Eight Steps to Make Memorization Magical

As you can read in my "About Me" section on this blog, my deep, life-long connection to Shakespeare got its start in 6th grade. As a skinny, socially awkward 11-year-old, I stood next to my peers in a packed gymnasium, illuminated by spotlight and way too much stage makeup, and I delivered line after line of Shakespeare's words. I pushed air with my diaphragm and spat out my consonants so that the person in the very back of the echo-y room could hear the words as I spoke them. I put thought into the inflection, the rhyme scheme, and the meter in each piece.

I basically had no idea what I was saying, but that was a challenge for an older version of myself to tackle.

Anyone who's studied Shakespeare will tell you that you can read and re-read plays or monologues and continually reveal new layers of meaning with each repetition. And what's even more mind-boggling is that Shakespeare actually seems to evolve with us through time. Your first interpretation of Romeo and Juliet as a freshman in high school is undoubtedly different than your interpretation of it as a post-graduate student or as a person about to turn 40 or as a person who has just retired. Great literature has the power to grow with us, repeatedly leaving us baffled and awed by its bottomless depths and timeless relatability. 

What an amazing gift to give a young child - a jumble of words that are inexplicably pleasing to the ear. When committed to memory, they lie in wait to reveal their messages at the right moment. It's like a mental time capsule--one that opens again and again with fresh, new meaning over the course of one's life.

This was my first year requiring students to memorize and present Shakespearean monologues, and I'll be honest--I half expected them to revolt and key my car. This work is incredibly difficult and the fact that my students are learning English as a second language, have special needs, and are reading at least 4 years below grade level is probably what discouraged me from trying this sooner. But oh, what our students can do when they are presented with a mountain to climb and the tools to conquer it..!

Here's how I set it up for my students to reach the top of the mountain:

1. Begin with a pep talk and a demonstration to show them how it's done.
On the day when I assigned this project, I projected this quote from Twelfth Night on the board: "Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em." We had an informal discussion about the ways society views young people simply due to their age or experience levels, and how unfair that is. We talked about what it means to have a growth mindset and the power in saying things like, "I don't get it--YET." We talked about the hardest things they've ever had to do in a classroom and how they got through it.

After I explain what will be expected of them and they've stopped throwing staplers at me, I show them photos of me in 6th grade reciting Prospero's "our revels now are ended" monologue from The Tempest. And just to drive home my point about how attainable this goal is, I project the full speech behind me and recite the entire thing from memory for them. Then I answer their questions, many of which I respond to in Spanish: "Si, se puede!"

2. Empower students to choose their monologues. 
Next, I share a document with them that I spent many days over the summer compiling. It contains links to clean, double-spaced copies of each monologue they can choose from. This means every student has access to a digital copy, which they can easily access from their phones or other devices any time. I also hand them paper copies, but these are great to have in case they lose them. The second column on this document tells students how many lines each speech has. This was a no-brainer; I knew that many students would simply want the shortest speech possible. The third column has links to YouTube videos of actors delivering each speech. I scoured YouTube for the very best versions that really revealed the meaning of the words through diction and inflection so students had a top-notch model to emulate. I even purchased a classroom set of headphones so students could listen to their speeches in class whenever they had time. The last few columns have spaces for me to type in each student's name and presentation date so all students know and can be held accountable for their own due dates.

3. Set performance dates that relate to the difficulty and/or length of each speech.
After letting my students "shop" the selection of monologues, I announced that it was time to choose their speech, which they would be responsible for memorizing and delivering to the class in about two months' time. I also informed them that no more than two students could each sign up for any one speech. Then I doled out speeches in the fairest way possible--by drawing names out of a hat one by one and letting students choose speeches.

Okay, that's a lie. Behind the scenes, I carefully constructed a list of students, putting them in order of who needed the most support to those who needed the least. That way, my students with special needs or those who were in early stages of English acquisition could select their speeches first. The fact that these students chose longer and more challenging speeches, even though the shorter ones were readily available to them, blew my mind. One student with a learning disability and a moderate speech disorder was dead-set on choosing one of the longest speeches available to him. He ended up getting one of four perfect scores in the class.

