  A great success and much better than just reading the story aloud and then lecturing on it.

I will post the handout for the activity on my Wiki.  This is part of my livebinder site.

This week we will be working on a jigsaw activity of the book How to Read Literature Like a Professor.  Each student is responsible for one chapter and will be making a Pecha Kucha presentation.  Let's see how it goes.

Blessed to be teaching!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Prompt Books: Shakespeare Strategies with Prose, Week 3

Most of you are just going back to unpack your stuff at school.  I am now starting my 4th week at my wonderful school.  I am continually impressed by my students.  They are working very hard and acclimating to the demands of being at an Early College High School.

The Early College High School

Some background:  Students make a choice to come to our school.  They often leave behind most of their friends who go to our "traditional" high schools.  These students come to our school knowing they can achieve an Associate's Degree by the time they graduate and are often in their Junior year at our University when they graduate.  It is challenging and they must give up lots of things.  We don't offer sports (just intramurals) or marching band or a theater program.  As such, they can decide to return to their regular neighborhood high school at any time.  It is my job to make them feel secure, happy, and challenged as freshmen.

With that in mind, I had some mini-therapy sessions this week.  We talked about what was stressing them out.  Mostly, it is getting used to homework every night and keeping up with their agenda.  Here's the great part:  we also talked about what they liked about the school so far.  The second list far outweighed the first.  They mentioned the food, the atmosphere, the academics, no bullying, helpful upper classmen, and the teachers. Now, if I can just teach them how to do a concise summary of a short story, all will be well.

Prompt Books:

This exercise is one of the ones in the Shakespeare Set Free series.  I used the same method with the story, The Cask of Amontillado.  Here is what I did:

1.  I had the students view a promptbook tutorial that I found on youtube and complete a WSQ (WSQ is an acronym for Watch Summarize and Question that I have adapted from Crystal Kirch).  I also used the example from the SSF book and some images from the SSF jump drive.

2.  I gave each student one page of the story.  I enlarged it to about 18pt and increased the margin to about 3".

3.  Students were instructed to cut at least 1/3 of their page.  This makes them close read the selection and decide what is the most important on the page. 

4.  Students then decided how to move their characters onstage.  They had to decide where the character was at the beginning, where they moved, and where they were at the end of the page.

5.  Students added tone for any words that were spoken.  They had to be as specific as possible.

Are you seeing what I'm's called sneaky close reading!

6.  Students then added any small movements, props, and pauses.

Here is a great example:

This is the kind of close reading I had to BEG my AP kids to do when I had AP Lit.  I was really happy with the results.

There are still some challenges that I am finding with my freshman.  I am trying desperately to teach them how to do a great summary of a short story.  We are getting there slowly but surely.  It is tough though.  I am also trying to work on their levels of questions that they write.  They are so used to writing low level questions.

This week we are reading The Scarlet Ibis and The Most Dangerous Game.  I love giving them disturbing short stories (insert evil laugh).

Hope everyone has a great week getting ready for school to start!

Blessed to be Teaching!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Second Week of School: Using Shakespeare Strategies with Prose

As the second week of school ended, I am reflecting on techniques I have started using to introduce literary terminology in short stories.

Silent Scenes with Prose

First, a Shakespeare Set Free strategy called "Silent Scenes."  I used this on the first day of school to get kids comfortable in my class.  This week, I used them to get in some higher level reading and what we call "sneaky close reading."  I used the short story, Eleven by Sandra Cisneros for my lesson.

We had already read Eleven using the Tolaydo method of reading through (read around until you reach a period, semicolon, or exclamation) and I also used the story to explain 6 different kinds of imagery for which they found examples (visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, and kinesthetic).

I put the students in groups of 5-6 and gave them instructions for Silent Scenes:

  1. Everyone must write a script.
  2. Go through the story and decide on the main events that happen.
  3. Figure out what can be shown to an audience and what cannot.
  4. Once you have established the main action, write your script using adjectives to describe how the action will be shown to the audience.  Ex:  Rachel pushes away sweater angrily.
  5. Cast your scene.
  6. You must use at LEAST one prop and have at LEAST one costume/hair change.
  7. You must begin and end in tableau.
  8. Run your scene.  Make sure you do not have your back to the audience--cheat out. (I am working in theater/acting vocab as well)
The class had about 45 minutes total for this exercise and then about 10 minutes on the day of performance to do final rehearsal.

Here are some pics of the exercise:

 Mean teacher making Rachel put on the sweater

 Rachel crying into her "clown sweater arms."

 Putting her arms into the sweater that "smells like cottage cheese."

 "I'm Eleven, and ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two and one."


I was impressed that so many groups went all out on their props (I had birthday cakes in nearly every class, lots of pillows, red sweaters, eyeglasses for the teacher, and mustaches for the father).  They were enthusiastic and great audience members.

I need to work on how they critique each other.  While they were willing to say what they liked, they were terrified to say what could be added or what did not work.  I also need to add in pauses next time; some groups went fast out of nervousness.

I also need to have an exemplar script (have one now).  Some of the scripts were not detailed as they spent their time rehearsing and not writing first.

Exemplar Script (typed for group by Ericka H.):

Parents: *put birthday ribbon on Rachel and send her off to school*
Rachel: *arrives at school looking a bit upset*
Silvia: *already sitting in seat*
Mrs. Price: *takes out red sweater and goes around showing it to everyone to see whose it is*
Everyone: *shake head no*
Mrs. Price: *insists and shows it again*
Silvia: *it gets shown to her and she shakes her head no, pointing to Rachel*
Mrs. Price: *drops it on Rachel’s desk*
Rachel: *looks at it for a bit, raises her hand to get Mrs. Price’s attention and shakes her head no again, indicating it’s not hers*
Mrs. Price: *shakes her head and points at Rachel sternly, gesturing that it is hers, even if she ‘says’ it isn’t*
Rachel: *hangs her head a bit in defeat*
Rachel: *shuts her eyes and clenches her teeth, thinking of what is to come*
Mother: *motions making a cake*
Father: *comes home*
Parents: *motions happy birthday with hands, as if ‘conducting’*
Parents: *walk away slowly, as thoughts go away*
Rachel: *opens her eyes and stares at the sweater for a moment, then gently pushes it away to the corner then moves her chair a bit to the right*

Beginnings of a Flipped Classroom:


I also began doing some flipping of my class this week.  Using Edmodo, I am posting short stories, audio links, and other videos for the students to have read/watched before coming to class.  I first just told them to read/watch and "take notes."  That was too vague and so I began using a template which combines the WSQ from Crystal Kirch and Cornell Notes.  I have two templates:  a Read-Summarize-Question for reading and a Watch-Summarize-Question for videos.  

Our first day using the RSQ was yesterday with The Sniper as their reading.  I honestly did not expect much in the way of summary as the students haven't learned this skill in previous grades.  They did a pretty good job for a first try.  I spent the period beginning a calibration process for them.  I used my doc cam to put chosen examples up on the IWB and had students rate them (again, they are terrified to rate something low).

On Monday/Tuesday, they are doing an RSQ for The Cask of Amontillado and a WSQ on a video tutorial on prompt books.  I am going to have them do a prompt book for Cask next week (More Shakespeare strategies with prose). I have time allotted to continue the calibration process.  I will use some Kagan strategies for revising with a partner and hopefully, by end of next week, we will know exactly what is needed to have a WSQ and RSQ.

