By Greta Brasgalla
As a “veteran” teacher in my 22nd year of teaching, I sometimes look back at how I used to teach when I first started. It makes me cringe. And the teaching materials I used? Of course, I don’t have any of them because they are outdated and irrelevant.
We were working Act 3, scene 3 of Othello. This scene is really crucial because it is the climax of the play, but it is LONG. I decided to use Lesson 17 in Shakespeare Set Free–Teaching Twelfth Night and Othello, which broke the scene up into 10 parts and had the students perform their parts in a “relay” style.
I divided up the students and gave them their parts of the scene. However, as an added component of the relay, I decided to incorporate a visual aid. I gave each group a post-it tabletop chart and told them to provide a frame by frame drawing of what happens in their scene. Before performing, we would unveil the cartoon drawing of the action. At the end of the performances, the students would have a visual of the action of the scene. Here are some examples of their drawings:
The students had a great time with this and they really got a full understanding of the action in the scene. This method is great not only for teaching Shakespeare. Reading a novel with a really long chapter? Do a relay! Non-fiction article that is really detailed and drawn out? Do a relay! Short Story Analysis? Do a relay!
Finally, I wanted to share some insight about performance in the classroom. As English teachers we are told that students must do lots of low-stakes writing in the classroom to prepare them for high-stakes writing scenarios. I believe the same is true about performance. I regularly allow my students opportunities for low-stakes performance. As a result, they are calm and professional when they have presentations in my class as well as other classes. They also take great pride in what they are able to come up with in a short term performance situation. They love taking pictures (a student took the pictures above) and love taking video of their performances. They find joy and laughter in seeing each other perform and that is what teaching is all about.
Greta Brasgalla is a member of the Folger National Teacher Corps and an alumna of the Teaching Shakespeare Institute. She is currently a curriculum specialist and classroom coach at El Dorado High School in El Paso, Texas. Greta also edited the teaching modules on the new www.folger.edu.