4. Be transparent with your grading practices. 
One way to reduce anxiety and increase accountability for this type of assignment is by providing students with a rubric that explains clearly how they will be graded. Here's mine. You'll notice that there's basically no way for a student to get below a C unless they simply don't present their speech on their due date. Knowing how difficult this was for my students made me want to set them up for success. I didn't want anyone's grade to take a dive because they didn't reach the memorization finish line. After all, the whole point is to leave them with the mental time capsule described above, not to make them hate Shakespeare or to make them feel insecure about their spoken language skills. The goal of this type of activity must always be to build students up and make them feel powerful.

5. Incentivize and schedule checkpoints. 
Every week, I incentivized students to recite small chunks of their speeches from memory. The first week, it was simply the first line. The second week, it was two. Then I wanted to hear four... then 5... then 7. Anyone who could reach each checkpoint when I asked received a reward. In my case, students received points toward earning admission to a field trip to see A Midsummer Night's Dream performed at The Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Any reward will work. The key to incentivizing is the publicity of it all. Any student who successfully met the checkpoint was publicly lauded for his or her efforts. This wasn't just to make that student feel good--it was to let the rest of your class know that what they once deemed impossible was, in fact, being achieved by those sitting right next to them regardless of their shared struggles.

6. Stand your ground. 
Amazing things started happening when we were about three weeks into this project. My students were finding me in the hallway, running up to me, and breathlessly reciting their lines to show me they could do it. There was joy in my classroom--pairs of students worked together to cue each other, quiz each other, cheer for each other, and perform silly pantomime they were considering incorporating into their final presentations.

Alas, all good things must come to an end (or stall, in this case). The fear of failure slowly curled its fingers around my students as their performance dates approached and several of them began to realize they had not used their time wisely. I heard rumblings of students planning to be absent on their performance dates. I had students quietly ask me if they could perform privately (just in front of me) during their lunch periods. I got questions about re-take opportunities. Their little puppy dog eyes made me want to grant all of their worried wishes... Luckily, my very strict co-teacher urged me to stand firm in my expectations. "They can do this," she assured me. I felt a little guilty for doubting them.

7. Create a supportive environment for your performers. 
Performance dates rolled around much quicker than my students preferred. I mean, sure, I assigned this project just before Thanksgiving and they didn't have to perform until the end of January... but I digress.

I had a very firm talk with the class about the expectations for an audience at any type of formal performance: they must remain silent, they should avoid fidgeting, and they shouldn't shout out or interrupt/distract performers in any way. They should welcome performers to the stage with applause and congratulate them with more applause after their speeches. And above all--they should understand how nerve-wracking it is to be in front of the entire class doing something terrifyingly difficult. Therefore, they should comport themselves with empathy.

I also agreed to cue students any time they got stuck as they performed. I understand that, even though they may have an entire speech memorized to perfection, nerves can cause unexplained difficulties to surface when they least expect it. Therefore, any time a student paused during their presentation, I'd cue them from the back of the room with enough of the next line to get them going again. I also didn't dock their grades for this. This seemed to cut their anxiety in half.  Phew!

8. Get meta. 
When it's all over, reflect with your students on what they've just accomplished. For me, this meant returning to Malvolio's 'greatness' quote from Twelfth Night once again. We talk about greatness and how it's not necessarily what you are--but what you do that makes you great. I talk about the greatness I've seen in each of them and the power of conquering a goal you once felt would be impossible. I give them time to free-write and discuss with partners about the experience. Any time we can get students to take a moment and think, "I didn't think I would be able to do it, but I worked hard, and I did it." that's a valuable use of classroom time.

Do you assign memorization tasks to your students? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject and I'm always listening for ideas to make this type of project even better.

Thanks for reading! 

Getting to Know Shakespeare

Beatrice, from Much Ado About Nothing, is my spirit animal.