It was a great week where I learned as much as the students!  Tonight, I am off to the Texas Region 19 Teacher of the Year Banquet where I will represent my district.  I am very nervous!

Blessed to be Teaching!


Monday, July 30, 2012

First Day of School--Comedy of Errors

For those of you who have been reading my TSI updates, you are probably wondering--is she back at school?  The answer is YES!!

We are on year round school, so today was our first day back with students.  I missed 5 days of staff development while I was in DC.  I am at a new campus this year as well.

So, I felt like Dromio in Comedy of Errors (shout out to Kim Dickstein in Jersey)!  I had no idea what was going on.

Here are some funny moments from the first day:

1.  We have no bells because we are housed in portables.  I have no idea when classes start or end!  (problem resolved at 10:30).

2.  My Promethean board was not mirroring my desktop and when I reset it, it showed the desktop upside down!  This is after I tell the kids about my blog, twitter, edmodo, and livebinders.  They were probably thinking, "this lady can't even use a smartboard!"  (problem resolved around 11:30).

3.  I get an email from a friend who wants to call me in-district, and asks for my phone extension.  I don't know it!  It's not on my phone!  I have to email my secretary and ask for my phone number! (problem resolved around 11:00).

4.  I only know about 5 people at my new campus, so I am perpetually introducing myself to people and acting like a complete dork!

5.  I don't know where the bathroom is!  (Resolved at 12:05)

My new school is an Early College High School, so the students are given quite a bit of freedom because they are taking college classes and we are a small campus.  Students must apply to come to our school and we have a population of 500.  It is great to have class sizes of 25 or below and have students who really want to be there.

Here are the things that went well today:

1.  My lesson!  Today students wrote letters to themselves.  They addressed their educational and social goals.  I am keeping the letters for the week before they graduated.  I made sure they added in their favorite music, crushes, etc.  These things will be really humorous when they read them in 2016.

2.  My Shakespeare Set Free lesson!  I did silent scenes today and taught kids about tableaux.  They had a great time getting up and acting out scenes.  When they were done, I asked about some basic relationships they saw in the scenes.  When I told them they were all from Shakespeare, they couldn't believe it.

That's my day.  Amidst the chaos, Master Shakespeare did not let me down!

I miss my TSI friends and faculty, but I am so happy to be back in the classroom.  I love the new year and all its possibilities. 

Blessed to be Teaching!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why I am Thankful: Last Week of TSI

I can't believe we only have two days left of TSI!  What a wonderful month it has been!  For my musings today, I am going to list all of the things that I loved about this month:

1.  Lectures with Margaret:  she talks quite fast and you are so intrigued that you train your brain to keep up with her.  She is so charming, so funny, and quite the ham when she wants to be.  She was also so helpful to me with my research paper.  I want to be her when I grow up!

2.  Seminar with Jay:  I was so lucky to have him for Merchant of Venice seminar.  He knows about everything Jewish!  Today he blew my mind with an idea about Hamlet and how he decides not to kill Claudius when Claudius is praying.  Hamlet says he won't because he wants him to be sinning.  A good Christian would want someone to be redeemed for their sins.  Never thought of it that way! Jay was also great with helping on my research paper.

3.  Lecture and Seminar with Stephen:  Stephen and I have the same amalgam of humor and intellect (although he knows 39339383x more than I could ever hope to know).  His notes on Othello that included the ad for "Othello" sheets was hilarious.  He always has some witty comment to throw in that makes you just want more info from this brilliant man.  I will never forget in the middle of one lecture how he told us about a man who shot his testicles off!

This Onion Article is what I picture went on when we turned in our essays to Jay, Margaret, and Stephen:

the Onion

4.  Performance with Caleen:  This woman has some sort of sixth sense.  She is able to pick a monologue that makes you uncomfortable and then you realize--it's you!  Her phrase "Isn't that interesting" really puts our discomfort into the perspective of our students.  She also taught me to kick box and physicalize lines instead of memorizing them.  Oh, we protested that one big time!  But you know what, it works!

5.  Performance with Michael:  This man is the most charming teacher ever.  He is so funny and has such a great way for kids (and us) to explore the text.  Every day, I learn something new that will help me in my classroom.  He is also married to the great Peggy O'Brien who invented the concept of TSI.  I am completely mesmerized by him.

6.  Curriculum with Sue and LoMo:  These two know so much and yet are so humble.  They are really a lesson to people who are Diva Teachers (you know the type).  They are rock star teachers! Their lessons are fantastic and I have learned so many secret ways to do close reading that I may do Shakespeare all year!  They are the types of people that I aspire to be in the classroom.

7.  Time keeping with Bob:  I don't know how this man does it, but he keeps us on schedule every single day.  He knows that he has to be stern with us otherwise we would still be doing work from Week 1.  I love that when we went to the Nats game, this super prepster was wearing a Polo baseball cap!  I am also ever thankful to him for allowing me to do a Skype interview in his office.

8.  And then there are my friends.  I have met really great people here.  People that I know are making a difference every day in their classroom.  People that I would be honored to have as my child's teacher.  We have laughed (really hard sometimes), cried (yep, this place is intense), and learned (about lots of sexual references in plays).  We have conquered the fear of the library staff, ate lunch like cannibals while we listened to guest speakers, and rode a freakin' yellow school bus to the Folger every day!

I am sad to leave here, but I really, REALLY miss my dear husband and my daughters!  Only two more days and then I am back.

By the way, I start school on MONDAY!!

Blessed to be Teaching!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Date with Oscar Wilde: Last Week of TSI

It is my last week here at TSI and today I requested some rare books from the vault in the Reading Room, so I could take pics of them.  My friend, Kim, already requested Holinshed's Chronicles last week.

Morning Lecture and Seminar:  Jay Halio and the text of Pericles

I bet most of you have never read Pericles, but it is really a great play.  It has incest, zombies, whores who never do it, romance, and pirates!  Yep, all of that.  Most people don't even think Shakespeare wrote it because it was not in the First Folio.  It is possible that George Wilkenson co-wrote some scenes.  It is still an interesting play.

Jay discussed how editors make choices in the texts.  Most of us had some Shakespeare anthology we used during college (mine was the Bevington).  Whatever book you had, you are at the mercy of the editors and what THEY believe to be the best way to translate Shakespeare's words.

Printers had lots of type that they were setting upside down and backwards.  In some cases, they ran out of a letter, flipped it around, or stretched out verse to fill the white space on the page.

Cool idea:  get pics of a folio edition and a quarto and have students examine the difference in language used.  Example:  Desdemona's speech to the Duke  "That I love the Moor" or "That I did love the Moor."  Big difference in connotation.  Also, at the end of Othello,  "base Judean" or "base Indian"?

Fun fact:  upper case refers to the large letters that were kept in the printers top case.  Lower case refers to the smaller letters in their bottom case.  (thanks to Deborah Gascon)

Tea Time with Oscar Wilde, Holinshed, and Faust

Here are some pics of the letters and books we had checked out in the Reading Room today:

 From Holinshed's Chronicles:  Macbeth's confidence in wizards
 Faust at the Lyceum Theater
 Mephistopheles at the Lyceum Theater
 Oscar Wilde Letter!!
 The Letter!
 One of the best moments of this month!  Me and Oscar!
 Another Wilde letter about getting his book on Shakespeare's Sonnets published.
 Paradise Regained by Milton for my friend Kat!

