Notes from the Classroom


The Christmas holidays marked the end of my first full term of teaching. It’s hard to believe that I have now been in the classroom for four months. When I started in September, I couldn’t even imagine getting through the first week, let alone the first term. There has been so much to learn; not just about how to plan and deliver lessons, but also how to build relationships with students, assess students, sequence learning, manage behaviour and liaise with parents. I’ve also had to learn to be self reflective in a positive way. At first I would feel disappointed in myself when things went wrong, but now I can take a step back and recognise that I am learning a whole new career and expecting myself to get everything right within a matter of weeks is ridiculous. I see mistakes as opportunities to learn rather than reasons to beat myself up, and while I do sometimes have my moments of feeling utterly useless, I spend the majority of my time marvelling at how much I have learned. When I think back to the lessons I delivered in my first half term and compare them to the lessons I have taught in my second half term, I am so proud of how much I have developed and how much more sophisticated my methods of teaching are. What other job could provide so many opportunities for progression in such a short space of time?

I think in this past half term, the most important development in my practice has been in learning to hand over the reins to my students. When I was at school, the majority of talking was done by the teacher. Some lessons, particularly as I moved higher up the school, were more like university lectures, with students just listening and making notes. Opportunities to think for myself were few and far between. Nowadays, things are different. In some schools, teachers are known as ‘facilitators’. Their role is to provide the framework for learning and leave the rest up to the children they teach. This method requires students to work things out for themselves and structure their own learning. They decide what they want to achieve and it’s their job to ensure they reach their goal by the end of the lesson. The teacher is the last port of call; students have to exhaust all other methods of finding an answer (asking friends, consulting reference books, etc) before they can ask for advice.

While I don’t like the idea of teachers being just facilitators (otherwise surely anyone could be supervising the students, rather than a trained professional!), I do think that the theory behind this method is brilliant. If children are going to be adequately prepared for adult life, they need to be able to think creatively and reflectively. Education is not just about regurgitating facts to pass exams, but about equipping people with the knowledge they need to succeed outside of the safe walls of school. I have started providing opportunities for independent learning in lessons, but I know I need to push this even further. I’ve decided to stop setting the targets for my KS4 lessons and from now on I’m going to ask my students to set their own. I want them to think more deeply about what they actually want to learn and how they can go about learning it. As my lesson won’t be geared towards meeting any specific targets apart from the overarching lesson objective, my students will have to take responsibility for themselves and find a way to meet their own targets if there isn’t an obvious opportunity for them to do so within the boundaries of the activities I have set. I’m really excited to see how this will go down. It could be spectacular or it could be a disaster; only time will tell!

Aside from independent learning, my other aim for this coming term is to brush up my Shakespeare. I will be starting to teach several plays to various classes soon and I’m terrified. I studied most of the plays at university, but it’s been about 6 years since I read a line of Shakespeare and I can’t remember a thing. Sacrilege, I know, but I’ve never quite managed to find the magic so many people rave about in Shakespeare, and frankly my enthusiasm for him, as well as the period of history he lived in, is low. All I remember from my days of studying Shakespeare is tedium and anxious checking of glossaries, but I certainly don’t want my students to have the same experience. In order to inspire them, I need to get myself inspired. I’ve started to re-read the texts I’m teaching, and I’ve got a biography that is making me feel vaguely interested in the period, but I’m still waiting to be bowled over. Does anyone have any suggestions to show me the way to the light?!


  1. theduckthief says:

    My suggestion about Shakespeare is to take your time and don’t worry too much about not understanding everything the first time around.

    I dove back into Shakespeare last year after years of avoiding him. My only previous experience had been in high school where he was not an enjoyable read.

    I will admit to tedium in the beginning, working out the diction and meaning in every line. After a while though, it became a rhythm.

    There are books out there called “No Fear Shakespeare”. They print the original text on one page and on the facing page, print a modern translation which were helpful when I was working through “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

    I also watched a few “Macbeth” adaptations. When Shakespeare is spoken aloud it seems much easier to understand than when you’re reading it. Perhaps you could show your class one of the many adaptations?

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks so much for the tips – I love the sound of No Fear Shakespeare! I shall get hold of that!

      We will definitely be watching an adaptation – I’m going to use it as an incentive when the going gets tough!

  2. Helen says:

    I’m an English teacher who loves teaching Shakespeare. My advice: make it as interactive and drama-based as possible! Cambridge School Shakespeare editions are packed with activities to inspire; use lots of different film versions; look at the RSC site too. Just get students into the language and drama (and I totally agree with the previous comment about not worrying about understanding every word – for you and your students!)

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks so much for the tips, Helen! My whole dept has been sent the RSC resources today thanks to you – they’re brilliant! 🙂

  3. AJ says:

    Many years ago I was asked to teach a world literature course at the last minute because someone had backed out at the last moment and I had read a good bit of the proposed syllabus. Except for the poetry. Which I dreaded. My experience at school had been that I simply had no ear or taste for it at all. But reading it, reading about it, reading about the poets, and then teaching it — and trying to make it a rich experience for my students — turned out to be wonderful for me, and I can only hope that my students learned as much as I did. I sincerely hope the same will be true for you.

    I love reading your teaching posts — they remind me how wonderful an experience teaching is, and how much students benefit from the efforts and enthusiasm of a gifted teacher.

    1. bookssnob says:

      I hope the same will happen for me, AJ – I’d love to be able to find the magic!

