Yes, you read that title correctly. Somehow, I have helped 14-year olds love the Bard. It was not easy, let me tell you, but I feel so happy that many of my students were legitimately sad that we ended our Shakespeare unit.
How did I do it? Well, I definitely had clear objectives for myself before we even started. My goal was never: "Students will be able to understand every word in a Shakespeare text and read a Shakespeare play all the way through on their own."
No. My true objective sounded a little more like this: "Students will be able to find relatable themes and characters in Shakespeare's play. They will be able to learn strategies of how to tackle difficult texts as they laugh through the Bard's ridiculous plots and witty criticisms."
So we started reading Much Ado About Nothing. It was definitely tough, and you could tell that students were not convinced that they would actually enjoy the reading. But with a little time (and also through the experience of watching the production of the play WHILE we read), my students fell in love. They would sign and smile at the coy flirting tactics of Claudio and Hero. They would gasp at the devious plans of Don John. They'd laugh at the mess of gossip thrown at Benedick and Beatrice. And at the end of each great scene, they'd moan in sadness that the class period had come to and end and they would have to wait until the next day to find out what happened next.
I really knew I had helped some of them find true passion in Shakespeare when one student told me, "Mrs. Macey, I was up really late watching movies last night. They were all Shakespeare! I watched two versions of Romeo and Juliet, I watched Hamlet and then The Lion King, and then I watched The Tempest." Holy guacamole! What teenager binge watches Shakespeare!?!? Other students now expressed interest in taking a class devoted to studying plays and sonnets from the Bard in high school.
Lastly, we were able to go see the Utah Shakespeare Touring Company perform The Tempest. It was another great experience for my students. While they didn't love The Tempest as much as they enjoyed Much Ado About Nothing, they were able to understand the story and still appreciate the skill of the actors on stage.
Yes sir-ee, in this last year of teaching, I am so glad I have been able to leave some lasting impressions on many of my students. It was so much fun to teach them this unit. Now onto the last unit(s) of the school year. (aka: Job acquasitions skills and college application essays/memoirs).
Andrew and Maichael
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