Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

YOUR Teaching Epiphanies, Part 2

The epiphanies continue! Today is the anniversary of the death of Irish writer James Joyce, whose famous epiphanies, a century later, still inspire conversation and inquiry. (Plus, did you know that Hamlet was a major source for Joyce, who gave a series of lectures on Shakespeare?)

We think it’s fitting, then, today, to offer a second installment of your teaching epiphanies. Read on, get inspired, and keep doing the most important, life-changing work on the planet!

Students  in James Sheridan’s classroom at YesPrep Houston
Students in James Sheridan’s classroom at YesPrep Houston



Six months later, I still own my TSI monologue; now my students perform to know the joy of owning Shakespeare too.

  • Stefanie Jochman, Wisconsin



Before we start Shakespeare, I ask if anyone knows how to rap badly.  After we hear a couple of examples, I ask why bad rap is bad rap.  It usually does not take too long to steer the discussion to one of “beats” and rhythm.  Then I ask the students if they have ever been bothered by people not knowing how to pronounce their names. Next I post poetic feet and we figure out which students’ names fit each category.

Here are how some of this year’s names fit: Iamb (- ‘ )  Chrisbel, Rajiv, Shiann, Luis Troche ( ‘ -) Blanca, Louis, Kaitlin, Chandler Spondee  ( ‘  ‘ ) Anna, Dennis, Maya, Manny Anapest (-  –  ‘ ) Netiffah, Alyna (A-lean-a) Dactly ( ‘  –  – ) Emely, Samuel, Stefanie, Jaivonni.  With a playful class, this can go on for more than one day as students purposefully mispronounce names. For many this serves as an epiphany about how rhythm drives how we communicate (and miscommunicate.)

  • Ginny Schmitt DeFrancisci, New York



As I studied the Queen Mab speech in ninth grade, I trained my little sisters to recite it. They stood proudly as they said the words. They too fell under the spell of Shakespeare’s language. My decision to become a teacher was due in part to my first experiences with Shakespeare. Early in my career, I worried about overwhelming my reluctant readers and allowed them to read from texts that “modernized “ the language. They did not fall under the spell of Shakespeare; I lamented this. Thankfully, I discovered the Folger approach. We began to live the language through performance and close reading. Shakespeare empowers; our students need the opportunity to discover this for themselves.

  • Kristinia Haney, Texas

    Students in James Sheridan’s classroom at YesPrep Houston
    Students in James Sheridan’s classroom at YesPrep Houston


I had an epiphany after a Folger workshop on teaching King Lear. I had never thought about script editing as part of the learning process, but it makes absolute and most wonderful sense. My 10th grade students are just starting Macbeth scene work and have leapt into it with fabulous energy. It has been gratifying for me to observe their engagement as they work their scripts. During the teacher workshop, I loved how you watched our editing work then read us some of the comments you overheard — I did the same for my students, and it also seemed to make an impression on them, reaffirming the learning taking place during their “serious play.”

  • Robin Tatu, Washington, DC



My epiphany: Last semester, as I was teaching A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I started to play the Folger audio recordings of the play after the students had read the text a couple of times. The audio recordings are an amazing resource to improve comprehension, and I won’t teach another play without them.

  • Matt Seymour, Colorado



Trying to teach Romeo and Juliet in 4 weeks always feels like a mad dash to Act V, but just before Christmas break I learned to take a breath.  While they were working with Juliet’s soliloquy in 3.2, I stopped and just listened to my 9th graders as they worked in small groups to debate the five most important lines.  It may not have been dramatic or meant much to anyone else, but for me, the quiet hum of their conversation was the first time this year  I felt like they were ‘getting it.’

  • Gillian Drutchas, Michigan