Archive for the 'Year-End' Category

Top Five Posts of 2017

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

Has it really been four months since I’ve posted? Surely, the world needs my special brand of whatever the hell it is I do here, now more than ever.

The year got off to a pretty good start, and since I was productive here for at least the first eight months of it, I think it’s time to bring back an old feature: the best posts of the year recap.

I skipped the feature in 2015, since the only really notable post I wrote was a tribute to Grant Wiggins. In 2016, the only posts of any substance were about the cruise. But this year, the year the site reached 200,000 hits, even though my stamina ran out two-thirds of the way through, I did manage to put together a few posts I’d like to remember when looking through this category link in years to come.

So without further ado, I present the top five Shakespeare Teacher posts of the year 2017:

5. Shakespeare Anagram: Twelfth Night (August 25)

Since Donald Trump became president, the Shakespeare Anagram has undergone an evolution of sorts. It’s always been somewhat political (which is often the point), but this year the anagrams have been accompanied by increasingly lengthy essays inspired by the topic of the anagram. This was the last one I did this year. Compare it to the first one I did this year, and you’ll notice the shift.

4. Shakespeare Follow-Up: Lie Detection (June 30)

An off-handed comment by Duncan in Macbeth inspired a deep examination into how lie detection has been viewed and used over the centuries. It also brought back a feature that I enjoy very much, and hope to continue in the future.

3. Making History (March 5)

This is another long one, but I had a lot to get off my chest. An Arkansas Republican tried to have the works of Howard Zinn banned from state-funded schools, and it set me off. When we decide how we are going to teach history, we need to first decide why we teach history, and we may not all agree on the answer.

2. Sean Spicer Does Shakespeare (April 23)

What if Sean Spicer hadn’t worked for Donald Trump, but instead was the spokesman for Shakespeare’s King Richard III? It might look a little something like this. I had thought about following up with Sean Spicer as the front man for Macbeth, insisting that Macbeth never met with the witches before becoming King, and then admitting that he had but there was no collusion. Alas, Sean’s time at the podium came to a sudden end before I could write it.

1. An Open Letter to President Trump (March 12)

This is sort of a comedy piece, but I’m actually serious about the underlying idea. There’s no reason Donald Trump shouldn’t support single payer. And he really is the only one who could make it happen. If he did, he might actually be seen as the great leader he thinks he is now. Believe me.

Top Five Posts of 2014

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

So… it’s been a light blogging year.

There seems to be a cycle where the more I write, the more people visit, and the more I want to write. But the same phenomenon works in the other direction. I also think that blogs are generally in decline these days. Many thanks to the readers who have stuck with the blog while it has been mostly riddles and anagrams. I hope to have more for you in the new year.

Still, we did manage to reach 150,000 views last month, just two short years after hitting 100,000, so that’s not nothing. Let’s have some cake.

The 150,000th hit came in at 11:02pm on Wednesday, November 26, 2014 from Denver, Colorado. The mile-high milestone found the site via a Google search and viewed the Teach Along with the Frozen Soundtrack post.

So I’m not giving up yet, and I’ve paid to renew the domain name and hosting services for another three years. So the blog will be here for us if we wish to be here for it, at least until December 2017.

And there were a few posts this year that I was proud to write and happy to see find an audience. There weren’t ten of them, but I’d put the top five up against the best of the rest, so let’s get right to it!

5. Thursday Morning Riddle: Ambiguous Edition (December 18)

This was a riddle that had two possible answers, each of which fit all of the clues. I’ve never done that before, and don’t expect to be doing it again any time soon.

4. A Good Pairing (February 9)

In a rare digression into teaching Shakespeare, I compare the literary devices between popular song lyrics and a Shakespeare sonnet. This pairing has been teacher-tested and student-approved!

3. Plantagenetics (December 2)

Do recent revelations about infidelity in the royal family cast doubts on the legitimacy of the Queen? No. No, they don’t.

2. Teach Along with the Frozen Soundtrack (June 2)

This is an exploration of some of the literary, poetic, and rhetorical devices in the soundtrack for Disney’s Frozen that you can point out for students, or have them find for you.

1. Family Trees for Shakespeare’s Histories (September 19)

I’ve been meaning to do this for years, and I finally did it! Each play’s tree shows who’s living, who’s dead, who’s related to whom, who is actually in the play, and what names might be used to reference them. Enjoy!

Have a Happy New Year, and I’ll see you in 2015! (Probably…)

Top Ten Posts of 2013

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Once again, I present my top ten favorite posts of the year as a countdown. Only three of this year’s entries deal directly with the Common Core.

10. The Wager (April 28)

My friend Brian bet me he could pass my Shakespeare final without taking the course, and I accepted his wager. We both ended up learning more than we had expected.

