Archive for March, 2013

Shakespeare Song Parody: Prince of Tyre

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Well, I guess I’m doing them all…

This is the 29th in a series of pop-music parodies for Shakespeare fans.

Enjoy!

Prince of Tyre
sung to the tune of “Girl on Fire”

(With apologies to Alicia Keys, and fans of Pericles…)

He’s just a prince and he’s from Tyre.
He comes from overseas;
His name is Pericles.
He’s living in a world so far from Tyre.
Can’t help but to displease
A king he cannot appease.

Oh-oh-oh-oh!
He sought to wed the king’s daughter.
Now he’s stuck in hot water.

Oh-oh-oh-oh!
He solved the king’s riddle.
Now he’s trapped in the middle.

This prince is of Tyre!
This prince is of Tyre.
He’s so far from Tyre.
This prince is of Tyre!

Looks like a knave, but he’s a prince.
He returns home to his land,
Cures a famine with some grain.
A storm wrecks his ship out in the rinse,
Washes up on the sand,
Competes for a bride again.

Oh-oh-oh-oh!
He wins the girl in the match;
She thinks that he’s quite the catch.

Oh-oh-oh-oh!
They have a daughter, and then
A storm wrecks his ship again.

This prince is of Tyre!
This prince is of Tyre.
He’s so far from Tyre.
This prince is of Tyre!

One day Marina to him is led,
After years of thinking him dead,
And he finds that she’s his girl,
And her mom’s alive in the world.
What a thing to learn, baby, learn, baby…

This prince is of Tyre!
This prince is of Tyre.
He’s so far from Tyre.
This prince is of Tyre!

Oh-oh-oh-oh!
Oh-oh-oh-oh!

He’s just a prince and he’s from Tyre.

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

I’m the moment you notice your date is in sync;
I’m percussing your heels; I’m an energy drink;
I’m a soldier’s kilometer; follow a link;
And express with your tongue disapproval you think.

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Asher. See comments for answer.

Shakespeare Song Parody: Dutiful Gloucester

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

This is the 28th in a series of pop-music parodies for Shakespeare fans.

Enjoy!

Dutiful Gloucester
sung to the tune of “Beautiful Monster” by Ne-Yo

(For Janai…)

In your life,
As Lord Protector,
You aim to serve
‘Till the king’s grown.

But your wife,
So ambitious,
Wants to see
You ascend the throne.

But, I don’t mind.
In fact, I like it.
I can use her pride,
And I’ll bring her down with you.

Oh!

Duke of Gloucester,
Dutiful Gloucester,
Dutiful Gloucester,
Must fall behind.

And I’ll use her.
Yes, I’ll use her.
Dutiful Gloucester
Must fall behind.

Must fall behind (fall behind, fall, must fall behind),
Must fall behind (fall behind, fall, must fall behind),
Must fall behind (fall behind, fall, must fall behind),
Must fall behind.

Let her cast
Her magical spells.
Her true heart
Will shine right through.

But, I don’t mind.
In fact, I like it.
I can use her pride,
And I’ll bring her down with you.

Duke of Gloucester (Duke of Gloucester),
Dutiful Gloucester (dutiful Gloucester),
Dutiful Gloucester (dutiful Gloucester),
Must fall behind (fall behind).

And I’ll use her (and I’ll use her),
Yes, I’ll use her (yes, I will use her),
Dutiful Gloucester (dutiful Gloucester),
Must fall behind (fall behind, must fall behind),
Must fall behind.

And she’ll show her heart,
And you’ll be much maligned.

Fall behind, and you’ll fall behind.
Fall behind, and you’ll fall behind.
Fall behind, and you’ll fall behind.
Fall behind, and you’ll fall behind.

You’ll fall behind!

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

When it’s cold, I’m a garment you might choose to wear;
I’m a layer of paint; I’m a dog’s body hair;
A heraldic design that some armored knights bear;
And some plaque on your tongue you don’t want to be there.

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Asher. See comments for answer.

Shakespeare Uncovered Website

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

I promised to let you know when the Shakespeare Uncovered website was up. It is, and it’s a fantastic resource all Shakespeare teachers should know about.

First of all, you can actually watch full episodes of the series online. So even if you missed out the first time, it’s all there waiting for you now.

The Education section, the part where I contributed, boasts a collection of fantastic lesson plans on Shakespeare that use clips from the television show in class. The lessons are relatively short, so they can either be used on their own or worked into longer Shakespeare units you may already be planning. And if you want to see the bios for all of the members of the Advisory Board, you can find them here (mine is the fifth one down).

The series may be over, but the website is the gift that keeps on giving. So head on over to watch the show, play the games, and teach the lessons!

Shakespeare Song Parody: Saying Sooth

Friday, March 15th, 2013

This is the 27th in a series of pop-music parodies for Shakespeare fans.

Enjoy!

Saying Sooth
sung to the tune of “Bulletproof”

(With apologies to La Roux, and sayers of sooth…)

Looked there, saw that, got a sense;
I know your fate, don’t take offense.
Your future isn’t looking too upbeat.
I don’t mean to sound too harsh,
But please beware the Ides of March,
It’s a day for just not going in.

