Hi Everyone! Just a heads up that you can now visit my new author website and blog at http://www.jenniekbrown.com
Hi Everyone! Just a heads up that you can now visit my new author website and blog at http://www.jenniekbrown.com
So glad I can share!!! Get ready to read more POPPY!!!
After my summer experience at the Folger Shakespeare Library, I decided that I was going to get my students up and moving around my classroom in some sort of Shakespeare activity within the first three days of school. And guess what? I did just that!
On day two of the new school year, I ditched the rules and procedures protocol, and instead, each of my classes participated in a Shakespeare compliment activity (an activity that I first experienced first-hand this summer). I do something similar to this in March when we begin Romeo and Juliet; however, instead of Shakespeare compliments, they spew Shakespeare insults at one another. I never thought this was something my 9th students could handle on day 2, but I was totally wrong!
I passed out the Shakespeare compliments sheet. There were three columns of terms – the first two adjectives and the third nouns. First I had the students read over the words silently to themselves. After this, they practiced reading some of the words aloud. The final step was putting the words together in an out-of-seat activity. They began their compliments with the word “thou”, strung three words together (one from each column), and then they complimented at least six other classmates. I challenged them to speak to peers they aren’t friends with. The results – AWESOME! The students were engaged, not one complained, and they got a kick out of many of the terms. In fact, I had a number of students say, “I can’t wait to do the Shakespeare insults!”
Thou airy, eye-beaming wafer-cake
Thou Taffeta, tender-smelling velvet-guard
Thou marbled, May-morn ringlet
Thou alms-deed, face-royal homanger
AND my favorite
Thou mannerly, ear-kissing pittikins
There were so many TEACHABLE moments in this lesson that I never expected! Below are some benefits to this activity (or something similar!)
So go ahead and ditch that second day syllabus and get those students up and complimenting one another using Shakespeare’s words!
It’s hard to believe a new school year is beginning once again. But what’s even harder to believe that this will be my 10th, yes you heard right, TENTH year teaching high school English. Over the past ten years I’ve had some amazing and humbling experiences. I’ve directed and produced three musicals, began a reading course for struggling students, moved to a new school district, participated in conferences that took me all over the country, won national English teaching awards, and became president of the PA Council for Teachers of English and Language Arts. I’ve gotten to know and collaborate with respected authors and educators from across the world. Most importantly, I’ve watched thousands of students move from 9th grade to college, growing academically and socially. I’ve seen non-readers become excited, avid, can’t-take-a-book-out-of-their-hand readers. I’ve had the awesome pleasure of witnessing students become excited about reading Shakespeare, scream with joy after receiving a book signed by an author (special thanks to Jay Asher, Steve Chbosky, and the late Walter Dean Myers) to students who were dealing with issues high schoolers should never have to deal with. I’ve been invited to former student college graduations, weddings, and sadly I’ve attended too many student funerals.
And through all of those memorable moments, there is another one that I have the pleasure of adding to my list. This life-changing experience occurred over the course of one of the most memorable weeks of my life, and it will make a lasting impact on my teaching (and writing, too). If you know me, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. The Teaching Shakespeare Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library, which I now like to refer it as Shakespeare Camp.
It’s been a month since Shakespeare Camp (which is so much easier to explain this week of Shakespeare awesomeness to my non-teaching friends and family) and I cannot stop thinking about it. As I sat through three days of valuable in-service sessions this past week (I got a lot out of a number of presentations) at my school district, I found myself thinking back to that week of awesomeness just a little over a month ago. Oh, how I wished I was sword fighting on the Folger’s lawn, listening to engaging lectures by the scholars and Folger text editors, performing on the United States’s only Elizabethan stage, and collaborating with 26 other like-minded, Shakespeare obsessed colleagues (many of whom I now call friends). As I think back on that experience, there are three things I want to take with me as I teach this year in order to keep the Folger memory alive and especially to create a memorable 9th grade year for my 100 plus students.
1. Relinquish control. If you’re a leader, teacher, boss, parent, you understand the difficulty in relinquishing control. But that’s one of the things that I want to work on this year. By relinquishing control (not total control, though), I am placing the learning into the hands of my students, in turn creating a memorable, authentic, and challenge-based learning environment. When I get to the acting of Romeo and Juliet, I know relinquishing control will be a struggle – but with my tools and tips from Shakespeare Camp, I know it can be done.
2. It’s all about the words. Sometimes we get so focused on teaching specific reading skills and strategies (thank you, standardized tests) we forget about the words. When students simply read words (often times through repetition), meaning begins to form organically.
3. Begin with performance. Thanks to an amazing blogpost by Debbie Gascon, I now have the confidence to begin my school year with performance. Although I will be discussing the general rules and procedures the very first day (remember, I do have 9th grade students! haha), on day 2 they’ll be up and out of their seats participating in the first performance-based activity of the year. Check back for an update on that! 🙂
Okay … okay … I know there is so much more more I will be using in my classroom, but I wanted to start with those three ideas. Thank you Folger Shakespeare Library for reinvigorating me for the start of my TENTH year!