9. Shakespeare and the Common Core (January 6)

Does the Common Core really eliminate all literature in favor of dry government manuals? Not even close. In fact, Shakespeare is actually mandated by the Common Core.

8. Shakespeare Follow-Up: Circumnavigation (November 29)

This year saw a new feature added to the blog: The Shakespeare Follow-Up. I chose this one, following up from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as a representative sample.

7. Cleopatra’s Facebook (April 17)

This project actually happened two years ago, but I worked with a class of 6th grade students who created a Facebook page for the Egyptian queen, reflecting the events of Antony and Cleopatra.

6. Don’t Be Rotten to the Core (October 2)

While I do have some specific concerns about the Common Core, fixating on distortions and distractions prevents us from having the real conversations we need to have about education.

5. Shakespeare Clickbait (December 25)

What if we used the same tactics to get people to read Shakespeare that websites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy use to get readers to click on their stories? I present: Shakespeare Clickbait.

4. Danny and the Death Ray (January 9)

This is a nice little story about a small town, and one boy who dared to speak out in order to save it. Some people read into it as an allegory for something else, but I just don’t see it.

3. In the Zone (March 6)

Wouldn’t it be a shame if the Common Core really were a better way to structure education, but nobody ever knew it because the implementation had been botched so badly?

2. Shakespeare Song Parody: We Love the Plays of Shakespeare (June 28)

The ongoing Shakespeare Song Parody feature came to an end this year, but not before the appearance of this swan song, paying tribute to all of the plays one last time.

1. How Real is Richard? (February 13)

When the bones of King Richard III were unearthed earlier this year, I was inspired to create a seven-point scale to rate how “real” each of Shakespeare’s characters actually are.

Have a Happy New Year, and I hope to see you in 2014!

Top Ten Posts of 2012

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Once again, I present my top ten favorite posts of the year as a countdown. This year, nine of the ten deal directly with Shakespeare.

10. Film: The Tempest (July 29)

This is a review of the filmed version of a stage production of The Tempest from the Stratford Festival in Canada, with Des McAnuff directing Christopher Plummer as Prospero. The review talks about the film, the play, and the conventions of film vs. theatre.

9. Some Context (September 23)

I examine some of the quotes that were taken out of context during the 2012 presidential race, particularly those that tell a convenient story about the person being misquoted. Sometimes, however, the quote is even worse when viewed in context.

8. Connecting Students with the Language (August 1)

Just as we make Shakespeare more relevant to our students by drawing modern-day connections to his plots and characters, so too can we use the elements of today’s world to help them make connections to iambic pentameter, as well as other poetic devices.

7. Conundrum: Prospero’s Books (August 21)

This is a complex logic puzzle that uses the titles of Shakespeare’s plays as a part of the game. You don’t need to know anything about Shakespeare to solve the puzzle, nor will Shakespeare knowledge actually help you, but manipulating the familiar names may add to the fun.

6. Kevin Spacey as Richard III (January 15)

I was lucky enough to get to see Kevin Spacey play the title role in Richard III, and instead of writing a proper review, I decided to write a sophomoric parody of one of the scenes, replacing most of Richard’s lines with quotes from Kevin Spacey movies. Enjoy!

5. Shakespeare’s Most Underrated Characters (August 5)

Inspired by Cassius from Pursued by a Bear, I explore fifty minor characters from Shakespeare’s canon that I think are defined by more than their line counts. Wife of Simpcox, I’m looking at you.

4. Shakespeare Song Parody: Mourn This Way (September 7)

This year saw the genesis of a brand new regular feature on the blog, the Shakespeare Song Parody. I chose this Hamlet/Lady Gaga mash-up as a representative favorite. Runners-up included Agamemnon Style, The Death of Kings, and Lady, It’s Warm Outside.

3. Shakespeare Autocorrect (December 25)

I was enjoying some year-end lists of best Autocorrects when I had the idea to mock-up some examples of how Autocorrect might cause problems of Shakespearean proportions. The concept was a hit on Twitter, and the post earned a last-minute spot on this Top Ten list. Sorry, Shakespeare Palindrome.

2. Shakespeare Anagram: Sonnet CXVI (July 28)

This is not only my favorite anagram of the year, but is also one of my favorite anagrams from the past six years of the blog. I take a Shakespeare sonnet about marriage and anagram it into an original sonnet about same-sex marriage. Check it out!

1. Top Ten Shakespeare Retrochronisms (October 3)

A retrochronism is a word I coined to describe a term in a literary work that is misinterpreted by future generations. In this post, you will find numerous examples from Shakespeare. I had a lot of fun writing this, and I’m really pleased with the way it came out.