Shakespeare's heroines give feminists like me pause every now and again (we're looking at you, Kate from Taming of the Shrew) but Beatrice never disappoints us. She's sharp-tongued, quick-witted, bright, and assertive. The number of times she interrupts male characters almost evens the score for any woman who's been subject to mansplaining, and we love her for it.

In Much Ado About Nothing, Don Pedro hypothesizes that her strong and merry personality is likely due to special circumstances at her birth. Indeed, she confirms that she was born under a dancing star.

I don't think the circumstances of Shakespeare's birth were extraordinary by any means, but the romantic in me does believe that the world today boasts a little more beauty because he once inhabited it. I keep this in mind when I front-load my Shakespeare unit, and most importantly when I introduce Shakespeare (the man, not the works) to my students.

I've done this in a few ways over the course of my career, and I've never been satisfied with it until this year. This year, I put aside my lecture notes, my power points, my photos, my video biographies, and my articles. After all, the usual techniques could never adequately introduce a man who was born beneath a dancing star.

Instead, I turn up the engagement and ignite students' sense of discovery by tossing them headfirst into an interactive Google Map of Shakespeare's old stomping grounds. I made the whole thing myself, and my students loved it. Luckily for me, I had plenty of source material.

When I was a 6th grader, I promised myself that I would one day travel to Shakespeare's hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon to see it for myself. I checked this off my travel bucket list in the summer of 2016, and the trip exceeded every expectation my awkward, daydreaming, 11-year-old self could have possibly imagined.

It was a few months ago when I realized that all the photos I took during that trip could actually come in handy in my classroom! Enter: Google Maps. As I was working through my Google Level 1 and 2 Certification, I learned about the features of Google Maps that allow you to design a personalized journey that students can click through at their leisure. I integrated tons of my vacation photos from England and added my own narrative--essentially taking on the role of the "tour guide" who would take my students across the Atlantic and back in time 400 years. I paired my Google Map adventure with a simple quiz on Google Forms and then I turned my students loose within Shakespeare's world.

The activity allowed students to click through 6 locations:
- Shakespeare's birthplace
- King Edward VI School
- Anne Hathaway's cottage
- Holy Trinity Church
- The Globe Theater
- Buckingham Palace (mainly just for fun, and for those who finished early)

Students could see a bird's eye view, zoom in to see the streets and businesses that exist there, or even place themselves within the map and "walk around" town by clicking arrows already embedded via Google Maps. They could see as much or as little of each location as they liked.

And oh, the things I heard during this activity: "Whoa, is this really the inside of his house?" "How far did he have to walk to get to his wife's cottage?" "Weird, the Globe Theater is completely round!" "Look! I found his grave stone!" "How did he learn Latin when he was so young?" "Did the Queen like the plays he wrote?"

Google Maps pushed my students directly into an inquiry-based bubble where they could explore, ask questions, wonder about Shakespeare's life, make hypotheses, and develop a hunger to know more about the Bard. And given how little we actually know about Shakespeare's life, I couldn't think of a more appropriate way to introduce him. Rather than rattling off details--both real and romanticized--about Shakespeare's life that I've collected over the years, I allowed my students to make their own judgments and guesses about who this great man was. Likewise, the "tour guide" narrative I included gave my students the clues they would need to understand what life was like in Elizabethan England and to later uncover how and why characters behave the way they do throughout his works.

If you're interested in checking out my Google Map (or even using it in your classroom), click the preview photo below!  And if you'd like to pair it with my Google Forms quiz (which grades itself upon completion), you can access and edit it here.

What do you think of my introduction to Shakespeare?  My ears are always open for feedback.  Feel free to share your best practices for introducing the Bard to your students as well.

Thank you for reading!

Swear Not by the Moon

Romeo and Juliet sure make a lot of promises to each other.

Romeo, for example, promises his heart to Juliet the moment he meets her, promises to marry her later that night, makes wedding vows to her shortly after that, and even after things take a turn for the worse, he promises to lie with her for all eternity.  Whether these promises were kept or broken... well, that's another thing.

