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Diagnosing the Bard on Twitter: Part 2

Visit Part One to read about the roots of the Twitter conversation about the “Soul of Shakespeare” that took place on January 19, 2012.

On Twitter, following a single thread can be difficult and people’s responses all twist into each other. In order to help share the discussion I’ve decided to separate out a few conversational threads. Since I work in the education office I was drawn to the discussion that came from a question posed by @Mikelomo: “So could we just talk about the #Shakespeare classroom for a bit?”

@Mikelomo is the handle for Michael LoMonico, the Senior Consultant on National Education for the Folger Shakespeare Library. It was his article on watering down Shakespearian language in the classroom that inspired the discussion. The discussion spiraled off into many different directions—look for an article on the divine language in performance. Since LoMonico’s blog post was focused on education it seemed right for him to attempt to guide the Twitter conversation back to where it started. He asked, “Any thoughts about teachers using simplified texts?”

The responses came from educators and theatre professionals and showed a range of thinking in regards to Shakespeare’s text in the classroom. @HESherman (Howard Sherman) quickly responded adding to the original question asking “Regarding classroom, is it fair to just explore #Shakespeare only as text? As a script, is it only complete in production?” The conversation reflected something we hold dear here in the STC Education office—that Shakespeare’s work can excite students when taught in ways that allow the unique qualities of his writing to shine through performance.

Below are some of the exchanges from the #pmdhes thread about Shakespeare in the classroom:

Mrs_Speck (2:48 pm): As a high school Drama teacher, I must say “the play’s the thing” — the words and story together in performance. Too easy an answer?

HESherman (2:49 pm): @Mrs_Speck I worry that young people are put off #Shakespeare by studying before seeing.

Whitneyje (2:58 pm): Regarding #Shakespeare in the classroom – you don’t need simplified texts if you choose the play correctly. #Caesar = bad choice.  #2amt

HESherman (3:01 pm): @whitneyje Why anti-Caesar? I think that was 1st or 2nd play I read (and saw dreadful production @yalerep)

Whitneyje (3:58 pm): @HESherman Not anti-Caesar. I just think it’s a little dense. Especially when so many others would better engage students.

TheShakesForum (7:59 am): @whitneyje @HESherman Caesar often used to teach rhetorical devices in English language, not the story.

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TheShakesForum (2:50 pm): @HESherman I believe you cheat a class by looking at Shakespeare as precious literature.  #GetEmOnTheirFeet

ShakespeareHigh (2:50 pm): Forcing kids to use simplified texts leads them to the belief they aren’t capable of understanding Shakespearean language.

Reduced (2:53 pm) One could also say Shakespeare in classroom ‘not’ Shakespeare, only Shakespeare in performance.

Mrs_Speck (2:53 pm): @HESherman  Our job as teachers is to draw them in–whatever preconceived notions they may have. @mikelomo has some great methods!

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HESherman (2:56 pm): Beyond seeing productions, what have been greatest approaches/tools you’ve seen used in teaching #Shakespeare at high school level?

Linthenerd (2:56 pm): @Petermarksdrama For classrooms, rec. activities with snippets/death lines/action rather than whole plays or scenes.

ASC_Amy (2:56 pm): @HESherman Always getting the kids on their feet & words into their mouths. #Shakespeare’

Reduced (2:57 pm): Modern non-Shakespeare films can also serve as intro to Shakespeare for the nervous. 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s The Man, The Sopranos.

ShakespeareinDC (2:58 pm): @HESherman Regarding high school: Connecting the characters to their lives, the ideas to their lives & the rhythm of the words to their music.  #mk

Klange (2:58 pm): @ASC_Amy @HESherman I think, also, teachers need to discuss the intention of the scene with students. Makes the language easier.

RivierePatrick (2:59 pm): Greatest tools are well-designed assembly programs that integrate text, history and interaction w students…ACCESS SHAKESPEARE is 1

ShakespeareHigh (3:04 pm): @HESherman  Kids need to get up on their feet and experience the language. Gives them ownership.

Mrs_Speck (3:05 pm): @HESherman  Introduce the plot with a few key lines and get the kids up and acting them out.

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In this exchange Michael Kahn is talking about our successful Text Alive! program:

HESherman (3:07 pm): In schools, are students given free rein to imagine different settings, concepts? Would that help them “relate” better?

ShakespeareinDC (3:09 pm): @HESherman That’s what we do in schools. They produce their own scenes in any style they want, using the words.  #mk

If you have any thoughts about Shakespeare in education please comment below and join the conversation.

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