Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

“How well he's read, to reason against reading!”

~by Jennifer Ventimiglia

As King Ferdinand speaks of Biron in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, sometimes those of us in the education field also use “reasoning” to keep kids from “reading,” in this case, Shakespeare himself.  Administrators might “reason” that students need to be preparing for state-wide assessments and that there is no space in the curriculum for teaching Shakespeare’s works.  Teachers themselves might cite their students’ below grade level reading skills and the seemingly impossibility of motivating students to read such complex language

The truth is, as I am sure everyone knows reading this blog, studying Shakespeare is FUN and he is for EVERYONE.  Just as Ferdinand was able to convince Biron to sign the oath to work at the academe, it is my hope that educators will realize that even the youngest student can grasp Shakespeare’s themes.

Students from Paul PCS determine what “prabble” means by acting out the sounds.

When I switched from teaching high school English in Chicago to 6th grade ESOL in DC, I wondered if there was a place for Shakespeare in my classroom.  With mounting pressure for my students to pass the DCCAS state assessment and with my students’ varying English proficiencies I almost reasoned against teaching Shakespeare.  For about 5 seconds.

No matter what I cannot bring myself to take the joy factor out of education.  With a little bit of planning and creativity I found a way to weave core learning standards, the balanced literacy approach I use in my instruction, and our good friend Will.

The resources here: “Strategies to push students from struggling to independent readers” are far less exciting, but nevertheless, they provide infallible pre, during, and post reading strategies to engage students in reading Shakespeare while building their capacity to attack even the most difficult passages.

Jennifer Ventimiglia teaches middle school ESOL at Paul PCS in Washington, DC and is a participant in the Folger’s Shakespeare Steps Out program.  She  earned her Master’s Degree in TESOL at American University.  She and her students have a blog at www.msventiclass.blogspot.com and a You Tube channel called “MsVentiClass.”

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