But the idea of making promises to our students is an interesting one to consider before we embark upon a road laden with Shakespeare.  Reality check: many students, especially struggling readers and second language learners, do not honestly believe they will ever be able to understand Shakespeare. They view Shakespeare as their mortal enemy.  As teachers, it is our job to spring love from hate.  

I'm starting my Shakespeare unit with my 7th and 8th grade students tomorrow.  And aside from building background knowledge, activating inquiry-based learning techniques, developing a sense of community, and diving into the elements of drama, I always begin my Shakespeare units by making promises to my students.  

There are 5 in total, and I have yet to break any of them.  That's right; eat your heart out, Romeo.

Promise #1: I will not ask you to do anything you're not capable of. 

Cards on the table - this is an outright lie.  I know, I know... terrible.  This is nothing more than a motivational teacher trick I play on my students.  My plan is entirely to toss my students into the deep end at the beginning of my Shakespeare unit.  But believe me - I am watching carefully and I have a life ring ready to toss in at any second.  I prefer to set the bar higher than reasonable, and then adjust based on student progress.  No matter where the bar ends up settling, I know my students will have achieved levels of rigor that are appropriate for each of them.

Promise #2: I will support you ... as long as you do your part.

I like to warn my students again and again that the Shakespeare unit may very well be the hardest they have ever worked in a reading class.  I refer not to the amount of work, but to its complexity. Despite this very honest warning, I still get a couple of students each year who honestly believe they can kick back and let me do all the thinking for them.  Nope, nope, nope.  I am constantly looking for those few students to put in the tiniest bit of effort, and then I zoom right in and shower them with support.  I celebrate their tiny victories and ask them how it feels to finally "figure it out."  Spoiler alert: they always tell me it feels great.

Promise #3: You will get frustrated and you will overcome it.

This one always sounds great on paper, but when push comes to shove, my students look at me like they've got a mouthful of cod liver oil.  It probably doesn't help that I say, "Remember how I told you you'd get frustrated?  Well, this is it." I target these moments and add in a healthy dose of motivation by asking my students things like, "This is one of those tough moments.  How will you handle it?  Are you going to push through or quit?" Because of the strong relationships I build with my students, they trust me to get them through these tough moments. And hey, that's some life lesson-level stuff right there.

Promise #4: I will make sure you have fun and enjoy yourself.

When my Shakespeare unit comes to a close, I feel like I need to sleep for the next month.  It is exhausting.  The reason it's so demanding is because I work hard to incorporate playtime into my lessons.  Honestly, if I'm asking students to work harder than they've ever worked before, I had better do what I can do make it feel like fun as often as possible.  We play our way to understanding Shakespeare whenever possible. Improv games, partner activities, pantomime, and films all play a role in my Shakespeare unit.  I have to keep things feeling fresh and engaging as much as possible.  And when my students run into my room asking, "Can we play Exeunt! today?!" I feel like I've nailed it!

Promise #5: There are rewards for taking risks.  

We are so fortunate to have The Chicago Shakespeare Theater located right in the heart of our fair city.  And as much as I like to shy away from rewards and praise in the classroom, I feel okay about rewarding kids with--you guessed it--more Shakespeare.  Because I teach 7th and 8th graders, many of them have never seen anything performed live on a stage before.  Therefore, the first thing I do in the fall is call up the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and book a field trip to see whatever play they're preparing for student matinees.  Then I put my students in direct competition with one another.  They can earn points for taking acting risks, showing leadership, demonstrating deep analysis, etc.  We keep track on a sticker chart, and the top 30 at the end of the unit get an all-expenses paid trip to see a play performed just for them.

Well, there's a peek at my kick-off lesson for tomorrow morning!  Wish me luck.
And by the way, if you have fabulous ideas about how to motivate/prepare your students for challenging units, please share them with me!

