I met with my middle-school classes on Thursday. They have finished reading the plays, and we were able put together plans for our Digital Shakespeare projects. Plans may change, and who knows what will happen as we head into test prep season, but here is where we have decided to go by the end of the year.
6th Grade The 6th grade class has decided to retell the story of Antony and Cleopatra via Cleopatra’s Facebook page. We are currently discussing what that will look like on our discussion forum, but some of the ideas discussed include status updates, wall posts, photos, and video snippets of students performing scenes from the original play that might have been “uploaded” by characters. We even have a student who knows how to create a mock-up Facebook page when all of the other work is done. This project has a lot of potential! “Marc Antony has changed his relationship status to Married. Dislike!”
7th Grade The 7th grade class is doing a stage production of Macbeth. The plan is to film each scene and create a website with embedded videos, along with student writing about the play and emendations linked from the text. Both teacher and students know this is a very ambitious project, but they have made a commitment to put the time in. If they do, this project will be phenomenal. If they don’t, or if circumstances intervene, it will be my job to make sure the end result does honor to the work they were able to put in. This is similar to a project I did with fifth-grade students years ago, but these students are a little older and the technology is so much better now. I really hope this happens.
8th Grade The 8th grade class will not be available to me much after testing season, since they typically get pulled out for various senior-related activities throughout June, but I think our idea is quite manageable in the time we have left. The students want to create a trailer for a non-existant movie version of As You Like It. Students are currently watching real movie trailers (which are easily accessible online) to notice what features they have in common. This will be one of those movie trailers you see in the theatre that tells you the whole story of the movie, so the final product will respect the play and demonstrate student comprehension as well.
I’ll continue to post updates about the projects here, and hope to share the final projects here as well. Needless to say, I’m very excited by the possibilities! Stay tuned…
I recently saw a particularly poignant piece of graffito etched on a friend’s Facebook wall:
A public union employee, a tea party activist and a CEO are sitting at a table with a plate of a dozen cookies in the middle of it. The CEO takes 11 of the cookies, turns to the tea partier and says, “Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie.”
And while this might easily refer to any number of anti-labor sentiments, it seems most appropriate as a reaction to the current – inexplicable – War on Teachers that has been raging in the media lately.
If you haven’t seen last Thursday’s Daily Show, you really need to go watch it. In a brilliant piece at the top of the show, Jon Stewart demonstrates the hypocrisy of the right-wing talking heads when talking about teachers. Later, he interviews education truth-teller Diane Ravitch, who lays out the rest of the argument.
If you want to understand the conversations surrounding education reform, then – as Tom Tomorrow says in this week’s strip – that’s all you need to know.
Here’s a video that can be enjoyed both by younger viewers and older viewers, but in very different ways.
This clip of The Today Show is apparently from January 1994. The hosts ponder over a new entity that seems to be cropping up all over the place, the strange and magical new Internet. If it’s not obvious, the person on the left is Katie Couric, the current anchor of The CBS Evening News.
The point of this is not to make fun of the hosts who, 17 years ago, could hardly have been expected to understand how ubiquitous the Internet would become in our lives. But the clip is intriguing as a frozen moment in time, recalling the days when you had to check the newspaper for movie listings and you had to buy stamps to mail a letter. Back then, the thought of someone like me writing something like this and having someone like you come here and read it would have been unthinkable.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going outside to do a video chat on my mobile phone.
Today I gave a workshop for Social Studies teachers on teaching our middle school history units. To illustrate the importance of learning history, I showed this clip.
This isn’t about ideology or politics. It’s frightening to me that a member of the United States House of Representatives, of either party, could be so dangerously unaware (deliberately or no) of the history of our nation. But the fact that she is considered a thought leader by so many on the other side gives me ideological concerns as well.
I subscribe to a service called “SiteMeter” which allows me to see a limited amount of information about my visitors. One thing that I can see is if someone finds my site via a Google search, and what they were searching for.
Every now and then I check in on what searches people have done to find themselves at Shakespeare Teacher, and to respond to those search terms in the name of fun and public service. All of the following searches brought readers to this site in the past week.
cymbeline appropriate for kids
Well, there is a bit of sexual content in it. Iachimo bets Posthumous that he can seduce Imogen, Posthumous’s wife. To prove he’s won his bet, he describes Imogen’s body in intimate detail.
But why do we flinch at mild sexual content like this for kids, and shrug off graphic violence? Does anyone ask if Macbeth is appropriate for kids?
I just did it myself. When asked if Cymbeline is appropriate for kids, I immediately addressed a verbal description of a female body, and completely ignored the decapitated corpse on stage.
It depends on how deep you want to go. I have taught Macbeth in one lesson; I’ve taught it over an entire year. I’d recommend at least a month, but you’ll have to see what fits in your curriculum.
shakespearean tragedy centered on the theme of “man’s inhumanity to man;
There’s plenty of inhumanity in the canon to go around.
My vote is for King Lear, though I suppose Titus Andronicus would be an appropriate choice as well.
