Saturday, November 9, 2013

"That Shakespeare Kid" by Michael LoMonico [Review & Teaching Ideas]

When teachers prepare to teach Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Hamlet or any other Shakespeare play, they often do what Ms. Hastings does in That Shakespeare Kid by Michael LoMonico: They begin with a lecture about the Globe Theater, Shakespeare's life, and Elizabethan England. After all, don't kids need to know about the three biggies before cracking open the play?

Readers will find the answer later in this post. *wink*

That Shakespeare Kid tells the story of Peter, an eighth grader who, in his eagerness to read Romeo and Juliet, suffers a tragic accident when his mom's Riverside Shakespeare crashes down on his head and gives him a concussion that results in Peter speaking lines from Shakespeare's plays whenever he attempts to talk. He still thinks in "normal" English, and he can text his best friend Emma who becomes his "spokesperson" on a journey that takes him from social outcast to the center of adolescent and adult attention.

The organizing trope--using lines from Shakespeare as a plot device in a YA novel--is both clever and original. The novel does more than re-imagine a classic, it literally juxtaposes Early Modern English with Late Modern English. This alternating English functions thematically to say that Shakespeare remains as relevant to 21st Century audiences as it was to Elizabethan ones.

LoMonico funded and published That Shakespeare Kid through a successful Kickstarter campaign, which he describes:

But the real hero of That Shakespeare Kid isn't Peter or his friend Emma. Their English teacher Ms. Hasings embarks on a much more important journey than the one Peter and Emma take together. She literally rethinks her pedagogical approach to teaching Romeo and Juliet when Peter texts Emma a question for Ms. Hastings about her methodology that she can't answer: "Will this stuff about Shakespeare's life and the Globe Theater actually help us understand Romeo and Juliet?"

Although a relatively minor character, LoMonico uses Ms. Hastings to show readers the Folger Shakespeare Library pedagogical approach to teaching Shakespeare, and he does it without mentioning the Folger and without maligning other teaching methods.

Those familiar with Folger performance methodology will recognize the insult activity, "Three Dimensional Shakespeare" by Michael Tolaydo (see Shakespeare Set Free), and other performance tasks that culminate in a student production. There's even a nod to The 30 Minute Shakespeare editions edited by Nick Newlin. In That Shakespeare Kid, LoMonico gently says, "Here's how to get students excited about studying Shakespeare; here's how to get students out of their seats and onto their feet in performance activities; and here's how to turn students into life-long lovers of Shakespeare rather than one-time readers of Shakespeare." Although I have been using performance pedagogy yearly since 2007 and periodically throughout my career, I learned some new tricks and will refine some old ones after reading That Shakespeare Kid.

Teachers looking for ways to get students hooked on Shakespeare should consider using That Shakespeare Kid as either a read-aloud, a book club selection, or a whole-class read. There are many options for adding this charming novel into our curriculum, including using the addendum, which includes all the Shakespeare lines in the book in an easily referenced compilation, as a source for line-tossing and paired skits, as Ms. Hasings does with her class.

NCTE 2013: Are you attending? If so, stop by the Folger booth #825 and/or attend a Folger session and learn more about performance pedagogy from the Folger Shakespeare Library, meet Michael LoMonico, and consider obtaining a copy of That Shakespeare Kid.

I hope to see you in Boston and invite you to attend my session. I'll have a drawing for a free copy of That Shakespeare Kid.

 "Lend Me Your [H]ear: Envisioning Listening in 21st Century Classrooms" 
Session K:08 
Sheraton, Sheraton/Beacon G Room, 3rd Floor 
Saturday, November 23, 2013, 4:15-5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

[Lesson Plan] Carousel Discussion: "The Taming of the Shrew" Act 5

My students are winding down our unit on The Taming of the Shrew. Today students participated in a Carousel Discussion. Here's how I presented the lesson to students:

Teacher Preparation:

Before students arrive for the discussion, teachers must prepare the materials. I first acquire five pieces of butcher paper on which I attached the materials I gave to students the previous day. Carousel Chart Labels are enlarged to enable easy use by students,  and the student handout *Act 5, Carousel Discussion. This gives students the opportunity to look over the ideas they will discuss in the activity. 
Prior to their arrival, I hung the posters/charts around the room, making sure to leave enough room for groups to gather and share the space. It's important not to give students a reason to avoid participating.

Student Instructions:

When students arrive, they see the posters and know something is up. After they have been seated, I direct their attention to the posters/charts and tell them they'll participate in a carousel discussion. 