Three Ingredients to Consider When Choosing Your Text

Man, I love the witches in Macbeth.  And what better time to conjure their likeness than just a few weeks before Halloween?

I always found it mesmerizing to read through the list of disgusting ingredients the witches tossed into their cauldron over the course of Macbeth: the blood of a pig who ate her own babies, the sweat from a recently deceased murderer, the eye of a newt, the toe of a frog... The list goes on in disgusting detail.

As we choose the ingredients to toss into our second quarter cauldron--a time when many of us are perhaps diving into our Shakespeare units--the most powerful one of all is what version of Shakespeare's text we'll ultimately hold our students accountable for.

There are plenty of versions and formats of each play to choose from, each with varying levels of support baked right in.  So, how do you choose the one that's right for your students?

Keep these three things in mind before you add a play to your classroom's cauldron:

1.  Shakespeare's texts are free.  Save your admin some money.  

I always scratch my head when I see 120 copies of Romeo and Juliet have been ordered for one teacher who plans to tackle that play. And I know my administrators grimace when they see the price associated with buying class sets of books. As a Shakespeare snob, there is no version I love better than the Folger series, which are about $5 a book. But I urge you to consider even cheaper ways to get Shakespeare's words into your students' hands. I know we're not all tech savvy and we certainly don't all have a one-to-one student-to-computer ratio, but these plays have been free of copyright laws for years. They're all available online. We could print them out if we wanted to, or book some time in the computer lab for our students. In a world where budgets are being slashed and class sizes are swelling, your admin will thank you if you employ a little ingenuity and find a way to access a free version of the play you want to teach, rather than potentially blowing your department's book budget on something you could access through Google.

2.  Choose a text that allows you to balance independence with rigor.  

It's an ugly battle we fight between getting our students to read independently and keeping the level of rigor high in our classrooms. If you've figured out how to win, please comment and share your wisdom, as it is something I struggle with every day. I urge you to set the bar high, which is quite easy to do when you're sending students down the Shakespearean rabbit hole. I've badmouthed resources like No Fear Shakespeare and No Sweat Shakespeare quite enough in previous posts, but I'll say it again - your students will rise only as high as you allow them to. Start with Shakespeare's original words, cut down plays, scenes, and speeches as you see fit, and see what your students can do. There are many more posts to come on how to successfully help students with learning disabilities and second language barriers reach Shakespeare's high bar (but I'll start you off with this resource).

3.  Choose font size and spacing that allows for annotation.

As much as my snobby inner-self loves the Folger versions of Shakespeare's plays, I find it damn near impossible to teach from those books. The font is quite small and the lines are very close together. Sometimes even the footnotes take on the form of short novels. When I have my struggling readers open those books, they are overwhelmed and they quickly shut down. And when I ask them to act from those books, they spend more time losing and trying to find their place than actually speaking the words. And it's not just the Folger series--most printed formats are just not ideal tools for the classroom because they don't allow the space for students to annotate and interact with the text. Such interaction is absolutely critical when exposing students to such complex text.

So... what's in my cauldron? 
Being the Shakespeare fiend that I am, I have taken it upon myself to take the entire Folger text, put it into a Google Doc, cut out unnecessary or repetitive scenes/lines, and add in answer-as-you-go comprehension questions from a variety of Bloom's Taxonomy levels.  Yes, I'm a little nutty. You can see the final product on my Teachers Pay Teachers page, in addition to some screen shots below.

They say necessity is the mother of invention... Well, I just kept shopping around for the "ultimate" teachable version of Shakespeare's plays, and I couldn't find one that satisfied me. But since I put in the work to make my own abridgment, I have not had a single student who was bested by Shakespeare.  Click on the image to the right to see previews of the text, questions, and answer keys, which are all included!

Take a look at what I've come up with and let me know what you think!  Also, if you have a play in mind that you'd like to see formatted in this way, I am your girl. Leave me a comment and I'll get right on it! At this moment, I think Romeo and Juliet will be my next mountain to tackle.

