By Gillian Drutchas
***We’re thrilled to bring you another series of teacher-created videos from the Teaching Shakespeare Institute 2014. Last month, teachers shared ideas for a Romeo and Juliet unit. This time around, we invite you to watch—and read—their strategies for teaching Twelfth Night with digital technology. Up first: Michigan teacher Gillian Drutchas…***
BEFORE YOU WATCH
For many of my students, beginning any new text is daunting, and Shakespeare’s works cause even more anxiety. Not only is the language a challenge, but so are the names of many characters. After all, how many Orsinos and Malvolios have you had in class? This activity is designed to help students make sense of who the characters are and how they are related to one another. Furthermore, not only does this activity help students delve into the play, but it also gives them a document that they can use as a reference as they continue their study of the play.
AFTER YOU WATCH
Although I haven’t had the opportunity to use this activity with Twelfth Night, my 9th graders made a similar infographic using the characters from Romeo and Juliet. It not only helped them to sort the Montagues from the Capulets, but also made them think carefully about the position (both physically and metaphorically) of characters who did not easily fit into one family or another, such as Mercutio and Paris.
Because I am always a little leery of mandating students to use technology that can be time consuming and more trouble than it’s worth, I also gave them the option of creating their infographic on paper or using another digital program. While some took me up on the offer, many chose to use easl.ly.
As I so often am, I was surprised by the insightful approaches many students brought to the assignment. Here are a few:
- Several students chose pictures of familiar celebrities and television characters whose personalities mimic traits of Shakespeare’s characters as their images. For example, Ryan Gosling was a popular choice for Romeo as my 15 year-old girls felt Gosling epitomized Romeo’s romantic, yet brooding nature.
- Others created color coded boxes for each character, using various shades to depict how entrenched a particular character was with each family. For example, while Benvolio may have been a bright red, someone like Mercutio may have been pink to show that although he hangs out with the Montagues, he’s not actually a Montague.
- A few students chose to use another Web 2.0 tool, bubbl.us to create the text of their infographic. However, this tool did not allow them include pictures. So after organizing the characters on bubbl.us, the students printed their creation and added their own images.
A few of my AP English Language students did get to use this activity in a colleague’s Women in Literature course, and their feedback highlighted the importance of having students support their ideas with actual text from they play. They found that identifying the key quotations to describe each character was particularly helpful. One student reported that “although we read the play in class, finding the quotes made me look deeper into the characters and remember who was who.”
Feel free to send me any thoughts, suggestions or ideas you might have on Twitter (@missdrutchas).
Gillian Drutchas teaches English 9 and AP English at Marian High School, an all-girls, Catholic high school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. She received a B.A. in English and Psychology from Mount Holyoke College and an M.A. in Educational Studies from the University of Michigan. She is also a 2014 alumna of the Folger’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute.