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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: March ::
Shakespeare, the Famous English Chunk Writer
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0592  Wednesday, 3 March 2004

[1]     From:   Jonathan Hope <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 02 Mar 2004 13:12:03 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0586 Shakespeare, the Famous English Chunk Writer

[2]     From:   Mari Bonomi <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 2 Mar 2004 10:39:34 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0586 Shakespeare, the Famous English Chunk Writer

[3]     From:   John V. Knapp <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 2 Mar 2004 10:21:27 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Response to Re: SHK 15.0586 Shakespeare, the Famous English Chunk


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jonathan Hope <
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Date:           Tuesday, 02 Mar 2004 13:12:03 +0000
Subject: 15.0586 Shakespeare, the Famous English Chunk Writer
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0586 Shakespeare, the Famous English Chunk Writer

 >A proper survey course in English Literature necessarily includes
 >Spenser and Milton too; and it is not possible to teach those poets
 >without The Faerie Queen and Paradise Lost.  Does that mean that college
 >freshmen must read and analyze the entireties of those epic poems?

Hard to read the whole of the Faerie Queene, given it's only half
finished...

Jonathan Hope
Strathclyde University, Glasgow http://www.sinrs.stir.ac.uk/

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mari Bonomi <
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Date:           Tuesday, 2 Mar 2004 10:39:34 -0500
Subject: 15.0586 Shakespeare, the Famous English Chunk Writer
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0586 Shakespeare, the Famous English Chunk Writer

I think (speaking as someone who taught HS "English" for almost 4
decades) that what the observed teachers were doing was good, but too
limited.

I don't believe in teaching just "chunks" -- nor can I countenance
teaching "to the test."

I know little of the contents of those English/British examinations so
will comment no more on them.

Rather I'll speak a bit about what Connecticut does on its CAPT
(Connecticut Academic Proficiency Test) of reading/writing given each
spring to 10th graders.

Students are presented with a work of literature (narrative essay or
short story) and asked to make meaning of it by responding to several
open-ended questions.  The test has changed somewhat in the past several
years so I do not know how many questions.  But I do know that the
questions ask students to do four things: React (meaning to recognize
their initial responses), Interpret (meaning to make meaning of the
literature - often done by giving them a quotation from the text and
asking them to respond to it), Connect (meaning to explain how this new
experience fits with previous reading, viewing, and life experiences)
and Evaluate (meaning to define "good literature" and determine if this
particular writing sample fits the definition).  In all areas students
are expected to cite the text to support their ideas.

Now *this* is a test I can 'teach to.'  In fact, it's a test that I
'taught to' for decades before it came into existence.  The primary
adjustments to my usual instruction were several formal classes to
"define" good literature and regular statements "this assignment is like
the part of the CAPT that asks you to XYZ" -- simply to remind students
that they had the skills to do well on the CAPT because that's what
we've always done in our district and in my classroom to facilitate
learning of literature and compositional responses thereto.

Ironically, it's virtually impossible to 'teach to' the CAPT since the
reading/writing portion takes several hours to administer and -- except
for schools using a block schedule where classes meet for that long at
once -- there's no way to replicate the experience.  I turned my midterm
examinations into CAPT-like tests so students would have practice.  So
what if they didn't have to define a lengthy list of terms or
whatever... They were demonstrating the essentials of what I wanted them
to know how to do: read for meaning and enjoyment, evaluate the quality
of their reading on some scale, and communicate intelligently about
these issues using the text for support.

I hope the upgraded CAPTs haven't moved too far away from these
essential qualities.

Mari Bonomi

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John V. Knapp <
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Date:           Tuesday, 2 Mar 2004 10:21:27 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Re: SHK 15.0586 Shakespeare, the Famous English Chunk
Comment:        Response to Re: SHK 15.0586 Shakespeare, the Famous English Chunk

Bob, Larry, Martin, et al. --

I am shocked, shocked to see your opinions on the inabilities of 16 or
17 yr olds to read Shakespeare other than in easily-digestible chunks!
These are the very same 17 yr olds who can out-program any of us, some
of whom make games of trying to outwit Microsoft.  Yet, if I read your
opinions correctly, the poor dears can't be expected to read for basic
understanding some of the world's best theater.  Whenever I listen to a
teacher say that her/his students "don't get" Shakespeare and so they
therefore roll out a film/video-tape version so as not to tax their sts'
minds too overmuch, I hear a teacher who has not yet mastered the
variety of pedagogical techniques long-available to make Shakespeare
understandable, even to the unwashed.  Such a defeatist attitude has
continued, perhaps unwittingly, the growing trend toward the Wellsian
model of a world divided into academic Eloi and Morlocks, neither of
whom will have much of clue as to WHY they should be reading anything,
much less Shakespeare.

JVK

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