Top Ten Posts of 2011

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

This year, I present my top ten favorite posts as a countdown. Only three of the entries deal directly with the authorship question.

10. Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Floods, and Tornadoes (August 28)

Come read the story of how I survive the worst earthquake in, as far as I know, East Coast history, and completely fail to notice. However, other natural disasters of biblical proportions do manage to cause me some minor inconvenience.

9. It’s a Poor Workman Who Blames Yogi Berra: Artificial Intelligence and Jeopardy! (February 23)

A computer beat humans at Jeopardy!, and I put on my school data specialist’s cap to do an item analysis of the responses. Read through to the comments to see two veteran Shakespeare bloggers debate the nature of language and technology.

8. Question of the Week (January 3)

Is teaching an art or a science? Or is it both? Or is it neither? Once a purely philosophical topic, recent developments in the field have made it a question with far-reaching implications in practice and policy.

7. Film: Anonymous (November 13)

I was as surprised as you were, but I actually liked it. So, I give it a good review. Because to be angry with this film is to acknowledge that we are actually engaging in a discussion about authorship. We aren’t, but it was a good film nevertheless.

6. Top Ten Shakespeare Audio Productions (August 29)

This is just what it sounds like, except I actually list twenty. And Bob D fills in some titles I missed. It just goes to show that Shakespeare will always be in my heart… and in my ear.

5. Fifty Apps for the iPad (January 9)

I identify ten things the iPad does better than the iPod Touch, while linking to fifty apps you can do them with. This one was popular among friends and family, and generated a lot of traffic as well.

4. A Choice to Make (April 13)

Eric Hanushek wrote something I didn’t like, and I explain why. Of all of my rants about education reform over the year, this one was the most rambling and wild-eyed. I highly recommend it.

3. Another Story (November 22)

To further make my point about Anonymous, I spin the most ridiculous science-fiction, bodice-ripping thriller I can imagine, positing that Shakespeare was given the plays by space aliens. If you’re secure in the knowledge that Shakespeare wrote the plays, this is what Anonymous looks like to you.

2. Under the Influence (April 23)

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust asked me to participate in a project in which bloggers describe in a blog post how Shakespeare has influenced their lives. People told me they thought my contribution was funny. If they only knew…

1. The Hartfordian Theory (April 27)

Long before the Anonymous controversy started brewing, I took my own shot at the Oxfordians. Actually, my real target was the birthers, but the idea is the same. What if people questioned President Obama’s legitimacy using the same arguments that Oxfordians use to question the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays? Hilarity ensues… except for one hasty reader who somehow thought I was serious; read through to the comments.

Top Ten Posts of 2010

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Before the ball drops ushering in 2011, I’d like to take a last look back at my ten favorite posts of 2010. Enjoy!

1. Conundrum: The Big Picture II (January 26) – Readers managed to identify 32 of the 49 films represented in this 3-D movie puzzle. The puzzle is still active, so feel free to take another crack at it.

2. The Rules (October 27) – I wrote this satirical piece out of frustration with the tone in contemporary politics. But some took me seriously, prompting a follow-up post explaining the joke. Did Jonathan Swift have these problems?

3. Metrocard (April 11) – This was a poem I wrote about New York City schools, inspired by Elizabeth Bishop’s “Visits to St. Elizabeths.” And by the way, the kids did get their Metrocards in the end.

4. Back to the Future: The Remake! (July 5) – I imagine a remake of the classic film, set 30 years further into the future. This post also has a funny video of the actor who played Biff.

5. Ten Kiddie Apps (January 29) – This was a list of the top ten iPhone apps for kids, posted as a follow-up to an earlier post listing apps for grownups. Just one year later, these lists are showing showing some age. Stay tuned for a similar list of iPad apps in the coming year.

6. Shakespeare Anagram: Henry VIII (October 16) – I really liked this anagram, a succinct summary of my earlier review of Waiting for “Superman.” But what earns it this spot on the list was the anagram conversation about the film with Dharam that continued in the comments.

7. Shakespeare Teacher: The Book! (September 1) – I published a chapter in a book earlier this year, and this post describes what it’s about. Surprisingly, it turns out to be about teaching Shakespeare.

8. Shakespeare Anagram: Twelfth Night (August 21) – When I think about what I’m trying to accomplish with the Shakespeare anagram feature, this one scores high marks in all categories. And have you noticed how little talk there has been about the “Ground Zero mosque” since the election? I’m just sayin’.

9. Googleplex – 1/24/10 (January 24) – I decided to limit myself to one Googleplex for this list, and I chose this one, which has the Top Ten Shakespearean Pranks, as well as information about how students can animate Shakespeare. This Googleplex was a close runner-up.