I define Carousel Discussion: 

Carousel Discussion  (also known as Rotating Review) scaffolds both  new concepts and/or information for review through movement, conversation, and reflection from one station to the next in a circular pattern, similar to the rotation of a carousel. It  is a cooperative learning activity that allows students  to discover and discuss ideas and themes in a literary work, such as The Taming of the Shrew. This technique allows for small group discussion, followed by whole-class reflection.

While taking part in Carousel Discussion, small groups of students rotate around the classroom, stopping at various “stations” for a designated period of time (in this case, 5-6 minutes).  At each station, students demonstrate their  knowledge of a topic or concept and share their ideas with their small group and with other groups who have already visited the station.  Each student  posts his/her ideas at each station for all groups to read. In turn, students may respond to the contributions made by those who have already rotated through the station.

After all students visit each station, the class reconvenes for a whole-class discussion and to report on each topic. 

I remind students that they have already seen the topics they'll be discussing, that they may use their scripts, that they need to use parenthetical citations in their responses, and that they need specific references to the text to support their ideas and opinions. 

Finally, I instruct students to initial their responses as these will be the basis for their grades. 
I tell students I'll evaluate their posts based on the following criteria:

  • Accuracy of information.
  • Specificity of textual references.
  • Response to the given topic.
  • Interactions with other comments. 
  • Ability to support their ideas via close reading. 
Conducting the Discussion:

Students report to their stations, which are all numbered. 

I set the timer and remind students not to talk. I put 6 minutes on the timer for the first round and allow one minute for rotating to the next station.

Between rounds, I tell students to circulate clockwise with those who were at #1 going to #2, those at #2 going to #3, those at #3 going to #4, those at #4 going to # 5, and those at #5 going to #1.

We continue through the rotation five times until each student has had a chance to respond to each post. During rotation, I respond to questions and remind students that discussion means interacting with what others have written. 

The students circulate and remain quiet during the lesson. Many use their texts to look for supporting material. One student returned to a previous chart, when she had time remaining from the next one, so she could modify her response. 

Since students had notes to which they could refer, the use of their texts, and the discussion items prior to the discussion, they remained on task throughout the activity and at times commented that they had more to say on a given topic.

The Animoto highlights students working on the discussion as well as their finished Carousel Discussion charts ready for reporting. 

Reporting from the Groups:

We used the last part of class to report back and to clarify ideas. For example, during student reports, I was able to point out where students needed additional information to make their arguments. I did this by posing questions. For example, when one group reported that Petruchio was polite to Katherine at first but became rude later, I was able to ask them why he behaves this way. "Is Petruchio being deceptive or is something else going on?" 

That same group reported that Petruchio's kissing Kate at the end and going off to bed is a form of deception. This allowed me to ask why they label the ending deceptive. That resulted in a student saying she didn't understand the question because she didn't know the term deception. 

This admission was quite revealing because we have talked about pretending, deceiving, tricking characters throughout, and without an understanding of the term, the student cannot get to the heart of the play. 

Consequently, I was able to remind students that knowing the words leads to understanding and that they need to help me realize when we need to spend more time talking terms. 

The discussion also exposed gaps in student knowledge when students struggled with analyzing the relationship between Bianca and Kate.I learned that we need more time talking about whether or not Bianca is jealous of Kate and/or vice versa. I also learned that we need to revisit the scene in which Baptista and others compare Kate to Bianca. 

Since each group reported on the totality of each chart, these discussions were much safer than a whole-class-discussion that might leave a student feeling embarrassed or silent from fear of being wrong. 

NCTE 2013: Are you attending? If so, I hope to see you there and invite you to attend my session.

 "Lend Me Your [H]ear: Envisioning Listening in 21st Century Classrooms" 
Session K:08 
Sheraton, Sheraton/Beacon G Room, 3rd Floor 
Saturday, November 23, 2013, 4:15-5:30 p.m.

*Special thanks to Dana Huff for including this resource on her The Taming of the Shrew Wiki.

**This lesson plan is one I constructed for the Better Lesson NEA Master Teacher Project; it will be part of a complete unit on The Taming of the Shrew and will be in a much more detailed format on the BL site at a later date. Additionally, the unit is part of the senior English course I am creating for the BL NEA MTP this school year. The project will ultimately include every lesson I teach this year and will include resources, student work samples, a video component, a reflection, and several layers of tagging. I never design lessons for the purpose of preparing students to take high stakes tests.