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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: October ::
Re: Classroom Strategies
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1039.  Wednesday, 15 October 1997.

[1]     From:   Mike Sirofchuck <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 14 Oct 1997 00:01:52 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1033  Re: Classroom Strategies

[2]     From:   Tanya Gough <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 14 Oct 1997 11:59:52 -0400
        Subj:   re: classroom strategies

[3]     From:   Karen Krebser <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 14 Oct 1997 09:29:45 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1033 Re: Classroom Strategies

[4]     From:   Rick Jones <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 14 Oct 1997 14:53:39 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1027  Re: Classroom Strategies


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Sirofchuck <
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Date:           Tuesday, 14 Oct 1997 00:01:52 -0800
Subject: 8.1033  Re: Classroom Strategies
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1033  Re: Classroom Strategies

My two cents on classroom strategies for the Immortal Bard:  I've taught
Shakespeare plays in high school for twenty years in grades 9 - 12.   We
"perform" the play in the classroom.  Usually we read a short story
version of the play first in order to learn the plot and characters,
thus removing one roadblock to understanding the language.  Then I like
to show the first act of whatever play we are studying on video, usually
the BBC version.  Now the kids have a mental picture of the characters
and have heard the language spoken by professional actors.  We then
perform the play in the classroom, using a number of props with me
"directing" with the proviso that students are encouraged to offer
staging suggestions, etc.  I "teach" the language as we work through the
play - Act I usually takes a while, but as the understanding increases,
the play moves much more smoothly.  If a particular scene goes well (or
so badly it is hilarious) we often repeat it.  Last year my World Lit
class performed Act V Hamlet, sword fights and all with scripts in hand,
for other classes and parents.  We staged it in the foyer to our
auditorium which allowed the audience to stand at Ophelia's graveside
and be splashed with sweat from the actors.   I teach the poetry and we
perform the play and watch video presentations of the play.   We have
few, if any, opportunities to see live Shakespeare theatre, living on an
island in the Gulf of Alaska.
Mike Sirofchuck
Kodiak High School

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tanya Gough <
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Date:           Tuesday, 14 Oct 1997 11:59:52 -0400
Subject:        re: classroom strategies

To add to the continuing debate regarding text versus enactment, I would
like to put forth my own experience.  Having taught English as a second
language abroad for a handful of years, I am a strong supporter of the
performance technique for learning.  In Japan, text is treated as
something to memorize, to master and to catalog, but in terms of
understanding the *sense* of text, their system fails entirely.  Ask
students to memorize and regurgitate, and they will do precisely that.
Then ask them to explain what they have memorized and you will receive
nothing but blank stares.  Enactment reinforces knowledge, makes it
tangible and real.

My suggestion is to start off with only as much linguistic knowledge as
the students require to grasp the general concept.  Then let them run
with it.  Do a read through, but stop occasionally to point out
difficult concepts or spot check to make sure they a grasping the plot.
Show them a film clip if you have one.  Let them struggle a bit, but
don't let them flounder.  Then sit down and focus on the specifics of
language and poetic discourse.  Let's face it, no one can cover a
Shakespeare play in its complex entirely during a single school
semester.  So shouldn't we be concentrating on giving students the basic
tools they require to handle the subject, plus the ability to approach
future encounters with confidence and curiosity?  There is no greater
gift one can pass on to a student.

Tanya Gough

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Krebser <
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Date:           Tuesday, 14 Oct 1997 09:29:45 -0700
Subject: 8.1033 Re: Classroom Strategies
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1033 Re: Classroom Strategies

Dale Lyles says:

> Karen Krebser has perhaps inadvertently proven my point when she says
> that "These plays are mostly read, and studied on the page, rather than
> on the stage."

I live to serve, Professor Lyles (inadvertently or otherwise).

> There lies the most serious error in most literature classrooms today.

Your opinion (as the opposite is mine). Perhaps we may agree to
disagree.