 Another Holinshed photo with Macbeth's Laws

After Tea, we watched a screening of the movie "Private Romeo" which is the story of Romeo and Juliet.  It takes place in an all boys military academy and the two lovers are boys.  I didn't really like it.  Although the ending was not tragic, I think I can use my class time better than watching this movie.

It is on Netflix if you want to check it out!

Finishing up lesson plans and working on our performances for Friday!  Almost there!

Blessed to be Teaching!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Shakespeare Remix and Shakespeare Plagiarized: TSI Friday

It was a great Junior Friday at TSI!  I can't believe I only have one week to go!  I am writing this on a high from getting my research paper done (18 pages on Venice) and my How-To Video project done.  I finally tamed the beast that is Movie Maker and got a good product for our Shakespearean Compliments lesson.

Yesterday was spent in the Reading Room doing last minute research and making sure I had everything I needed.  I came home and worked on my paper until about midnight.  I finished today at about 3 pm.  I not only have a cool paper about Venice, I have cool pictures from documents to show my students before we read Merchant or Othello.

Just watched this great video with Amy Poehler (my doppelganger) about stress.

Taking it bird by bird

Alright, on to our great day on Friday discussing TECHNOLOGY.  I was hoping it wasn't another lecture on the glories of Prezi, and alas, it wasn't.  Chris Shamburg, a TSI alum, presented us with some super cool mega foxy awesome hot ideas for incorporating tech and the bard.

Yep, I'm kinda sassy on this blog today because I have 75% of my TSI work done!

So, we talked about how to use Authentic Shakespeare with Authentic 21st century skills and how to combine Technology and Ethos.  Chris discussed 3 different aspects that are important when integrating technology:  DIY media, participatory culture, and remix & application.

We did a series of stations where we did different tasks involving Shakespeare including:

1.  Station for creating tableaux and students take pictures.
2.  Station where we created an original poem of 10-14 lines using half Shakespeare (we did Othello's anthropaphagi monologue) and half song lyrics ( I used Tom Petty "Running down a Dream")  This is easy to do.  You take the monologue and then choose a few songs with a somewhat similar theme.  Kids mix it up!
3.  We did a Shakespeare in the Gutter activity where we acted out comic book scenes and discovered what would be in the "gutter" of the comic.  This is where the students use INFERENCE!  Fig 19A anyone from Texas?
4.  We used Audacity to record a scene using the Foley technique of sound production.

I learned about some cool websites in addition to Audacity like CCMixster and Free sound.  Chris also introduced us to a technique called Machinima where kid record video games and do the voice over to Shakespeare.

Chris share this funny pic if Shakespeare went through a plagiarism checker:

Yep, that's pretty freakin' funny!

And in the  "cool things I get to do this week" category:  My friend Kim requested the Holinshed Chronicles from the vault and we are gonna check them out this week during tea.

I'm off to have Shirley Temples with Debbie and Darren now!!

Blessed to be Teaching!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Using Live Meet during Lectures: Shakespeare and Technology

Today's Live Meet Discussion

This is a short post to see how we used Livemeet during lecture today.

I will post tomorrow about my exciting day today.  We are off to a Washington Nationals game!

Blessed to be teaching! 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Othello Bedding? Thursday of Junior Week at TSI

I feel like I am living in a crucible today!  I would not be able to survive without my TSI buddies.  We are constantly relying on each other to talk us down from our excruciating stress!  Today, I think about 4 of us cried from pure frustration, exhaustion, and heat.  I have the additional stress of missing next week at my school which is staff development week.

Morning Lecture with Stephen Dickey:  Othello and the Other

Stephen discussed Othello and women as "others."  We focused on word play once again (Moor and More) and, of course, the sexual connotations throughout the play.  One of the best moments was Stephen's use of the ad for the LaCoste Othello BEDDING!  That's right, bedding for smothering your wife.

Othello bedding

Stephen even had the customer comments including "the red bleeds all over the white"  Oh so inappropriate!  Using the term "charivari" which is a serenade of rough music meant to interrupt the wedding night of unpopular couples.  Using this, Othello could possibly be just a long instance of coitus interruptus. 

Performance Workshop with Michael Tolaydo

I love Michael Tolaydo!  He is so brilliant and comes at all his lessons from his own issues with ADD and reading. We are working on a scene and did the following steps:
  1. Read through scene assigning parts
  2. Read through scene (read around) for plot
  3. Read through scene (read around) for words using glosses and dictionaries
  4. Read around changing reader at each major punctuation mark and then read it super fast
  5. Divide into groups and let kids block/direct it.  Don't let one person dominate.  Great process and the end result is great but not the lesson.

Here's a picture from yesterday when we went out for Sarah's birthday.  I am seated next to my lovely friend, Rob Barker, technological expert extraordinaire and my competition for over-achiever award.  My suite mate Sara is next to me.  My other goofy friend Debbie is in the back corner next to her TSI "husband" Darren.  These people make me laugh!

Blessed to be a teacher!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Tragedy of the Handkerchief with a Cherry on Top: TSI Wednesday

First, I want to credit my friend Gina for making this great list of all the things we have done this July at TSI:

Some of you may be wondering what I'm up to here in DC, so I'll tell you: In the past 12 "school days," I've: attended 15 lectures, 7 seminars, 8 lunchtime colloquia, 4 tours of Washington DC/Folger library/Folger library electronic resources, 1 performance of "The Merchant of Venice" in Staunton, Virginia, performed a monologue from Pericles, created 2 how-to teaching videos with a group to be used in the Shakespeare Set Free Toolkits, designed a research project using 16th century books at the Folger Shakespeare Library, co-designed a series of lesson plans based on ideas from the lectures I've attended, recorded interview about My Favorite Shakespeare Play to Teach response to be published on the Folger education website. What's up for the remaining 8 days: 6 lectures, 6 lunchtime colloquia, 4 seminars, an oral presentation of said research project, write-up of said research project, write-up and presentation of said lesson plans to be published on the Folger education website, Performance Project #2 (as yet unknown), and creation and performance of Performance Project #3, and a film screening. Aaaaand, that's my July.

Intense does not even begin to cover it!  Thanks Gina!

I did not blog yesterday because I was in a complete daze due to the fact that I had my Regional Teacher of the Year interview via Skype.  I was so focused on myself and having a good interview that I decided to sleep after a great dinner with my fellow TSI peeps.  Everyone was so kind and accommodating yesterday; I really feel a kinship with these people I have only known for 3 weeks.

Morning Lecture with Margaret Maurer:  Emilia and Roderigo in Othello

Another day of discussing one of my favorite plays!  Yesterday, Jay Halio discussed how to read Othello "backwards" which entails looking at the play from the climax scene and going from there.

Today, Margaret got into why Emilia and Roderigo are needed in the play.  The play has so many questions and so many moments where you really want things to end happily.  Emilia and Roderigo and completely wrapped up in Iago's discourse and both are victims of it.

We do a lot of comparison to the Cinthio tale that is the source for Othello.  Desdemona is actually killed by the ensign and Othello in this version by a sandbag(!) and then they try to cover it up.  I think Shakespeare did a much better job!

