Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

Shakespeare at His Best

Shakespeare for Students with Special Needs
~by Christopher Shamburg 

On  June 5th the students of A. Harry Moore School in Jersey City gave two public performances of Macbeth.   A. Harry Moore a special education school that services students ages 3-21 with various medical, physical, and cognitive disabilities.  It is the laboratory school of New Jersey City University and offers comprehensive academic, therapeutic, pre-vocational and social programs.

For the past 4 years high school age students at the school have been participating in the Actors Shakespeare program.   The program is led by Seth Reich, an actor from Actors Shakespeare Company, the University’s resident acting company.

Each week the students work on a specific play, and perform it in Shakespeare’s language at the end of the year.   The Actors’ Shakespeare Program at A. Harry Moore gives the students an opportunity to learn many of the steps involved in putting on a production–from learning their lines to designing the sets and costumes.  The program facilitates strengthening reading skills, comprehension skills, speech pronunciation, breathing control and volume control.  In addition the program works on building their self-confidence.

This production was one of the most powerful productions I’d ever seen.  Many of the lines and scenes were sending chills down my spine–parts that never had done that before! It brought the victories, setbacks, dares, and determination of the characters to a whole new dimension.  They owned it!

The students, faculty, and staff (and myself) look forward to next year and continued success with this program!

Christoper Shamburg is an Associate Professor of Educational Technology at New Jersey City University.  He is the author of StudentPowered PodcastingTeachingfor 21st Century Literacy (2009)  and National Educational Technology Standards:Units for the English Language Arts (2008).


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