Put on a fun play today!

Shakespeare Learning Fun

Making Shakespeare Fun

Who Goes There?

The Old Bard of England is not just something to fill up an English Literature Curriculum, his rich language and complex plots provide ample meat for substantial higher order thinking. However, it is often difficult to hook someone, particularly children, and draw them into the magic. Shakespeare, fun? Surely, you jest! But alas, I do not.

Studies show that the study of literature and poetry exercise the brain, allowing for deeper thought processes. We all know that exercise is important, our brain, like a muscle, must be engaged to develop. Exposure of children to serious literary works leads to adults better able to analyze, sythethize, and interact. All of these skills are necessary for a successful career.

How Doth One Proceed?

Engaging children in Shakespeare is as simple as drawing them into the story and making it their own. One way of doing this is by a staged reading or performance of a Shakespearean play where the children not only play the parts but are charged with the technical production of the play as well.

The idea of a camp style Shakespeare experience, or Shakespeare Days, is the perfect set up for bringing children to the Global theatre in a way that will leave them wanting more. Here is brief guide to having your own Shakespeare Days experience in your classroom, with your homeschool group, or at
your home. This is the perfect activity for afterschool or school breaks.

1. Choose a play: With so many great works to choose from, this is not as easy as it sounds. The good news is that scripts are readily available. Student edition scripts are even available for free online.
2. Assign roles: Find someone for each part. Students can play more than one part if need be. Hand out scripts. Ask students to review and study their lines. There is no need to memorize the lines if you are short on time. The point is the exposure, not the performance.
3. Present the story: Gather together and read aloud an easy to understand version of your chosen play to the participants. There are several sources out there that condense plays and make them read like story books. As you read explain the twists and turns, allow the children to ask questions.
4. Create the props: Choose a selection of props for the students to create and use for their play. You do not need many, just enough to make it feel like they are really there. It is important to find time for arts and crafts so you “dress” your “stage”.
5. Have a few rehearsals: Take two to three classes/days to rehearse your play. Remember to plan out or block the movements of the actors so that the scenes progress smoothly. No need to get fancy, just run through it the best you can so that children get familiar with the language and scenes.
6. Include time for fun: All work and no play makes for boring days. Find something enjoyable for the children to do unrelated to the play, even just for a short time, once their practice ends each day.
7. Pull together costumes: Discuss how people dressed back in Shakespeare’s day. Have students make up costumes from what they have at home or can easily construct. It is more about getting into character than looking professional.
8. Invite your audience: Throngs of crowds are not needed here, perhaps just parents or the class next door. Allow the children to showcase what they have learned and accomplished.

Jubilation and Success, A Path to the Future

In the span of a week, or less depending on how long you have each day, the children who may have balked at having to sit and read a play independently have been transported back in time with the help of a little glue, paint, and extra effort. Learning by doing is learning that sticks.

Let’s all find ways to build bridges for our students not just to the future, but to the past, as well. Falling in love with learning leads to lifelong learners, which makes this world a better place.

How can you open the minds of your students and make them hungry for more?
A special thanks to Theresa Zappe for sharing her Shakespeare Days model with Global Learn Day.

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Book with Reading

Literature and Learning

Literature and You, Perfect Together

Have you read a good book lately?  Literature is one of the hallmarks of a developed culture.  It synthesizes the values, beliefs, and societal make up of time and era.  Even books that aren’t explicitly historical fiction present a commentary of the lives and times the author experienced.

 

Andrew Pudewa, education advocate and founder of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, observes that like anything you can’t get out what you don’t put in.  Our brains are like computer processors, they need the reliable connectors and high quality coding to produce good results.

 

Reading opens door and worlds to children and adults. Through books we can explore times and regions that would be impossible for us to access otherwise.  Reading truly is fundamental as the old commercial jingle said.  It is the building block of our civilization and our future innovations. In his book, How Literature Plays with the Brain, Paul B. Armstrong observes, “Literature matters, for what it reveals about human experience, and the very different perspective of neuroscience on how the brain works is part of that story.”

 

Books Are the Way of the Future

With all the technological advances, it is easy to focus on the STEM curriculum in the hopes of raising up a generation prepared and enthusiastic about all that is possible in this high tech world.  However, it is important to have roots before we have wings.  Literature can give us those roots and the brain power to soar.

 

Science has shown that reading actually stimulates the brain in a way that it actually believes it is doing something that it is not. This is called embodied cognition.  This same principle is employed by athletes who use visualization as a manner to enhance their skills.  When a basketball player uses visualization, it triggers the same centers of the brain used to physically play the game.  In this way, embodied cognition truly takes our brain to the place and time of what we are reading, allowing us to experience and problem solve on a high plane that watching the same story on television.

 

Literature also teaches empathy and understanding of other points of view.  Theory of Mind is “the branch of cognitive science that investigates how we ascribe mental states to other persons and how we use the states to explain and predict the actions of those other persons.”  Studies have shown that children who have more literature read to them have keener theory of mind and are better able to empathize with others.

 

While reading is the important part, it also matters what we read.  As stated above, you only get out what you put in.  Informational reading is not the same as deep reading of literature. The reading of complex literature with the drama, suspense, and intricate details creates life like images in our brains that exercise our brain and expand our ability to think.  Decoding words is not enough, we need to be reading literature that pulls us into the story.

 

Falling In Love Is Literature

In a Time magazine article about the value of reading literature, it states, “The deep reader, protected from distractions and attuned to the nuances of language, enters a state that psychologist Victor Nell, in a study of the psychology of pleasure reading, likens to a hypnotic trance. Nell found that when readers are enjoying the experience the most, the pace of their reading actually slows. The combination of fast, fluent decoding of words and slow, unhurried progress on the page gives deep readers time to enrich their reading with reflection, analysis, and their own memories and opinions. It gives them time to establish an intimate relationship with the author, the two of them engaged in an extended and ardent conversation like people falling in love.”

 

How romantic is that?  Books are not only our escapes but the gym for our minds.  As we teach children to love learning we must also instill a love of fine literature to fill their minds with rich language and shape their theory of mind for the benefit of the world at large.  As One Planet, One People; providing the access to quality literature books to all children can go a long way toward building the bridges to a future of peace and harmony.

 

What has literature done for you? What piece of literature have you loved?

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Author – Simon Winchester

The best book I’ve read in the last six month — or six years? – is easily Atlantic, by Simon Winchester.

Simon’s also a great story teller, a very nice man who reminds me of the quip made by JFK at a White House Gala where every living American Nobel Prize winner was being hosed by the President.  Kennedy’s quip went like this:  “This is the brightest set of luminaries ever to dine together at one time in the White House…with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.Continue reading “Author – Simon Winchester”

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Authors – The New Digital Age

The (just released) book “The New Digital Age” is worth every dime!

One of the authors is Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google. (As high as you can get on my Wish List!)

Schmidt partnered up with Jared Cohen, a foreign policy counterterrorist specialist poached from the State Department now working for Google …. Director of Google Ideas & Adjunct  and Senior Fellow at CFR

Obviously, it will take some pretty tasty bait to get these guys on board. Wish me luck.

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MOOC Publisher Robert McGuire

Robert McGuire Publisher and Editor at MOOC New and Reviews Location Greater New York City Area Industry Writing and Editing Current 1. MOOC New and Reviews, 2. Self-employed Previous 1. United Way, 2. misc publications in Connecticut and Milwaukee, 3. SCSU; Fairfield U; Marquette U; Carroll College Education 1. State University of New York at Binghamton Continue reading “MOOC Publisher Robert McGuire”

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