I bring you news that can’t be worse,
I have a gift, but it’s a curse;
My prophecy, surprisingly concrete.
Looked there, saw that, got a sense;
I know your fate, don’t take offense.
Your future isn’t looking too upbeat.

Hear me, Caesar.
I am saying sooth.
Hear me, Caesar.
I am saying sooth.

I won’t let you turn around,
Dismiss me now without a sound,
To show that you’re no easy man to scare.
Do, do, do your new accords,
Protect your skin from traitors’ swords?
The Ides of March are what you should beware.

Tick, tick, tick on the dial;
Your wife’s bad dreams beyond denial,
The Ides of March have come but haven’t gone.
I won’t let you turn around,
Dismiss me now without a sound:
A risky thing for betting your life on.

Hear me, Caesar.
I am saying sooth.
Hear me, Caesar.
I am saying sooth.

Hear me, I am saying sooth.
Hear me, I am saying sooth.

Hear me, Caesar.
I am saying sooth.
Hear me, Caesar.
I am saying sooth.

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

In the ancient Greek alphabet, I can be found.
I’m how many acrosses go all the way ’round.
I’m irrational, infinite, yet strictly bound,
And a tasty dessert shares the way that I sound.

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Asher. See comments for answer.

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

I’m a slam dunk in basketball; fruit in a jar;
I’m a misfiring gun; improvise on guitar;
Not allowing a signal to get very far;
And I’m bumper to bumper for car after car.

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Bronx Richie. See comments for answer.

In the Zone

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

As we begin implementing the Common Core State Standards this year, many of the schools I advise are having very similar problems with grade-level readiness. This isn’t a new problem, to be sure, but it has become intensified by Common Core expectations. The Common Core standards are more rigorous than last year’s New York State standards, so even students who were on grade level last year have some catching up to do. Also, built into the DNA of the Common Core is the idea of a “staircase of complexity” in which students must master the standards of the prior year before they are ready for the standards of the current year. In other words, they must master the 5th-grade standards in order to become 6th-grade ready.

For example, students in Kindergarten learn to state an opinion (“My favorite book is…”). In Grade 1, they provide a reason for their opinion. In Grade 4, they support their reasons with information, while in Grade 6 they write arguments to support claims with reasons and evidence. In math, students are expected to be effortlessly fluent in addition and subtraction by the end of Grade 2, so they will be ready to begin fractions in Grade 3. By the end of Grade 5, their understanding of fractions is thorough enough to begin algebra in the 6th grade. It’s a well-structured progression that brings students step-by-step from Kindergarten to college and career readiness by providing incremental support based on the learning that has accrued through the previous years of instruction in every grade.

What happens, then, during the first year of implementation? Our students aren’t even coming in on grade level based on the old standards, let alone the more rigorous standards demanded by (and required for) the Common Core. Our 6th graders aren’t coming in having mastered fractions or the opinion essay. Their reading levels do not prepare them to approach the complex texts in the new reading band levels, which themselves are set higher than previous levels by the Common Core (as can be seen in the chart at the bottom of page 8 of the ELA Appendix A):

(Click for a larger image.)

And this problem is even more profound in high school, where the high-stakes Regents Exams are looming, and many students aren’t even prepared to read the instructions.

In a December 2011 keynote titled “What Must Be Done in the Next Two Years” (you can download the transcript here), David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core Standards, addresses the idea of grade-level readiness. He’s a brilliant man who speaks with a persuasive confidence, but he’s on the wrong side of this particular issue.

But for your sakes, the really exciting thing is for the first time there’s a measure in the standards that insists that students at each level are encountering texts of adequate complexity.

Nonetheless, you could nonetheless be defeated, because the most popular instructional practice for students who are behind is to replace their core reading with leveled text at their level, right? So if you were to actually look at what your kids are being given, they are constantly matched in this seeming noble idea that you should match everything they read to where they are today, often called a proximal zone of development, et cetera.

Let me be rather clear. Leveled readers and reading at your own level has a crucial role to play for kids in terms of their vocabulary growth, their love of reading, and has a very important role, so I’m not saying kind of just get rid of it. But what I am saying is the core of instruction, if we want kids to catch up, has to be the deliberate study of sufficiently complex texts, again and – we cannot exclude students from that and expect them to magically catch up. That’s a scaffolded environment, do you get me? Where their frustration – they are expected to be frustrated. That frustration is managed. It’s part of the classroom community, and they engage repeatedly in dealing with things that are more difficult than they can handle.

First of all, it’s the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), not the “proximal zone of development, et cetera.” I’m less bothered by his mixing the words around than I am by the “et cetera,” as if to say “yeah, there was more but I couldn’t be bothered to absorb it.” The ZPD is the range between what a child can do independently and what that same child can do with support. The concept was first described by Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky in the 1930’s, and has had a profound impact on developmental psychology and learning science. You can’t be dismissive of the ZPD in one breath, and then go on to recommend scaffolding in the next. The very idea of scaffolding is based on a Vygostkian model of development. The term was introduced by American psychologist Jerome Bruner, and it refers to the supports that we provide students within their ZPD to help them achieve at higher levels. As the metaphor suggests, once students can do these tasks independently, we can remove the scaffolding.