The play is filled with sex references galore.  Including that the handkerchief is a symbolic representation of the wedding sheets spotted with blood and that suicide is a kind of masturbation. Also, Iago is the flag bearer (carrying a pole) and Othello and Desdemona may not have ever consummated their marriage.  

My seminar time this week is with Stephen Dickey and I love how he has a spin on the plays we study.  He is so humorous and fascinating.  Today we went over the loss of that damn handkerchief!  Oh, Desdemona!

Did I mention I have a crush on Kenneth Branaugh and LOVE every movie he is in?  I am his sole fan here at TSI though.

Research Presentations

This afternoon we all did 5 minute presentations about what we have found in our primary source research.  I was amazed and proud at my fellow TSI-ers!  We have immersed ourselves in this world and can now talk about these rare books as if we have studied them all our lives.  My colleagues have great topics like sumptuary laws, the juggler/sleight of hand, witchcraft, love tokens, etc.  We have been so blessed to have access to all of these things!  I did a cute Pecha Kucha presentation on Venice.

I would like to speak to the camaraderie which has been established during the institute.  I feel as if I have known these fellow teachers my whole life.  They come from all backgrounds and school systems, yet we all agree on the importance of teaching Shakespeare.  We are truly "pregnant with celestial fire" and ready to kick some ass this year in the classroom!

Curriculum Session

Today we did the Film Expert exercise.  We watched the beginning of two versions of Othello and took on roles as cinematographer, sound, acting, set, etc.  We took notes on each films use of these.  Then (and here's the cool part), instead of just saying what we noticed or what we liked/disliked, we used first person.  This made us responsible for the choices in the film and we had to defend/qualify our choices.  

Instead of:  I didn't like how they filmed the wedding scene
It becomes:  I chose to film the wedding scene through a window to show how the couple is isolated.

Subtle difference, yet students suddenly have ownership over their element of the movie.  And you don't have to show the whole thing!!

Finally, a cute Pinterest card quote:

My TSI classmates have decided that it is really fun to make fun of Greta and how she is an over-achiever! For all the good times I have provided for them, I say "you are welcome."

Blessed to be a Teacher!


Monday, July 16, 2012

Greedily Devoured Discourse--Day 10 of TSI

We are into our Junior Week of TSI!

Morning Lecture:  Mike Witmore "Othello and Data Mining"

Dr. Witmore is the director of the Folger Library and he is such a mesmerizing speaker.  He discussed two topics I love:  rhetoric, word origins, and Othello (wow, that sounds really nerdy).

He discussed how Othello is a great rhetorician at the beginning of the play, Desdemona is very good at discourse as well.  They both convince the Duke that Othello did not use witchcraft. 

Iago's skill is withholding information from Othello and making him crazy.  The listener (Othello) does all the work.  Iago just sits back and watches his work.

During lunch, Dr. Witmore expanded on the play and discussed the use of Anglo Saxon root words (simple, usually monosyllabic) and Latinate/French root words (used for rhetoric).  It was fascinating--one of the best lectures yet.

We spent a large amount of time in the Reading Room today.  I got quite a few art prints from the 16th century as well as a great map of Venice with the ghetto depicted on it.  My chaotic mess has now been whittled down to some great primary sources.  I am grateful of the help of Georgianna, the librarian in the Reading Room.  She has definitely made my research journey easier.

Curriculum Session:   Louisa Newlin and Donna Denize "Othello and Shakespeare Set Free"

We went through several of the SSF lessons for Othello including the Dumb Show (tracing the handkerchief) and doing a slightly cut script of Othello where we explored "tragic blindness."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Great Teachers and "Pretty Woman": Day 9 of TSI

Our day was very emotional today.  Perhaps it is because it is the half way point in our journey.  Perhaps it is because we are really focused on all of the tasks which need to be done.  In any event, I did some crying today because the discussion focused on teaching and what makes a good teacher.

Morning and Lunch Discussion with Peggy O'Brien

Peggy is the person who started TSI way back in 1984.  Today we got a handout that gave the basics of what the Institute would look like and how they choose who will attend.  They choose teachers from all around the country with varying school structures and experience.  It is not an AP institute.  Shakespeare is for all students and getting all types of teachers to come and study is holding true to their mission.

Peggy also believed that the library should be used by teachers.  Presently, unless you are in TSI, you can only get into the Reading Room at the Folger if you are working on your doctorate or some other specialized field.  In short, it is quite difficult to get in.  This is due to the fact that we are able to access every item in the collection.  Peggy believed teachers should be able to use the library and do some of that special research as well.  Now, it is very daunting to be in this room looking at documents that are hundreds of years old, and I do feel like everyone is looking at me like I don't belong.  I feel like Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman" when she goes shopping on Rodeo Drive.

Making a reference to "Pretty Woman" shows how unworthy of rare documents I really am.

After Peggy's talk, we made a list of things that great Teachers do.  I have reflected on this question pretty deeply lately especially after reading Todd Whitaker's Book, What Great Teachers Do Differently.  Our lists brought up so many emotions.  It is after an Institute like this where you are changed that you begin to wonder how you will be when you return to your school.

How will you handle the complainers that are prevalent in every faculty?  How will you handle administration that does not share your passion?

Very intense stuff for a Friday morning, but a much needed mini-catharsis at the half-way point.

I spent two sessions in the library doing research on Venice.  I found so many things that now I need to get myself a game plan.  You feel so pressured to be smart when your surroundings look like this:

I mean, really, are you going to check your Facebook while you are in here?

We also did a tour of the Conservation Lab today.  The Folger has an amazing state-of-the-art lab where they can repair anything.  This lab was the scene of some serious CSI work when a kooky guy came into the Folger with a First Folio which had been stolen.  More details here

Curriculum Session with Sue Biondo-Hench

Today we learned how to dance like they did in Romeo and Juliet!  Really fun and not that difficult.  I believe the lesson is on the Folger website.

We also chunked a scene and then chose lines to represent that scene in tableau.  Again, it gets kids to do close reading without knowing it.

Well, I am off to the library to do some research and get some filming done for our video project.  It is going to be a busy, bustling weekend.

Blessed to be Teaching,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rhetorically Castrated and Glamour Shots: Day 7 of TSI

Today we talked a lot about testicles...yeah, that's right.  Even in the hallowed halls of the Folger, we sometimes talk about some raunchy stuff.

Morning Lecture:  Stephen Dickey, "The Merchant of Venice:  The Kindness of Strangers or a Good Man is Hard to Find"

Oooh, you had me at the Flannery O'Connor reference!  Stephen went through a multitude of wordplay examples from Merchant today. 

Gentile/gentle (would have been pronounced the same)
You/ Jew/ Iew/ Ewe:  wooly breeders
Mercy/ Merchant:  same root word
merry/married  Antonio is not merry/married (bc he is in the closet)
gentle is used repeatedly as are all the references to commerce
Who is the merchant of the title and what is being sold?
Portia:  men come from all over the world to look at her chest(s)

Stephen went into the fact that Shylock is rhetorically castrated, he has lost his stones.

Apparently, there was a story recently about a man who was jailed for shooting off his own testicles--these "random" stories are why I love Stephen's lectures!

In seminar with Jay, we watched a great video called Playing Shakespeare where David Suchat and Patrick Stewart debated their portrayals of Shylock.  Very uncomfortable to watch bc Stewart is so intimidating.  It was a great way to end our seminar time this week.  I was so thankful to have the Jewish expert as my seminar leader!

