Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Learning to Love Shakespeare

Shakespeare

“This is too hard!” “I don't get this!” “Why are we reading this?” Do these sound familiar? If you're a high school English teacher teaching Shakespeare they do! There is much debate over whether or not Shakespeare should be taught in high school. If you ask your students, some will say they love it and others will not. It is my belief that teaching Shakespeare is imperative to any high school English curriculum. Not only have the works of Shakespeare shaped the English language, his plays and stories convey timeless themes and emotions. Furthermore, the way he portrays his characters and their struggles are all relevant today, especially to high school aged students.

So, what made me decide that I HAD to write more about this topic? I was having a conversation at school the other day (to be fair, his person is not an English teacher) and I was explaining some of the activities I was doing with Shakespeare whey they said, "I wonder when they are going to phase that out?" GASP!

Those opposed to the teachings of Shakespeare today may believe that we should be teaching more modern topics to students and focusing less on the classics. Some may say that the story lines are irrelevant and boring. They may even go as far as to say Shakespeare is outdated. People tend to think we should be teaching more hands-on, mentally-challenging topics in order for our children to strive and grow. While we can't discount anybody's opinions or thoughts, and while we must respect each others point of view, it is my belief that the above are not good enough reasons to have children miss out on all that the works of Shakespeare can offer.

In today's society, our students are faced with many stresses and struggles. They have to deal with things like suicide, violence, anger, love, depression, racism, and the recently popular topic of gender issues. As an educator, it's our job to make our curriculum relevant to the lives of our students, so that they are excited and engaged in what we are teaching. The works of Shakespeare, although written long before our time, actually do explore and discuss such topics.

We can talk about how important and relevant Shakespeare is all day, but how do we actually convey this to our students so they understand too? It all starts with us, the teacher. It's our job to be creative in the way we introduce each Shakespearean play to our students. If a specific play has a strong theme to it, discuss the theme in depth. Whether it's love, suicide, depression or hatred, students need to talk about those themes and how they experience it today, so that they can understand how the characters in the story experience it. Some students might be resistant to try reading the stories and plays because they don't understand how to actually read the language of Shakespeare. If this is the case, there are plenty of resources available to assist in helping students understand the rhythm and the poetry of his writings. Reading out loud and acting out the plays are another helpful technique in keeping students engaged and interested.

Wait. Aren't there other, more modern books out there that teach these same themes? Yes, definitely. I, however, still believe that there is room for both in a classroom. Unless you've gone through and entire Shakespeare play, you can't really understand the sense of accomplishment when you finish that last line, especially if you are a teenager! Sure, it was sometimes hard to understand, but I can attest to the fact that students feel a sense of pride when they are done! In addition to the accomplished feeling, there are so many pop-culture references and allusions that are made, which you would not be able to understand if you have not read any of Shakespeare's work! For instance, Disney movies have made several references to Shakespeare. Several popular songs have referenced Shakespeare too! So, while you can definitely find the same themes in modern books, your students may be missing out on many Ah ha! moments in the years to come.

I know. It's one thing to tell and another thing to do! Here's a really easy, fun, and interactive way to introduce Shakespeare to your students. The Shakespeare Mini-Book is a convenient reference guide answers the most common Shakespeare questions (Who was William Shakespeare? Why is Shakespeare so hard to read? Why do we study Shakespeare?) It also provides students with some engaging and interesting topics for discussion, such as popular quotes, list of invented words, fun facts, as well as a list of well-known works.

This man was a literary genius, plain and simple.  His works reveal such importance in the development of our English language and literature. Teachers have the ability to make learning Shakespeare a fun and exciting lesson, provided the right resources. All students deserve to experience the magic and art that is Shakespeare!

What do you think? Should Shakespeare be a part of the high school English curriculum?


Shakespeare Macbeth Free
Here's a FREE set of Macbeth bookmarks to kick-start your Shakespeare journey!


3 comments:

  1. I was reluctant to teach Shakespeare's plays until I learned how to engage my students. You are so right about his timeless messages. Recently, I taught Macbeth to my 10th graders, and had the idea to pull in O.J. Simpson as a tragic character. Wow! At the end of the unit, they had to find and research another tragic hero. They learned that our world is full of them. We talk about how they can avoid becoming a tragic hero. Yes! Indeed! Shakespeare is relevant today.

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  2. I was reluctant to teach Shakespeare's plays until I learned how to engage my students. You are so right about his timeless messages. Recently, I taught Macbeth to my 10th graders, and had the idea to pull in O.J. Simpson as a tragic character. Wow! At the end of the unit, they had to find and research another tragic hero. They learned that our world is full of them. We talk about how they can avoid becoming a tragic hero. Yes! Indeed! Shakespeare is relevant today.

    ReplyDelete
  3. First, when you writing an story or novels you should check your english language personal statement because it will helpful to you.

    ReplyDelete