Six Ways to Murder Shakespeare

Shakespeare's audiences loved blood and gore.

In this respect, modern audiences aren't much different (I'm looking at you, Game of Thrones fans).  It seems the only thing we love more than a great character is a great character's violent death.  In fact, a recent production entitled The Complete Deaths managed to cram all 74 of Shakespeare's "death scenes" into one play (which is not recommended for younger audiences).  If you're curious how Shakespeare kills his characters, this handy dandy pie chart should clear things up for you:

If we use the data above to inform our actions, it seems the obvious way to murder Shakespeare would be to stab him (though I'd love to bake him into a pie... because I love pie).  But dispatching the bard is much simpler than the methods listed above.  Unfortunately, teachers murder him every day, year after year, in their own classrooms.  I can say that because I am guilty of ALL of these murderous acts.  Get ready to cringe, people.

Let's have a look Six Ways Teachers Murder Shakespeare:

6.  Letting the Film Upstage the Text
I co-taught with a teacher who attempted to trudge through the full text of Othello before giving up and/or running out of time.  She collected the books and showed the class "O" instead.  The kids loved the movie, and I will admit that it's a relatively well-structured modern take on the play.

When we tried to get students to reflect on academic topics like theme, characterization, plot, and textual analysis, they didn't bother to recall the bits of the play they had read; they wanted to tell us all about Julia Stiles and Josh Hartnett.  Shakespeare's message was lost before it was even found, and as much as I adore Julia Stiles... it's Shakespeare that will still be around 400 years from now--not her.

Instead of using the movie to fill in the holes in your students' comprehension, encourage them to view film adaptations with a critical eye: they can question the directors' choices, critique the risks the actors take, and determine the feasibility of various interpretations of a play.  These activities keep the text front and center and address film as a modern, flexible offshoot of Shakespeare's work.

5.  Over-Quizzing
We all want our students to take ownership over their learning.  And we all have students who would rather jam pencils in their eyes than read a Shakespeare play.  This creates classroom management problems, weakens the efficacy of group work, and frustrates us to no end.

Some of us jump to administering act-by-act quizzes and tests in order to up the accountability factor during our Shakespeare units.  Don't. We must remember to keep our eye on the prize - Shakespeare should be rooted in the human connections we can make with the characters and story lines, and not in the grades we assign in school.  Stay tuned to this blog for a deluge of ways to keep engagement high and academic regurgitation low!

4.  Teaching an Unfamiliar Play
Shakespeare, as we know, is a study in complex text.  Now I don't pretend to walk into my classroom with every second planned, complete with contingency materials in case of anything that might, in any universe, derail my lesson plan.  Let's be real.  Some days, we are more prepared than others.

But if you try to launch into a Shakespeare unit without having read, studied, and done some serious analysis of the play you're teaching, your unit will not go well.  Other works of literature are more forgiving; we can teach The Great Gatsby off the cuff because we can invite our students to make discoveries right along with us.  We can just let them Google their own wonderings and see what they come up with.  If you try this "discover as we go" method with Shakespeare, your students will feel like they're searching for a needle in a haystack.  And they're going to end up hating both the needle and the haystack.  The fact of the matter is, Shakespeare will probably drum up so many questions, your students won't know where to start.  They need you to be the expert, and you've got to have a plan in place.

3.  Incubating in Iambs
Nerds like me just LOVE the ways Shakespeare plays with meter, rhythm, and rhyme scheme. The man was a genius in this respect and in many others.  But if you're building a unit in which students spend an inordinate amount of time trying to parse out iambs, dactyls, pentameter, tetrameter, and so on, your students will miss the bigger picture.

It's so easy to get bogged down in the technical aspects of Shakespeare's writing.  Just remember--it's pleasing to the ear because of his technique, but it's the message that has survived for the last 400 years.  I'm not saying you can't teach meter.  In fact, the connection between the beats within a sonnet and the beats of our hearts is a really engaging way to go.  Just don't dwell on rhythm and meter, or Shakespeare's cause of death might be a massive heart attack.