Coleman’s right that there should be managed frustration. If students read texts that are too easy for them, they may enjoy those texts, but it’s not the best way to support reading progress. When students have to read within their ZPD, they feel a frustration we might accurately describe as growing pains. They experience a stretch, and in that stretch, learning can actually help drive cognitive development. If, on the other hand, the material is above the upper limit of their ZPD, they will not experience that productive frustration. They will simply shut down and not attempt to read the material at all. And there is no amount of scaffolding that will make it possible. Think of a weight you can lift easily, a weight that requires some effort to lift, and a weight you can’t budge at all. Which of those three weights would you choose if you wanted to promote muscle growth?

So if you have students who are one or two grades below grade level, it might be worth trying to push them in the way Coleman describes. But students who are four, five, six years below their grade level, aren’t going to be reading on grade level by the end of the year no matter whose philosophical outlook you subscribe to. Nobody is expecting them to “magically catch up.” The idea is to support them in making the greatest progress possible. It is Coleman who is invoking magic when he expects that these students will be able to catch up simply through teacher patience, student frustration, and intense scaffolding.

But if anybody should be a proponent of Vygotsky, it’s David Coleman himself, for Vygotsky provides a clear developmental framework for the Common Core. If learning really can drive development, and I believe it can, then having a rigorous set of standards defined for each grade level organized into a staircase of complexity makes a lot of sense. If we adhere to these standards from Kindergarten, making sure that students receive support in a multi-tiered Response to Intervention system to ensure that they remain on grade level at the end of each year, then the Common Core might actually be a blueprint for making sure that our students are well prepared for the rigors of college and the workplace by the end of Grade 12. Wouldn’t it be a shame if that were all true and the Common Core really is a better way of doing business, but nobody ever knew it because the implementation was so badly botched?

So what can we do? If I were in charge of implementation, I would have had two years of bridge standards before fully adopting the Common Core. If the 5th grade NYS standards say ABC and the 8th grade Common Core standards say JKL, then we develop a logical DEF for 6th grade and a 7th-grade GHI that allow us to incrementally meet the higher standards. Instead, we’re going right from 5th-grade NYS to 6th-grade Common Core, and even students that were on grade level last year are being left behind. The folks at the New York City Department of Education, for their part, seem to understand the difficulties involved, and are trying to make the changes as gradually as possible to support teachers. But no such support is available for students, as the level of rigor expected for them is coming from Albany, and is out of the city’s hands.

I can’t tell you what the statewide assessments are going to look like at the end of this year, but I’m pretty sure the students are going to be expected to read on what is now considered grade level, and this is the problem. What do you do if you have 8th-grade students reading on a 4th-grade level, when you know you are going to be accountable for them passing an 8th-grade test at the end of the year? One option is, as Coleman describes, to give them 8th-grade reading selections anyway, have them read fewer overall texts, and heavily scaffold the texts being read. Another option is to try to give them two years of instruction in a year, committing to bring them from a 4th-grade level to 6th-grade level. Neither strategy will prepare them to read on the 8th-grade level by test time, but I prefer the latter method. It’s better to make meaningful progress in the time that you have than to squander the opportunity by fumbling around with inappropriately difficult texts. I understand, respect, and even admire Coleman’s desire to get everyone on grade level. It’s not going to happen this year.

Given that some of the quantitative targets may not be possible this year, another option is to focus on the qualitative shifts. Give students more exposure to informational texts. Give them more complex texts than they are reading now. Have them read more independently, and give them opportunities to cite evidence from the things they read to support their writing. These are all Common Core-aligned shifts, and can be implemented right away, regardless of student reading levels.

Finally, teachers can make a big difference by differentiating instruction. Some students may have higher upper bounds in their ZPD than might be apparent at first. And if you’ve agreed with me up until now, follow me the rest of the way. It’s important for teachers to challenge their students to the highest extent as is possible for them. Students will push back, but being a teacher means to encourage students to do more than they ever thought they could. Now is the time to do that. Please don’t mistake my nuanced understanding of cognitive development for timidity. I’ve taught Shakespeare, in the original language, to low-performing 5th graders. But to do that, I had to have some confidence that my learning goals were within their Zone of Proximal Development. And when they were, it turned out that it was possible!

As for the end-of-the-year tests, the whole state is in the same bind, so relative success is still very much in reach given the right strategies. Students feel growing pains, and so do teachers. But that pain just means that we’re working outside of our comfort zone, and are instead in a zone that is more conducive to growth.

Shakespeare Anagram: Troilus and Cressida

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

From Troilus and Cressida:

Here is such patchery, such juggling and such knavery! all the argument is a cuckold and a whore; a good quarrel to draw emulous factions and bleed to death upon.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Shame on dodo Congress, dealing us such a dud: a preventable sequester. Huh!

Don’t laugh a guttural laugh and hijack the economy for awkward political currency.