Performance Workshop with Caleen Jennings

Today was the end of our time with Caleen and we were relieved and proud of ourselves.  We practiced our monologues in so many different ways and learned how to look at practicing so many ways.  I was happy to get my austere Cerimon monologue done--I was the epitome of a pedant.

**Special Event today**  We could pose with the First Folio!  As a rule, the librarians are quite serious at the Folger, so it was so special for them to let us act like idiots and take our pic with the Folio.  I really wanted to do something even more cheesy, but this is what I got.

Curriculum Workshop with Sue Biondo-Hench

Sue is such a goddess of education!  I am just in awe of her humility in the midst of her awe-inspiring lesson plans.  Today, we worked on Sonnet 66, antithesis, and Gratiano's speech in 2.6.9-20.  We did some choral reading, short acting, and annotating.  Her students are so lucky to have her as a teacher!

These lessons can all be found on the Folger website, and you can search by play or type of activity.  Check out all the resources!

This evening, I worked on my Toolkit video project and typed up my initial lesson plans.  I have had many compliments about my knowledge of technology and teaching.  I am a "product of my journey" (as Caleen said today).  I am a product of my UTEP professors, AP institute teachers, AP colleagues, my students, and my faculty and admin. from my former school.

Blessed to be Teaching!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sneaky ways to do close reading: Day 6 of TSI

Such a productive day today at TSI!  We were considerably less frenetic and more energized.

Lecture with Margaret Maurer:  The Last Act of The Merchant of Venice

Techie note:  we started to use this week as a backchannel during lectures.  It really helps us to clarify points without disturbing the lecturer and let's us share ideas and extensions to the lecture.

Margaret's lecture argued that Act 4 with the trial scene is necessary for Act 5 to take place.  In Act 5, we see nothing of Shylock and are reminded that it is a comedy.  My friend Rob said it made him uncomfortable to cheer for the racists when they get married, and I tend to agree.

Margaret discussed the love action of Merchant as the primary action.  It is all about Bassanio and Portia and Antonio.  Bassanio and Shylock both have bonds to seal, but the main bond is for Bassanio to seal with Portia.

The tricksy maneuvers that both undo Shylock and trap Bassanio involve Portia as the agent.  She is quite a clever girl.

Also, there is a great emphasis on reading in the play.  Reading the bond and reading the riddles on the caskets.

One funny remark Margaret made referred to the scene with Gobbo and Old Gobbo.  She said it was basically full of "your mother" jokes.

Curriculum Workshop with Mike LoMonico

We had such a fun time with "LoMo" today!

First we did an exercise where we cut an 80 line scene down to 40 lines.  What a great way to have students close read without knowing they are doing it. (insert evil laugh).  It makes students really think about what is absolutely necessary to keep the action of the play.  After they cut the scene in half, you can give them back 10 lines and see where they put them.

Next we did the lesson from Shakespeare Set Free called Promptbooks.  This is where you take a short scene and write how the characters enter and move (blocking), their motivation, and their stage business.  What do you end up with?  Another close reading!  You have tone words, character motivation, and syntax.  I loved it!

Tomorrow, we have a monologue due in Performance Workshop and I am a little nervous about it.  I have also spent my evening having meetings with two different groups, eating, blogging, memorizing, and planning.  So many things pulling me in all directions!!  What blessed chaos!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bassanio is "ambidexterous"? or Portia's a fag hag: The Merchant of Venice on Day 5 of TSI

A gorgeous and mild day in DC!

Lecture with Jay Halio:  Staging in The Merchant of Venice

Today, we started working on our second play of the Institute, Merchant of Venice (MV).

Jay discussed the printing of MV which appeared in the quarto and Folio editions of Shakespeare.  Little is known about the original productions except that Will Kemp played the clown Gobbo.  Shylock is seen as a tragic hero, yet the play is a comedy.  I can already see that this will be the crux of our discussions on the play.

Jay went through several productions of MV including the ones with Charles Macklin, Edmund Keane, and Olivier.  Olivier's production was set in Victorian England and has Antonio and Shylock as doppelgangers of one another.

An important distinction for me was that Shylock is not a representative Jew.  No Jew would take a vow to kill another and violate a commandment.  Tubal is more of a representation of the Jewish faith.  Also, no Jew would accept conversion.

Portia, who has the most lines in the play mirrors the angel who stops Isaac from killing his son in the Bible.

I learned so much from Jay, both from his lecture and the subsequent seminar where our group discussed the issues affecting teaching the play and some other themes.

There is antisemitism in the play but that does not mean the play is antisemitic. 

We discussed the Antonio-Bassanio relationship as homosexual.  Antonio reminds me of the sonnets we read yesterday where the lover cannot get the beloved to acknowledge their relationship publicly.  So if Bassanio is homosexual, why is he after Portia?  Jay's answer:  he's "ambidexterous"

Personally, I know a fag-hag when I see one and let me tell you...Portia is a fag hag!

Curriculum Workshop with Mike LoMonico and Sue Biondo-Hensch

Today we finished reviewing the videos we did yesterday and I discovered that the main objective of the lesson was a focus on the Other in Shakespeare ( I missed this yesterday in the hurried instructions).  So, our group had an idea about how to extend the activity using the three ways of evaluating Shakespeare:  theatrical, literary and cinematic.  We would watch videos and then have chart tablets for each group around the room.  Using the "gallery walk" idea, have students write down what the noticed about each group's use of the elements in their video.  The students can then draw connections between the videos and how we decide to portray the "other" in the plays.

We then did two really fantastic activities that are found in the Shakespeare Set Free Toolkit.

Fifteen minute Romeo and Juliet:  rather than attempting to shorten the play on your own, use this activity to have your class do actions for key lines and then read the summary.  After you have done this with your 6 classes (my schedule), how about doing it as a "flash mob" in the cafeteria the next day. Fun, fun, fun!

We then did the 32 second version of Macbeth.  Again, another way to front-load info for the play and have a blast.

Performance Workshop with Caleen

Caleen is the master at getting the actor out of you.  Our vocal and exercise warm ups alone are enough to have great respect for her.  Did I mention she LOVES Earth, Wind and Fire?

We had to perform today, and eventhough I was not feeling super at the end of the day, she managed to get it out of me.

I'm playing a person who has studied the "Art of Physic."  I hate Physics!

We are all extremely stressed about our deadlines and assignments.  Realistically, they are not that intense.  I think it is our desire to really please and make our TSI mentors proud that is making it hard on us.  We are so blessed to be here and hundreds of teachers would love to have this stress! (Devil Wears Prada reference anyone?)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Thee, thou, and you: Pronouns in the Sonnets Day 5 of TSI

And we are back for another week!  Today was a bit strange because we had lectures all day including an extra one in the evening.

Morning Lecture:  David Schalkwyk on The Sonnets

David is the epitome of the Shakespearean professor--suit, tie, errant hair, and British accent.  In short, completely charming to listen to.  He discussed the sonnets and some of the themes that are present.  He framed his lecture by saying his son was getting married and he wanted to read a sonnet at the wedding.  He soon discovered that none of them are appropriate.

Helen Vendler says that unlike a play, the lyric is empty of any particular voice.  Any person who speaks them, becomes them.