10. The People’s Historian (January 27) – Upon hearing of Howard Zinn’s death, instead of taking the time to write a proper eulogy, I simply posted, without comment, a long quote of his that had made a profound impact on me. But then DeLisa reminded me that presenting that particular quote at that particular time was, in fact, giving a perspective. Zinn would have agreed.

Have a Happy New Year, and I’ll see you in 2011!

My Top Ten Favorite Posts of 2009

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

It’s been a turbulent year, and there hasn’t always been time for blogging, but I would like to finish out 2009 with a quick listing of my ten favorite posts (and the discussions that followed them) of the last twelve months. Enjoy, and I’ll be back in 2010!

1. Conundrum: The Big Picture (July 28)

2. Arrested Development: A Freudian Analysis (October 16)

3. Word of the Week: Community (March 18)

4. Augusto Boal (1931-2009) (May 3)

5. Othello Prank’d (June 23)

6. Did You Know – Three Point Oh (May 13)

7. Good Questions (May 5)

8. Question of the Week (May 4)

9. Conundrum: Shakespeare Invites (May 26)

10. Your Move: Thursday Morning Riddle (February 19)

End of the Year Reflection

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

I’ve decided to celebrate the end of 2008 here at Shakespeare Teacher by selecting my favorite post from each of the last twelve months.


January: Question of the Week

The question was simple: “Who is today’s Shakespeare?” The answer was not so simple, but led to one of the most interesting discussions the blog has ever seen. Aaron Sorkin, David Mamet, Joss Whedon, Steven King, and Bob Dylan all got their day in court, but can there ever really be another?

February: Hey Nineteen

This was a short month that was shorter on posts, but I did enjoy this one. President Bush’s approval rating had dropped to an embarrassing 19%. An old Trident ad once boasted that four out of five dentists recommended sugarless gum. Bush was less popular than sugared gum among dentists.

March: Bad Clue

Due to my obsessive Shakespeare pedantry, I noticed an error in a Jeopardy! clue. It did not affect the outcome of the game, but I was happy to see the error noted in the J! archive, using the identical wording I used in the blog (which I had also posted to the Ken Jennings message board).

April: Shakespeare 24

Riffing on the title of a global Shakespeare event, I put together an hour-by-hour plot summary of a fictional season of 24, using Shakespeare plots, characters, and devices. If you know both sources, it’s pretty funny. A later attempt at a Greek Tragedy 24 was too “on the nose” to really be funny.

May: Shakespeare Anagram: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

In the last act, Theseus is asked to choose a play from among four choices. I did an anagram for each of the four play titles looking for secret messages, and lo and behold, there was a message in each of them claiming authorship for Sir Francis Bacon. A later anagram clarified that it was all just a dream.

June: Pic Tac Toe in 3D, Part IV

It’s not easy fitting 49 themes neatly in a puzzle, and I’ve often had to rely on some weak connections to make it work. This was the first 3D puzzle where I felt that all 49 themes were strong and interesting. And based on the 70 comments in the thread, the puzzle was a hit with solvers as well.

July: Shakespeare Anagram: Hamlet

This is far and away my favorite of all of the anagrams on the site. I took five of Hamlet’s most famous speeches and adapted each of them to be a perfect anagram of the first 14 lines of the “To be or not to be” speech. Links to the originals are included, so readers can see how close I was able to come.

August: Thursday Morning Riddle: Special Edition

The blog’s 100th riddle had a self-referential answer: 100. Neel both solved the riddle and guessed the meaning. In the comments, I promised “Next week: Riddle 101!”, meaning that it would be the 101st riddle. But when the time came, I couldn’t resist, and the answer to the following riddle was 101!

September: Shakespeare Anagram: Henry VIII

In celebration of Shakespeare’s pro-Tudor slant on history, I took the unlikely speech in Henry VIII where Henry reacts to the birth of his daughter Elizabeth, and anagrammed it into something much closer to what he actually would have said. Something about this one really tickles me.

October: Shakespeare Anagram: Henry IV, Part Two

There’s not much to choose from in October, but I was pleased with this anagram. Henry IV is giving advice to his son about how to conduct himself in the next administration, and the anagram is about an interview with five former Secretaries of State, giving advice to Obama.

November: Top Ten Reasons to Vote

I made a commitment to post every day in November, so there’s a lot to choose from, but I think I’m proudest of this one. Did I convince anyone to vote who wasn’t going to already? Probably not. But I think for those of us who do vote, the post was a nice reminder about why we do. It was for me.

December: Shakespeare Lipogram: Hamlet

I had so much fun with the lipogram experiment! The Hamlet lipogram wasn’t the most difficult (Measure for Measure was), but I spent more time on it than any of the others. It’s just not Hamlet without the speeches, and adapting those took a little extra effort. But it was a labor of love.

Happy New Year!