2.  No Fear Shakespeare or No Sweat Shakespeare
Are we or are we not teaching Shakespeare in part because it exposes students to complex text?  As a special education teacher whose classes consist entirely of struggling readers, diverse learners, and English language learners, I understand how difficult it is to expect every child to read and comprehend Shakespeare's flowery English.

Resources like No Fear and No Sweat sure look attractive, because they allow us to still "expose" our students to Shakespeare's words without forcing it down their throats.  But if we're going to put all our efforts into circumnavigating who he was and what he created, what's the point of teaching Shakespeare?  And need I mention that my struggling readers don't understand the "plain English" version of his plays, either?  Let us not forget that Shakespeare wrote for the masses, and we as teachers do not get to decide who should and should not be exposed to his works.  If we do decide for them, our students will never know what they're missing--and that should bother you a little bit.

1.  Independent Study.
As an English Education major in my undergrad years, I took a handful of Shakespeare classes.  I remember one more than the others.  We independently read three plays per week, discussed them in class, and took a test at the end of each week.  Sounds rigorous, huh?

Well, I remember hating the class better than I remember ANY of the plays I read.  And yes, that sound you hear is Shakespeare banging on the lid of his coffin every time a teacher does this.  Shakespeare never intended for his plays to become objects of intense study for students sitting in desks and trying to get As.  He intended them to be heard, experienced, and seen.

The moment we assign a play--or even an act--to students, leave them on their own to study it, and then hold them accountable for understanding it without any support, we have murdered Shakespeare.


There you have it--it's so easy to murder Shakespeare.  I will admit to committing all of these murderous acts at one time or another during my teaching career.  Aside from cringing inwardly every time I did the above, I never let go of the thought that I could somehow teach Shakespeare without causing my students extreme pain.  Stay tuned to my blog and check out my store on Teachers Pay Teachers for resources designed to keep Shakespeare alive and well in your very own classroom.  And feel free to share your thoughts on murdering--or keeping alive--good old Billy Shakes.

Welcome to Quick Bright Things!

This beautiful quote is from William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.  In this scene, a young man reflects on the inconstancy of love: he reasons that it strikes like lightning, but can vanish just as quickly. 

In my most vulnerable state as an educator, I offer this quote as a metaphor for teaching Shakespeare.

Inspiration strikes at unlikely moments for many of us--in the car on the way to work, in the shower, at dinner with a friend, or in the midst of downward-facing dog in a yoga class.  Like a strike of lightning--you've got it!  The most brilliant brilliance to ever spring from your brilliant teacher mind! You create, you plan, you practice... and it may remain quick and bright as ever, or it may unravel into confusion.  Alas, better luck next time.  

It is in this unfixed mindset that I create my first post for my blog and begin my 10th year of teaching.  All the planning in the world will never guarantee the success of my lessons, of my blog, or of my Shakespeare units, but it's only a matter of time before the next quick, bright thing electrifies my mind and heart, and I try again.  

There are thousands of reasons to invite Shakespeare into your classroom.  Trust me, I'll illuminate them here as my blog grows.  Conversely, there are plenty of reasons not to.  We can easily ascertain that our students won't relate to it, that it's too archaic, that it's too complex, and that we just don't have the time or resources to implement it well.  Teaching Shakespeare is not without its roadblocks; we all know this.  

But then there's that nagging truth that rears its stubborn head again and again... he's survived for 400 years, and he permeates the English language, literature as a whole, and our human experience.  Oh yeah--and he's listed in the Common Core State Standards for grades 9-12, too.  

If you take a few moments to peruse my long love affair with Shakespeare (or Billy Shakes, as I have come to call him), you'll understand my drive to keep him alive and well in my classroom and in others'.  You may share this passion of mine, or you may just be seeking support for the band-aid you know you must eventually rip off.  Regardless, I welcome you.  

Leave some comments, some feedback, or some inspiration.  Let's grow together.
Once more, unto the breach!!
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