I have had a bit of a pity party this week. I have just not had the time to read as much as I would like because of end-of-the-year activities at two different schools. Because I haven’t completed a book this week, I figured I had nothing to post. That led me to feeling guilty that I have not posted in nearly a week – and my goal is try to post at least 5 days out of 7. Then it hit me — I do teach English. Perhaps I could post about recent lessons I have taught (or learned) and that would be considered “bookish” enough for a book blog. What do you think?
So…I will consider this my first English teacher post.
Today my 8th grade class performed the first 3 Acts of Midsummer Night’s Dream to a crowd of about 75 parents/fellow students/faculty. I must say I was very proud. First of all, we have only studied this play since spring break (about 6 weeks) and while it was not a “perfect” performance, it was indeed an amazing performance.
I teach at a University Model School – which means that we only have class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays the students are home-schooled. When I only have the students 3 times a week – and we need to study grammar and writing in addition to literature, that does not leave much extra time to perfect a performance of the Bard.
While I suggested that the students obtain and read the No Fear Shakespeare version (to help with comprehension) – we only discussed the original Shakespearean language in class – and it was the original version that the students performed.
I assigned a student director – and truthfully, this student did a LOT of work. I would chime in every once in a while – but he blocked the scenes, interpreted the play, and inspired the actors. These students even met after class – on several occasions – on their own accord – to practice the play. I was so impressed!!
We spent so much time running the scenes, that I was afraid that I had not spent enough time on the comprehension/analysis of the play. After about 4 weeks of practice I gave the students a multiple choice comprehension test. To my great surprise – 80% of the class passed the test with a 90% or higher!! I was thrilled — and learned that if students immerse themselves in literature, they can indeed teach themselves (I surmise that these students have read the first 3 acts of the play no less than 10-12 times. They KNOW their stuff)
At the end of today’s performance the student director asked the audience if they understood the climax of the play (we ended with Act III and the resolution that leads to the happy ending had not yet happened). I would say 25% of the adults raised their hands. Isn’t that amazing?! These 8th graders know more about Shakespeare than 75% of the adults in attendance! I hope they realize what an amazing academic feat that really is. Probably not. They have probably focused on the fact that they missed several English classes (eg – grammar) having fun practicing a silly play. But the incredible thing is — they had no idea that they were actually learning while having fun. In fact I had one parent tell me that his son is no longer “afraid of Shakespeare.” WOW! That is a highlight of my teaching career! An 8th grader who is not intimidated by the language of Shakespeare. AH….what a GREAT way to end the year!