Friday, January 25, 2013

Multitasking - Not for the Weak of Heart

I think it's safe to say that there's rarely a dull moment during our classtime, whether it's random stories about my kids and students' lives or listening to British actors read a play.  And a recent lesson was no exception.

We'd been working on breaking down Shakespeare's langauge to get a better handle on it and after doing the omissions and sentence structure work, next up was the poetic meter analysis.  I know, sounds pretty awful - scansion is the technical term - but with the help of childhood songs and an A. A. Milne poem, we were eventually reading lines from A Midsummer Night's Dream with surprisingly good rhythm. 

I wasn't sure how this was going to go, either, as I was typing up the lines from the play to project for the kids to read.  Ask them to a) stand up, b) read unfamiliar words, and c) stomp feet seemed like a lot to ask.  Sure would have been easier to hit play and listen to the audio recording, check for understanding, and move on.  But I was determined not to play it safe, especially since I'd learned most of this technical stuff about Shakespeare's writing is brand new for the kids.  So, I took a deep breath and worked through the activity. 

There were only a few questioning looks as I asked kids to *gasp* stand up and then move away from their desks.  We did the Milne poem reading to get a feel for the rhythm and rhyme, then I popped up the first of the Shakespeare segments.  Kids were asked to read aloud the words, in unison as much as possible.  So after a couple of do-overs and my keeping pace, that was successful.  Next up was stomping a foot on the indicated syllables while reading out loud.  A few more re-starts were needed, but I was impressed with how fast they caught on.  And everyone was moving mouths, saying words, and stamping a foot.  Awesome!  Music to my ears! 

There was another passage to read the same way, then we looked at the technical aspects - tetrameter vs pentameter and iambic syllables.  So for a quick introduction, it went well and I'm thankful no one booed me off the stage.  On to the memorization passage...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Yoda Speaks Shakespeare!

Stellar students I have!

In an effort to help students decode Shakespeare before we start "A Midsummer Night's Dream," we've been working with a few lessons and demonstrations about the language strategies The Bard employs such as contractions, omissions, and reversed sentence structure.  And lo and behold, I think it worked!  Though they were a bit skeptical at first, my seniors ultimately learned somthing, though I don't know how many of them will admit it.

To begin with, I presented a diagram of the Globe theater and a brief video highlighting elements of Elizabethan theater.  Kids took a few notes, guided by my list of questions, and then we discussed a few things.  A quick survey revealed all but about 3 of my students had the faintest idea of the Globe to begin with so this was pretty worthwhile in my eyes.  And judging from their elongated attention spans and intent disucssion, they seemed pretty into it.

I followed that lesson with the language tricks.  Pairs were given an envelope with 16 pairs of contraction, omission, and Elizabethan word pairs.  They made a grid of the slips, face down, and then played a version of the MEMORY game, turning over papers and trying to find a match.  I let them struggle with the words on their own to try to complete the pairs rather than give a cheat sheet so it was interesting to wander around and hear comments:

 "Anon, what the heck is that?"

"Ope goes with open!"

"Often - I found it!"

So if nothing else, kids now have a bit of a visual of the words and some early exposure to the common ones before we get the text of MSND.  There's a great outline here of the language strategies.

The next activity had kids building and rearranging a set of given words to make a variety of sentences.  First they were to arrange the words to form one that makes sense in our standard, American language.  Then I asked them to rearrange the words so it still made sense, but had a different structure.  So "my mother is gone" became "gone is my mother."  We did that a couple of times and ultimately ended up with some pretty good Shakespearean-sounding sentences.  And when at least one student from each class observed "it sounds like Yoda!" I was thrilled!  Yup, Yoda speaks Shakespeare.

So don't tell me, my lovely seniors, that you "don't get it" because you most certainly do!

And BTW, did I mention Shakespeare also invented texting shortcuts?