Also, it seems that I must point out that I am NOT a teacher (in the
conventional sense of the word). I am a poet (and since the "publish or
perish" mantra is as insidious in the poetry publication business as it
is in the academic business, I shall present my credentials, for
whatever they're worth: I have been published multiple times during the
last four years both on line and off, and was a finalist for the 1996
T.S. Eliot Prize for the best book-length collection of American poetry;
I also have a master's degree in English Lit., with a special emphasis
in creative writing). I am a teacher, however, in the following sense
(and the following is only an example): When I go to see productions of
Shakespeare's plays with friends (who, btw, are as well-educated as I
am), I am literally bombarded with "whatdyshesay? what's that? what
happened? why's that there?" and the ever-popular "what's *that* mean?",
at which point I either launch into a whispered lecture (that I've
gotten from A THOROUGH PRIOR READING OF THE TEXT), or, to save my fellow
playgoing patrons, a whispered "I'll tell you later. Pay attention." My
grandmother is constantly after me to become a teacher, but this forum
has assured me that there are those who are much better suited to that
task than I am.

and then Rod Osiowy says, in the same digest:

> Good Lord,
>
> Having taught literature and theatre for over 15 years has given me some
> good perspective on this issue.  There is no way to understand
> Shakespeare,(except for the sonnets), without watching them on the
> stage.

This is rot, and I take offense at it. I have not seen all of
Shakespeare's plays performed, and none of Marlowe's or Jonson's, nor
most of the other playwrights I mentioned. However, to say (or even to
imply) that I am incapable of understanding Shakespeare's plays without
seeing them produced is grossly, infuriatingly uninformed.  You have
absolutely no concept of my mental or imaginative capacity, sirrah, and
to assume that I (and, by implication, other students [of all ages] of
Shakespeare) need to be spoonfed a production of a play in order to
understand it, is so offensive as to be frightening to me.

> To think that understanding is taking place off the page is simply
> ridiculous.

Your concept of "ridiculous" is curious. I shall notify Tom Stoppard
about it, and perhaps it will constitute the subject of his next play
(to which you must escort your students, because they will not be
allowed to read the text aforehand). I shall then write a poem about it.
That way, all our bases are covered.

> In short, if you are not watching Shakespeare's plays in production, you
> are not really doing the work justice.  And I cling to this.

Barnacle-like, no doubt. Forgive me, but the content of your post (and
it's assumptions about me and my capabilities and my level of experience
and understanding of literature both on the stage and on the page)
really pisses me off. You are making colossal assumptions about me, and
that, fella, is a big mistake.

I now step back (the barnacle loosens and floats away). I will not be
posting further on this subject (a resounding "Huzzah!" drifts, e-wise,
through the ether), as I think my opinion is obvious (and maybe this
horse [or at least my contributions to it's ill health] is dead).

Thank you,
Karen Krebser

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rick Jones <
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Date:           Tuesday, 14 Oct 1997 14:53:39 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 8.1027  Re: Classroom Strategies
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1027  Re: Classroom Strategies

1).  I confess to being a little confused.  Isn't it self-evident that a
first encounter with a play (read or seen) will enhance the second
encounter with that same play (read or seen)?  If I read _Hamlet_ and
then go see it, I will understand things in the production that would
have eluded me without my prior reading.  If I see _Hamlet_ and then
read it, I will understand things in the script that would have eluded
me without my prior viewing.  Duh.

2).  It has been my experience that even bad productions accomplish more
"teaching" in two or three hours than my lectures could.  Students, once
they understand that Mistress Quickly doesn't *have to* wear a red
leather mini-skirt, seem more ready to grapple with the implications of
such choices... and to search the *text* for affirmation of their ideas,
than if they're encouraged (or even allowed) to look at MWW independent
of production. Of course, it could just be that I'm a lousy lecturer.

3).  Finally, it's impossible to recreate either what Shakespeare
intended or the manner in which an audience would respond.  If we don't
tell students who the "little eyases" were, they have no idea what's
going on; if we do, there's no joy of recognition in finding allusions
to the War Between the Theatres: it's like having to explain a joke.
Deadly.  So perhaps we ought, both in our productions and in our
classrooms, to concentrate on what's there for us, rather than what may
have been there for someone else 400 years ago.  Anyone teaching or
directing Shakespeare without being able to address a late-20th-century
audience probably ought to be looking for another line of work...

Rick Jones

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