We learned the importance of pronouns in the sonnets.  For those of you who have no idea about this (as I did), here is a summary
  • thee and thou are used for close family, for God, and from Master to servant
  • you is more formal
  • this is similar to the use of tu and usted in Spanish
As one looks through the sonnets ( we looked at 13, 57, 58, 121, 135, 126) you see Shakespeare making use of these pronouns to emphasize his intimacy with the subject and his displeasure with their relationship.

Interesting fact:  The phrase "Do you love me?" is only used once in Shakespeare (the Tempest). "Dost thou love me?" is used many times.

Independent Research and Lunchtime Colloquium on LUNA database

We had some time after lecture to go into the Reading Room and begin research, or work with Stephen and Margaret on EEBO (Early English Books Online).  Both of them really helped me find some items on my topic:  Venice as another  "other" in Merchant and Othello.

At lunch, we learned about the LUNA database which is accessible to the public.  It hold digital images of everything the Folger has photographed over the years.  You can search "Hamlet" and find pics of costumes and renderings of productions as well as pics of the Folio.  Really great for showing your students different ways of staging a play.  Click on the link and check it out!

Curriculum Presentation:  MaryEllen Dakin "Reading Shakespeare with Young Adults"

MaryEllen had us doing some video projects today using her idea of the relationship between the Literary/Theatrical/Cinematic connection.  MaryEllen calls this "transmediation." 

Our assignment was to film a scene, but add in scenes of us planning, expert advice, and other tidbits.  MaryEllen used the sample of Al Pacino's "Looking for Richard." for this.  We filmed our scene and my friend Melanie did some speed editing on Moviemaker.

After dinner, we went back to the Folger for a great lecture by Ralph Cohen about the Blackfriars Theater.  Interesting that the seating in the BF was exactly the opposite of the Globe:  rich people were onstage and in the front of the theater to be seen.

A great day today made even better by the mild weather over here!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Shappere, Shaxberd, or Sheik Speare? Day 4 of TSI

Whew!  Today was very tiring.  I can feel my body rebelling against the late hours and the take out meals. 

One of the best parts of TSI:  every morning as we arrive on our yellow bus, the TSI faculty stands on the steps of the Folger and greets us.  They stand there and wave bye to us in the afternoon too!!

Morning Lecture:  Stephen Dickey, Resourceful Shakespeare

Stephen's lecture was very informative plus quite humorous.  He likes to throw in little bon mots every once in a while which I really appreciate.

Stephen discussed Shakespeare's source for Err. which was the Menaechmus by Plautus.

Some interesting facts:
  • The play was first performed at one of the Inns (basically a lawyer-type crowd/males only) in 1594 during the commemoration of Herod's slaughter of the Innocents (Christmas season)
They were gonna party like it was 1599!
  • Egeon speech at the beginning is the longest speech in Shakespeare's plays.  It is usually performed with an accompanying dumb show or mime.  It is one LONG speech.
  • Err. has many new ideas that Menaechmus did not such as:  Dromio being beaten and Egeon's dramatic death sentence in the first scene.
  • Shakespeare's audience would have recognized Err's similarity and been OK with it.  Plautus was a common read for school boys at the time. 
Err has that great moment of Anagnorisis, in which Antipholus realized his true identity.  I love those Greek lit terms!!  Oedipus anyone?

Seminar with Margaret Maurer

Today we discussed some more about Antipholus and his character as a tyrant.  Margaret also told us about the Inns of Court which were where men went to read law.  They were communities of young men who were highly educated.

During our lunch (we are doing things even at lunchtime!, Stephen, Jay, and Margaret gave us an intro to our research projects.  We will be researching primary sources for any topic. Very different than what I did in Grad school where I used my beloved JSTOR.  Everyone is choosing some cool topics and we are excited but frankly, scared to death, about researching in the Reading Room.  We still have that "we're not worthy" mindset.

The librarian gave us an exhaustive intro to Hamnet and Early Books Online.  I really felt as though my brain might explode.  Where is all this new info going to go?  Will I still be able to remember every episode of Gilmore Girls?  Seriously, my brain be a hurtin'.

Curriculum Workshop with Michael LoMonico

"LoMo" went over some of the common misconceptions and some basic info on Shakespeare.  We learned that there is no standardized spelling in Shakespeare's time, so all of the spellings in my title were used (except the sheik).

Some other epiphanies for my teaching:
  • Teaching Shakespeare does NOT mean :  sitting at a desk reading, students standing at the front of the room reading, or the teacher performing the play
  • Acting a scene is a form of close reading on your feet!
  • It is more important for kids to LIKE Shakespeare than to understand every word.
  • Sometimes it is better to teach a part rather than the whole play.
  • the best way to use video may NOT be to show the DVD
  • Teaching Shakespeare does not mean designing Globe Theaters out of sugar cubes or popsicle sticks.  In fact, kids don't need to study the time period at all.
We then played a great game called Harlots vs. Strumpets where we divided into two groups and just said cool Shakespeare insults at each other.  Great class builder activity!

"thou art a needy, hollow-eyed, sharp-looking wretch"

Performance Workshop:  Notes later, but fun, fun, fun!

Tomorrow, we are off to Staunton, Virginia at 6:30 am to see a performance of Merchant of Venice!

It has been an exhausting and exciting week! I am so blessed to be here!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The name of Hamlet's mommy is Gertred? Editing Shakespeare's Texts

We were ready to roll after an eventful day in DC for the 4th of July.  I went to the American History Museum (cried at seeing the Star-Spangled Banner), the Natural History museum, and unexpectedly ran into the AIDS quilt on the National Mall (cried again).

Morning Lecture:  Margaret Maurer "Duplicity in Comedy of Errors"

Margaret presented us with a great lecture (and informative handout) about the doubling in Err. She went into several examples about the doubles in the play and how the play should "encumber your mind."  Here is what I found fascinating:  she believes that the roles of the twins should be played by one person and that NO distinction should be made.  That the confusion of the audience is necessary and exactly what is needed for a production.  What a great concept!

I have only seen a production of the Menaechmi (which we christened the Menaech-mess and in which my husband had a bit part), and remember that it was done with elaborate make-up to disguise BUT distinguish the characters.  Perhaps if this director had followed Margaret's advice, it would not have been a flop.

Biographical anecdote:  My husband was in two plays in college, but was a Chemistry major.  We met in the Theater Department!  Oh, and we did NOT like each other at all when we met.

Seminar:  Extended discussion on Comedy of Errors

Our seminar group discussed the use of time and the incompatibility of time in Err.  For instance, the Abbess at end of the play says she has been searching for 33 years for the twins.  Strange considering they are only 23!  Hmm, Shakespearean gestation times must have been quite different.

Lunch Talk with Erin Blake: Curator of Art and Special Collections

Erin took us through how to search through Hamnet and Luna for special items such as engravings, etchings and woodcuts.  Here is the epiphany:

All of these are available to you in your classroom for FREE!!

So, ANY teacher can access pictures of the Folio or Quarto and show it to your students.  You can also look at all kinds of cool maps of the area for the plays.  I will post a "how to" at the end of my time here.  But, they are quite easy to navigate.

Performance Workshop with Caleen Jennings

More about this later as we are split in groups and I don't want to spoil the other groups experience.  Let's just say you can do more with your kids that doesn't involve the "A" word..