Happy New Year! 🙂 Jennie @jenniekaywrites
About Jennie : Jennie K. Brown is an award-winning high school English teacher, freelance magazine writer, and author of children’s books. Her middle grade novel POPPY MAYBERRY, THE MONDAY will be published in April 2016 by month9books (Tantrum Books imprint), with a sequel to follow in December of that year. She currently serves as president of the Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts (PCTELA) and is an active member of SCBWI, NCTE, and ALAN. She is a regular contributor to the SCBWI Eastern PA and PCTELA blogs. Jennie can be found on twitter, facebook, and her website jenniekbrown.com
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Finding the “Write Space” part II
So, a few months back I blogged about revamping my home writing space. While I did get a fair amount of writing and revising done in that small corner of the one guest room, I realized that I was a bit cramped. At the beginning of June, I decided that it was time to once again “revise” my writing space. The first step was getting the spare queen-sized bed out of there (we already have a guest room across the hall, so there was no reason to have two!). After that, we moved my elliptical machine to another corner of the room, organized the closet so I have more room to store books/files/etc., and just reorganized the entire room in general. I threw out old files, donated books, and best of all – wrapping-papered the back of a $25 bookshelf I picked up at Wal-Mart. (pics are posted below).
Book Shelf Before: Book Shelf After:
Room Before: Room After:
This was a weekend project (taking pretty much all of Saturday and Sunday of last week), but in the end it was SOOOO worth it. I love my space, and I’ve already logged 3,000 more words to my mystery YA manuscript!
This will come as no surprise to many of you. I LOVE SHAKESPEARE! (See pics!) I really can’t pinpoint the exact moment I became so interested in The Bard. Sure, I enjoyed the works I read in high school and college – but it wasn’t then. Even in my first few years of teaching I didn’t have the same passion for all-things Shakespeare that I have now. Thinking back, I don’t think there was actually one thing that made me love him and his works. It was through years upon years of interaction (in school, performing in his plays, reciting his sonnets, teaching his works) that got me so interested in his works.
My first interaction with Shakespeare was in a performance of Macbeth the summer going into my sophomore year of high school. My drama teacher, Mrs. Leitner, taught a Shakespeare drama camp at Shippensburg University. That summer, I was cast as the role of Witch 3. Although we only studied and performed for a week, that week was AMAZING! Not only did I love the play, but I loved performing in it. I vividly remember my best friend Lindsey and I opening the play, huddled around a cauldron, equivocating. (At the time, I had no idea that’s what the witches were doing!) I also remember the can of AquaNet hairspray used to keep my frizzled hair in place. It took me week to wash that sticky stuff out of my hair!
Of course, we read Romeo and Juliet in school, and I loved it. And the next summer I was cast as the role of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the first time I read one of Shakespeare’s comedies. For that performance, my hair was pushed through two cones placed on the top of my head. Hair pom-pommed from the tops of each cone. I loved the magic and whimsy in that play – as it totally contrasted the Shakespeare that I was used to reading. What a master of language/emotion/genres.
The next school year brought the reading of Julius Caesar, Taming of the Shrew, and a number of sonnets. Loved it all. Even though it was difficult to read his words at times, I think that was part of the appeal. Each time I read his work, I had to decipher what he was saying. It was a puzzle – and that was fun for me! (And still is!)
Then I acted in Romeo and Juliet twice – both were adaptations put into a modern day setting. Once I played Juliet, and the other time I was a news-reporter (Chorus).
I went to college, read a few more of his works – sonnets, Hamlet, Othello, and many others, and then I became an English teacher. Even though I already enjoyed Shakespeare and his works, this was when I began to appreciate them even more. Over the past nine years of teaching, I’ve taught Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Nights Dream, and sonnets. And in the teaching of those works, I’ve had the pleasure of learning more and more about the Elizabethan Era, Queen Elizabeth, King James I of England, Renaissance, Shakespeare’s time in London, etc.
As a high school English teacher, I pride myself on my enthusiasm for the Bard. My students see this enthusiasm and I like to think that this makes them even more interested in his timeless and universal works. Just yesterday, my students completed modern day interpretations of Romeo and Juliet. They created newscasts, puppet shows, gave eulogies – all fabulous interpretations where modern day connections were made. Although many students are intimidated by Shakespeare’s words, I try to make his language more accessible through a Shakespeare insults game, performance-based lessons, and modern-day connections. At the end of the school year, my students often say that the drama unit was their favorite (even the students who rolled their eyes and groaned at the mere mention of Shakespeare’s name at the beginning of the year). And I think it’s their enthusiasm that builds my excitement every year. And I’m finding out that my students are sharing my interest in Shakespeare with their parents, grandparents, and others. Just this year, a number of parents have contacted me to give me 3-D models of the Globe, Shakespeare books they’ve found, and photographs from their trips to London (Stratford Upon Avon, The Globe, etc.) Love it! When I was pregnant with my son two years ago, my Honors class threw me a baby shower, and showered me with multiple Shakespeare onesies that said, “Shakespeare is my Homeboy”, “Don’t baby talk me, my parents read me Shakespeare”, and “My mommy <3s Shakespeare”.
In February, my husband and I made a trip to Washington DC to visit the Folger Shakespeare Library. I had wanted to visit for years. They were hosting an awesome exhibit called “Decoding the Renaissance”. While there, one of the gentlemen who worked there suggested I apply for the Teaching Shakespeare Institute. I did this, and just found out a few weeks ago that I was one of 25 teachers selected for this program. I am BEYOND EXCITED about this, and ever more excited to work with like-minded Shakespeare educators from around the country!
Anyway – I could go on and on, but “brevity is the soul of wit,” so I’m going to say one more thing – Happy Shakespeare birth/death day!