“much ado about nothing” “which war”
Unlike other war-themed plays of Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing does not seem to center on any actual historical war. Directors, therefore, have the freedom to set the play in any post-war period that strikes the fancies of their set and costume designers. Of course, directors of Shakespeare hardly need such an invitation.
In the play, Don John has stood up against his brother Don Pedro, so the Civil War is a good choice. But really, the war itself is such a small part of the story that any war will suffice, even the indeterminate war of the text.
rap songs about historical figures; shakespeare
There are some organizations, like Flocabulary and The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company, that use rap music to teach Shakespeare. But my favorite Shakespeare rap is still from the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s three man show The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (abridged):
Full disclosure: Back in my acting days, I performed in this show. I played the role of Daniel (the first guy in the video, wearing red pants), and performed in this rap. The play is rather silly on the page, but turned out to be a great audience pleaser.
UPDATE: The embedded video doesn’t seem to be working right now. Here’s a direct link.
writing an obituary for hamlet
Hamlet, prince of Denmark, died yesterday from complications from a wound by a sword laced with a deadly unction. Some sources reported his age to be 30, while other sources insisted that he could not possibly have been that old. He is survived by nobody. King Fortinbras is requesting that any flowers sent on behalf of the deceased are of a botanical variety that have deep symbolic and/or ironic meaning.
I leave the task of responding to the remaining search terms to my readers:
how did shakespeare fight back?
why might modern day detectives want to question macbeth further
According to my sister, there’s a scene in Back to the Future where Doc Brown sets the clock in the DeLorean to a day 25 years in the future. Today. And today, probably not coincidentally, also marks the 25th anniversary of the US premiere of the film.
Of course, the real target year for the franchise will be 2015, when we can see how the future as depicted in Back to the Future II compares to the real thing. Until then, I invite you to enjoy this very funny song from Tom Wilson, who played Biff in the trilogy:
Back to the Future IV, not happening? I guess that makes sense. You can’t really do another BTTF movie without Michael J. Fox, and he is more or less retired from acting due to his illness. But do we really need a Back to the Future IV? Or is what we really need a remake of the original movie? Follow along with me, as I imagine what that might look like. And as this is a rough sketch, I invite readers to contribute to the vision, or even modify it as needed.
The film would star today’s version of Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly. I don’t know who that would be, but that’s kind of the point. The movie isn’t for me, it’s for today’s teenagers.
The year is 2015, and Marty McFly is a teenager who is an aspiring video game designer. He gets a call from his friend, Doc Brown, and goes to meet him. Marty learns that Doc Brown has created a time machine out of a Prius, and has bought some enriched yellowcake uranium in order to generate the 1.21 gigawatts needed to fuel it. Doc Brown pronounces “gigawatts” correctly this time. Homeland Security shows up and arrests the Doc, while Marty escapes in the Prius to the year 1985.
At first, he’s not sure what’s going on. He can’t get a signal on his iPhone, so he goes into a restaurant and asks where he can get online. The manager tells him he’s the only customer waiting, so there’s no need to get on line. Marty shows him his phone and asks where he can get reception. The manager tells him there’s a reception in the back. Marty asks how many bars he can get, and the manager asks him for ID.
Leaving the restaurant, Marty sees his young father, George, and follows him. Marty sees that George is about to be hit by a car, and pushes him out of the way. Marty is hit by the car instead. He wakes up to find a teenage version of his mother, Lorraine, who keeps calling him Isaac Mizrahi. He joins the rest of the family for dinner, which they eat while watching Family Ties. After dinner, they play Super Mario Brothers on the family’s new Nintendo Entertainment System. Marty quickly gets bored and wanders off.
Marty looks up Doc Brown, who points out that to send Marty back, they need to generate the 1.21 gigawatts (pronouncing it wrong this time) to power the time machine. Marty looks on his iPhone to find the next thunderstorm. He can’t connect, of course, but Doc Brown notices that Marty’s iPhone wallpaper is a digital picture of himself with his brother and sister, and his brother’s image is starting to pixelate. They realize that Marty prevented his parents from meeting, and he has to get them back together, so they can have their first kiss at the Pac Man Fever dance hosted by the school.
Marty tries to befriend George, but ends up crossing Biff, the local bully. To escape Biff, Marty borrows a skateboard from a local kid, and sticks a broom handle on the end to fashion a makeshift scooter, which he’s more experienced riding. Think about that for a second.
At first, George doesn’t want to go along with the plan. But Marty, knowing George is into science fiction, shows him a video clip of Avatar on the iPhone and George is so freaked out that he’s willing to trust Marty. He’s supposed to punch out Marty to protect Lorraine, but he ends up punching out Biff instead and the rest is history.
At the Pac Man Fever dance, Marty rolls his eyes at the primitive video game technology, and describes in great detail for those in attendance about his favorite video game, Grand Theft Auto. At the end of his description, he finds everyone staring at him slack-jawed. He realizes they may not be ready for a video game where you drive around stealing cars and beating up prostitutes, “but your kids are gonna love it.”