ACTING (not assessment)

Lecture:  Barbara Mowat:  Editing Shakespeare

Do you know who Barbara Mowat is?  Look at the front of any Folger edition of Shakespeare and her name is on the front.  She is THE rock star of the editing world and responsible for most of what you and your students read (and believe) about Shakespeare's plays.

Barbara had us look at copies of the Folio and Quarto edition of Othello because that play is not a single text play (Err. and Pericles only appear in one edition).  So, just looking at the first line of Othello, there is a different word.  Barbara told us how she makes the decision to use one or the other.

The greatest thing was that I finally know how to read the emendations in the Folger editions.  I plan on using this skill with my students.  For example:

  • Hamlet's mother's name is Gertred in the originals, but everyone knows her as Gertrude.  What does the editor use:  Gertrude (but puts a note in the back).
  • The correct line in R&J is "a rose by any other word" but everyone is used to  " a rose by any other name"
I finally got to ask a burning question about Macbeth:  why do they still have those scenes where it says "not written by Shakespeare" included in the play.  Answer:  because it is in the Folio.

I also wanted to know if she had any scandalous editing that she had done that perhaps had caused controversy.  But, alas, no everyone pretty much accepts her editing.  

One line in Othello bothers her though:

  • Quarto version:  That I did love the Moor  (past tense Desdemona?)
  • Folio version:  That I love the Moor
 What if we showed this to our students and had them debate which one is more effective and why?
And now that anyone can access Hamnet, it is easy to do.  

That's all for today!  Tomorrow we finish our study of Err. and begin to do our Research Projects.  Saturday will involve us going to the Reading Room and pretending we know what we are doing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Day 2: The Petting Zoo and Silent Scenes

Tuesday, July 3

Today I got a lot more sleep and am now "used" to dorm life at AU.

Morning Lecture:  Jay Halio "The Tragic Frames of The Comedy of Errors"

Jay's Lecture discussed how there is always a tragic element in all of Shakespeare's comedies.  Our whole system of categorizing "comedy" and "tragedy" is not effective.  For example, in Err. and MV, you have tragic elements:  Egeon's death sentence and Shylock's desire to kill Antonio.

Seminar with Margaret Maurer

Margaret lead our sub-group in a beginning discussion of this week's play:  Err.  We came up with a list of general questions and then attacked each of them.  Margaret is an extraordinary professor, and her students at Colgate University are lucky to have her.

We were split into 3 groups for the seminar.  I loved my seminar group and think I am beginning to really like Err. and believe that it is a valid play to insert into my freshman curriculum.

Intro to Collection or "The Petting Zoo"

Margaret fondly called our intro to the Reading Room as the Petting Zoo where we get to touch the books--she was right!  We had a mind-blowing introduction to the HUGE collection at the Folger and the librarian showed us many rare books that pertained to the plays we are studying this month.

And then, there it was,  THE FIRST FOLIO! *audible gasp*

We are absolutely allowed to touch, without gloves, everything in this monstropolous of a library.  And I did let my pinky graze le folio as I was leaving the room.  OOOHHH!!

We're not worthy does not even begin to explain it!

This was one of the many epiphanies of my time here:  Really?  You are letting US touch these things?  Hold them? Read them?  The answer is YES!  We have access to all of the books in the entire library and the VAULT! (I will take a pic of the outside of the vault soon)

*ridiculous Greta thought:  If I was single, I would totally come to the Folger Reading Room and find a husband.*

Curriculum Session with Sue Biondo-Hench

After our exhilarating session in the library, we headed to the theater for our curriculum discussion with Sue.

We discussed several strategies and used the Cambridge School Edition of Err.:

  • the use of a PLAY MAP for your students to help them navigate the play you will be reading.  These are great and are in the Shakespeare Set Free books if you have them.
  • We then did SILENT SCENES, which are basic outlines of scenes from your play (Hamlet meeting the ghost, Macbeth banquet scene, Helena and Hermia fighting, etc).  
    • Students are given the Silent Scene which just lists ACTION for a scene (three men talk about seeing a ghost, the ghost appears and makes one of them follow him, the ghost is his father, etc) No names or lines.
    • Students come up with a mime for the scene.  If you have a few props, this helps alleviate a lot of pressure and makes it even more FUN.
    • Students perform scene and audience decides what the action is showing.
  •  The next exercise involved breaking up Antipholus' speech in Err. where he imagines what horrible things are in the city.  Each small group/pair had one line and came up with a pantomime for the line.  Class decides who will read the speech and how to block it.  Again, we used some fun props.  This would work for those long monologues that have lots of metaphors.  It helps students visualize the action and aids in comprehension.
  • Lastly, we did some comparisons with other works.  We compared A Noiseless Patient Spider by Whitman to  the speech given by Antipholus of Syracuse where he says "I am to the world like a drop of water."
So overwhelmed at the end of the day!  We all got back to the AU dorms and I introduced everyone to the antithesis of scholarly Shakespeare:  My American Gypsy Wedding.  Sometimes, you just need to give the Bard a break!

Monday, July 2, 2012

TSI Day 1: Caesar Salad and Picturing Shakespeare

Today was our first institute day at the Folger.  It was exhilarating and exhausting!

Stephen Booth Lecture

Our first order of business was to meet in the gorgeous Folger theater which is a amalgam of several theaters from Shakespeare's time (not a replica of the Globe as some think).  Gail Paster delivered our "Steven Booth" lecture.  Stephen was one of the first TSI participants and is a fantastic Shakespeare scholar.  More on him here:

Gail's lecture was entitled, "Shylock, Othello and the Theatrical Coding of Difference:  Picturing Shakespeare at the Folger."  Gail had lots of slides of actors throughout the ages in their costumes for Othello and Shylock.  They are commonly visualized onstage as the "other."  Gail believes that costumes, hair, makeup, and props all extra-textually show the character.  We were amazed at the different images of Othello and Shylock:  from comedic to tragic.  She discussed the use of darkened skin tone to show Shylock and the lighter-black skin tone to show Othello at times.

So here is the great thing:  all of these images are available in the Folger database!  So, what a great way to show the nuances of MoV and Othello by showing how different actors portrayed the characters.  We are sometimes plagued with student stereotyping of these characters. I will give directions later on this month on how to access the info on the Folger databases.

Fun note:  Actors playing Othello sometimes looked pretty "metrosexual" in their costuming.  I kept thinking, "I think Desdemona can take him!"

Introduction to Curriculum and Caesar Salad Activity:

After lunch, Mike LoMonico lead us in a introductory curriculum workshop.  We each needed to answer "who taught you to teach Shakespeare."  We had lots of laughs and apparently almost all of us HATE Julius Caesar! (therapy needed).  We discussed that there is no Methods course for Teaching Shakespeare except at a handful of colleges.  Why?

After our discussion, we did a little activity that would help to introduce kids to any of your plays.  You need a scene that involves about 5 actors.  It needs to have minimal difficult vocab, lots of implied action, and short lines.  (first scene in R&J, Mechanicals in MSND, etc.)  We used Act III, sc iii from Julius Caesar where Cinna is going to Caesar's funeral and is met by several angry citizens.

Caesar Salad (my name for this)

1.  Have students in groups of 6.  Scenes should fit on one page and have 5 actors--we want them to invent what to do with the extra.

2.  Each group is to assign parts and block the scene.  We did a group read and did basic blocking for about 10 minutes.

3.  Give each group a list of things to SPICE up the scene such as:  a tableaux, 10 seconds of silence, a modern prop, a whisper, an unexpected entrance or exit.  Each group tries to include as many of the spices as possible.  We had another 5-7 minutes to re-block, etc.

