Friday, August 1, 2008

Wm. Shakespeare may be my demise

Now my educational attention is focused on the classes I must teach in the fall at co-op. I have prided myself on closely tailoring my approach to the subject at hand to the students in the seats. I have been given the dilemma of essentially having two distinct groups in my Shakespeare class.

First there is a set of six little girls ages eleven and twelve. I taught a few of them in my Art History class last year, and have observed their friends and find them no different. They are a book smart, giggly, innocent, well behaved group. They would rather smoosh all into a table meant for 1/2 their number than leave anyone out. Like a school of minnows they wander about going hither and yon, but on co-op days always together, but always under the eye of one of two Alpha Moms.

Then I have six more students, three boys and three girls between the ages of 14 and 17. These are a mixed bag of backgrounds, interests and maturity levels - but don't cross-mix with the little girl gaggle.

Shakespeare wrote to entertain the rough workers, erudite merchants, and jaded nobles of Elizabethan England, and he did it so well that we still study him today. The works that would most engage the older group would be either completely over the head, or (ahem..) 'inappropriate for' the younger group. If I skip the bawdy jests, rough murders and bed-hopping for the whole class for the sake of the youngest ones, I'll get a big yawn from the group that I'd like to hook.

This is going to take more research than I had anticipated.



Neil said...

That is a dilemma. I'm sitting here racking my brain against every Shakespeare I know. There's never going to be a play that is completely clean but some are lessor evils than others.

Perhaps you could start out with some Sonnets. Despite their succinctness, most of them exemplify Shakespeare's poetic structure and choice of literary devices.

Then perhaps you could move on to (dare I even say it)...Romeo and Juliet. The love story aspect of it might appeal to the giggly girl crowd, but it also contains interesting characters like Mercutio and exciting scenes like the dualling scene between Tybalt and Romeo for instance.

I may be way off but I hope that in some way, I've helped.

I'll be interested to hear what you come up with.

medic3327 said...

Next time put a maturity disclaimer in the curriculum discription. Better luck next time.


Kate said...

Ummm, put the older kids in a "Shakespeare and Morals" group and team teach it with the sociology/growing up right in America teacher.

Use film/video clips or entire movies. You can set either group up with a film to watch and spend time doing interest-level stuff with the other six.

"Shakespeare for Beginners" - Bet there's something in a google search that would help.

And, finally, maybe you start with studying Shakespeare the man, his theater, his world, his contemporaries, and work into his writings. It's just as fascinating to learn about the theater setting, the people who attended, who acted, even the argument about whether it was one man who wrote all those things or someone other than him or a team...

There's always "X"tra credit, as in X-rated!

M.E. Again said...

I only have 12 weeks, 50 minutes a class. I can't cover very much. I've decided I'll cover parts of plays and require the older kids to read an entire play, and the younger set to cover one or two in the 'Shakespeare Stories' version written for kids. I have some rocking audio clips to have them follow along with that came with my Teaching Company audio course, and a book called Irresistible Shakespeare that has some dandy hand-outs and class discussion ideas that I can work up or down for both groups. Someone gave me a book left over from a Recitation contest that has about 30 sonnets and short monologues. I think I'll require each to memorize one - not enough memorization going on for our kids in current educational scopes. It's good to have a little of the Bard at the tip of your tongue. I'd better pick one and start memorizing... gotta be a good example.