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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: August ::
Teaching Shakespeare to Large Groups
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1562  Monday, 23 August 2004

From:           Katherine Scheil <
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Date:           Friday, 20 Aug 2004 20:09:06 -0400
Subject:        Teaching Shakespeare to Large Groups

Dear fellow Shakespearians,

I teach a large Shakespeare class (approx. 100 students) and have been
wrestling with the issue of in-class performances. I am hoping someone
on the list can give me some suggestions.  Here's my problem: in the
past, I have asked students to sign up if they would be interested in
reading passages in class.  Usually I get 35-40 people who sign up, and
I then have lots of people to call on when I need someone to read a
passage.  I am hesitant to put students on the spot in front of a large
group unless they have volunteered to read.  However, the problem is
that too often the "readers" who volunteer are very enthusiastic, but
don't have the best acting or poetic reading ability.  They often
proceed heroically through a passage, but it can be painful for the rest
of us, and the class doesn't appreciate a poorly read passage.  I don't
want to critique people's readings in front of the group, esp. since the
readers have been brave to volunteer in the first place.  And I'd like
to include some component in the course where more people could
participate--some sort of performance-based assignment.  I am reluctant
to make everyone read in front of the group, so I thought maybe some
students could be responsible for doing a handout or leading a
discussion.  But I'm not sure how to do this for a class of this size.
    We do 6-7 plays; one of my graduate students had suggested assigning
each student to a play, so for example, we'd have a "Hamlet group" who
would do all of the readings for that play.  But with this size of
class, there would be 15 or so people in the group.  I don't want to
devote part of the class to one big performance (too many students to do
that anyway) but I'd really like to improve the "performance" aspect of
the class, so that students are more involved, and the in-class readings
are improved.  Does anyone have an assignment of this type that works well?

Thanks for any suggestions,
Katherine Scheil
University of Rhode Island

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