4.  Perform.

This is terrific for introducing the language, stage directions, voice, infection, and movement!  It will get kids excited about the play they will read.  You can work on inference skills and prediction as well.

Performance Workshop

After TEA (delicious!) we had our first performance workshop with Caleen and Michael.  We did several trust activities (leading your partner blind) and lots of acting warm-ups.  Here are a couple of good ideas from the workshop:

1.  If you do the trust walk exercise, afterwards debrief with each student sharing.  Quickly, they comment on "I learned", "I noticed", and "I resented".  I like the addition of the last one because students can get out their frustration in a safe way.

2.  If you do the name game where everyone says their name and an alliterative adjective (giggling Greta), here are some additions.  Students first say their name and adjective.  They must have a movement associated with the adjective (great for learning vocab!).  After the initial introduction, students then add to their adjective with an action and a location.  They must have a movement for each of these as well.  Example:  giggling Greta golfing in a gondola.  Great icebreaker, class building and team building activity.


After dinner, we had a great albeit HOT and SWEATY bus tour of DC.  I was impressed with the beauty of the FDR memorial. 

So, time to tuck myself into this Spartan single bed and get some shut-eye!


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Day 1 Teaching Shakespeare Institute: Is all our company met?

Here are some of my musings for arrival day at American University:

After a pretty uneventful flight, I arrived at the lovely American University campus.  I am from Texas and not used to seeing trees, grass, and flowers everywhere.  In the midst of all this splendor was the shock of seeing huge trees that were splintered by the storm a few days ago--very scary.

The TSI staff was there to greet me and carry my luggage to my dorm.  They are extremely courteous and dedicated.  We are staying in the Centennial dorms for the duration of the institute (4 weeks).  I have a double room, but am the only one in it.  I have a suite mate named Sarah who teaches in Long Island.  The dorms are very nice (air conditioned, carpeted,and quiet).

This evening, we had our first get together where Bob Young went over our schedule.  It is going to be intense!  We have a variety of lectures, colloquia, and performance workshops.  We also will have lesson plans, scholarly papers, video projects, and are expected to spend our Saturdays at the Folger researching. 

Mega-coolness ---> Everyday at 3:00, the Folger Library serves tea!!

We did the usual introduce your partner which included which Shakespeare play is your favorite (I went with Othello).  Then we did a great activity called "Shakespeare in a Can" by Michael Tolaydo (prof at St. Mary's of Maryland).  Here is how it went:

Shakespeare in a Can

  • You need 3 coffee cans.
  • In can 1, you put in a quote from a Shakespeare play (most of these were funny insults)
  • In can 2, you put a location (restaurant, school room, gas station, etc)
  • In can 3, you put another quote (again, they were funny ones)
In groups of 5, the group improves the scene using Quote 1 as the start and Quote 2 as the end.  The middle is done using "regular" language and must evoke the setting for the audience.   Improvs can be as short or long as you wish, but the important part is to get the amalgam of Shakespeare and normal speech.  It was lots of fun!

Tomorrow, we have a late start day which will be great for me since I am in a new time zone.  We have lectures on Comedy of Errors (our first play), Introduction to Curriculum, Introduction to Performance and finally a tour of DC in the evening.

As I enjoy my cup of tea in my new swanky Folger Library cup, I bid you goodnight.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer Professional Development without leaving the house

This summer, I have learned more than any staff development week could ever offer me.  A few things that I have done have really given me new insight into teaching and leadership.

1.  I beefed up my Twitter considerably.  I sought out people with hashtags like #edtech and #engchat and followed them.  I made use of my favorites tool to flag posts with great ideas.

2.  I did a few webinars online.  I did these through ASCD and other sites that I found on, you guessed it, Twitter.

3.  I found the site called livebinders that I intend to use for my classes next year.  It is a virtual three-ring binder.

4.  I joined groups on edmodo.  One group in particular, the English Flipped Class group, has amazing people who are excited about the flipped classroom concept.  And for English teachers, it means a little bit more than just "I assign reading at home."

5.  I will be part of a cohort of 25 going to the Folger Shakespeare Library for the Teaching Shakespeare Institute.  This is a part of several NEH workshops that take applications every year. 

6.  I made connections on Twitter and Edmodo to work on various projects that involve what I love (teaching, British Lit, etc).  These things not only satiate my appetite for my special loves in teaching, but they also are a great way to network and get your name out there.

7.  I read some great books.  Todd Whitaker has great books on leadership and teaching.  He has made me look at leadership in a different way.

Thanks for reading,

Bragging about Failure: a Contradiction in Teaching?

I am a subscriber to an AP listserv, and this week there was a post from a teacher that hit a nerve with me.  The teacher was asking for assistance because she now had several sections of AP English and each section was full.  Her problem was that the kids were in the class for the "wrong reasons" and she wanted ideas on how to weed them out.  The next day, another teacher posted something to the effect that she should "fail them early, and fail them often."   I began to think about why it is acceptable in our profession to brag about failure?

I don't know if these are the same complaints that have plagued our profession for years, or if I am just beginning to be irritated by them.  Here are some other boasts from teaching: 
  1. No one can pass my class.
  2. I am a hard grader.
  3. Can't wait to get them with this test.
  4. These are the worst kids I've ever had.
  5. I have a high failure rate.
  6. I give them a really hard test at the beginning to get rid of them.
  7. I love that no administrator has been in my room for years.
  8. (add your own)
I am going to use these little brags and transfer them into another profession--let's go with medicine.  Would a Doctor say the following? (and still have a job):
  1. No one survives my treatments.
  2. Why are all these sick people in my waiting room.
  3. I have a high failure rate.
  4. I only know how to treat smallpox (or equally archaic illness), and I am not going to learn how to treat these new illnesses.
  5. I love that no other doctor has evaluated my performance in years.
Yes, a bit dramatic, but do you see the point?  We are the only profession that can brag that people unsuccessfully come through our treatments--and it is accepted!  In any other profession, the lack of success would be seen as a failure--not a reason to brag.

How about walk-throughs and evaluations?  Most teachers are happy to be left alone and are proud of the fact that teacher assessment systems allow them to skip evaluations for years.  In Texas, I am allowed to forego evaluations for three years.  So, up until last year, I only had an administrator in my room for 40 minutes in 3 years. What other profession does this happen in?  None.

I have, of course, been guilty this type of bragging in my 20 years of teaching.  Now, however, I am trying to be cognizant of it and realize I need to be thankful for being employed in a profession I love.  I also need to realize that it is not appropriate to brag about failure.  Teaching is a job where you must constantly evaluate yourself and your methods.  Accepting failure stagnates you and your teaching and does nothing for your students.  So let's start bragging about success and keep it at that.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

One Week to Go!

Today I have been preparing for my trip to Washington, D.C.  I will be leaving in one week to attend the Teaching Shakespeare Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library.  I was one of 25 educators chosen from around the U.S.

I am currently re-reading Othello, probably my favorite of the four plays we will be studying at the Institute (Comedy of Errors, Pericles, Merchant of Venice are the other three).

I am also working on formatting this blog which is a new tech thing for me to tackle.

Things to do:  upload pics to Shutterfly, meet with my new curriculum coach, and pack!