      Thank you so much – I’m pleased you enjoy them!

  4. mary says:

    I’m sure Shakespeare never intended it to be read and dissected. Get out there and see it on stage, Rachel – and don’t wait for Henry V! (I must, I must remember where I put those tickets!)

    1. bookssnob says:

      I feel the same way, Mary! I’m keeping my eyes peeled for suitable productions! And I have so long to wait before I can see Jude…;)

  5. I am so glad that your confidence is growing. A good teacher is constantly reflecting on his or her performance. Students need to be engaged in the process as you said, after all it is their education. It sounds like you are settling in to your own teaching style. After thirty years of teaching, I could still see room for improvement or at least a need for change. What works with one group of students may not work with another or for some reason the time makes the difference. Even teaching the same lesson at the beginning of a day is different than the end of the day. Different students,different time of day causes a different dynamic.

    I can’t help you at all with Shakespeare because I worked with nine year old children. I hated it in high school too, but found it enjoyable when I read it on my own. Maybe I didn’t like all of the picking apart we did of every detail. It was better when I just read it. I believe that you have a talent for teaching and you will find a way. Don’t be too hard on yourself if the kids are less than enthusiastic.That is just the way they are.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks so much Janet. It always makes me feel better when I hear from experienced teachers how normal it is to have totally different experiences day by day. Every lesson is a learning curve!

      Oh Janet, I love your faith in me! I think the picking apart is what kills many texts – I like to talk about wider issues more than I do about language, and that’s what I’m going to be sticking to. Lots of acting! And hopefully we will get along ok! 🙂

  6. Martina says:

    I love the photos you find for your classroom notes! I also love your statement that education isn’t only about facts to pass an exam – sadly, most students still understand it like that. Hopefully, with teachers like you, this attitude will change.
    Many exciting new experiences in the next few weeks to you!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks Martina! I can’t resist a vintage schoolma’am! Yes I hope so – our education system is very exam based which can be frustrating at times but there are always ways around these things. Hopefully I can bring about change!

  7. joanhunterdunn says:

    I can’t help with Shakespeare but I look forward to reading about your journey with him. Teaching always amazes me as what other job do we expect someone in their first year, and first few years, to be as good as an experienced one. I remember being a 25year old NQT & that year one of the teachers had been teaching 25 years. In those 25 years I had learnt to eat, talk, walk, learn, make friends, live from home etc & she’d been perfecting teaching! Not that experience always makes you better though. Enjoy term two!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks! I know – it’s ridiculous, isn’t it!! When you put it that way, it seems totally absurd!! Thank you – you too!

  8. Kyveli says:

    I absolutely loved this book of essays by Jan Kott called ‘Shakespeare our contemporary’ and I thoroughly recommend it!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks so much – I’ll check it out!

  9. You are clearly doing a fabulous job as a teacher already! I remember when I studied Shakespeare in school, I would buy audiobooks of the plays which helped my understanding and appreciation a lot. It can be impossible to see the play live, but at least you can hear wonderful actors reading it aloud when you get the audio version.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Oh thanks darling! 🙂 Oooh I like the idea of an audiobook…I wonder whether there will be any in the school cupboard? I shall have a hunt tomorrow!

  10. david73277 says:

    I was struck by your comment that in your school days (slightly more recent than my 1980s experience) you found that lessons became less interactive and more like lectures as you moved up years. I remember things being the other way around. Which just goes to show how approaches differ, not just over time but between schools.

    I can imagine benefits and drawbacks of the facilitator approach. I am sure it would have worked for me in relation to subjects I was already interested in, but if the interest was not there in the first place then I doubt I would have found it on my own. I often decry the standard of maths teaching I encountered at secondary school. Teachers in nearly every other subject were evangelists for their specialism: they went to great lengths to capture our attention and imagination. By contrast, maths lessons were about as exciting as being on a production line. In every single lesson we simply plodded our way through exercises in the text book, with the teacher roaming round answering queries from individual students. At the age of fourteen, I wasn’t anywhere near as inclined to ask questions as I later became, and I’ve never really been comfortable asking questions in the sense of requesting help. I got an A in most subjects at GCSE, but only a B in Maths. Then again, that cannot solely be put down to the teaching; I only got a C in Chemistry, despite it being tought with enthusiasm. Ultimately, I think my marks reflected my natural inclinations: a preference for words over numbers, and for stories and ideas over dull technicalities like a theoretical grasp of grammar!

    I hope all this facilitating is not totally crowding out the opportunity to enthuse pupils about literature which, as I understand it, was for you one of the primary attractions of a teaching career.

    1. bookssnob says:

      It’s interesting how different people’s educational experiences can be, even within the same school. My department’s teachers are very different from other departments in my school – we’re better, obviously! And there are still some advocating the more pedestrian approaches. Facilitating works well when kids are self motivated but those without enthusiasm can be harder to get working. However they have to learn to be self motivated if they want to get on in the big bad world, so I don’t make any special favours. I just try and find out what works best for them and put them with friends who can chivvy them along. It’s all trial and error!

  11. Great post. I was lucky to be taken to Old Vic in the 50s where my crush on John Neville endeared me to Shakespeare!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks! Live performance is the key I think!

  12. sallyewalden says:

    I recommend you watch the DVD of ‘Looking for Richard’ which is all about how Al Pacino went about playing Richard III. I find looking at the plays from the actors’ perspective helps. Another great book is ‘Year of the King’ by Anthony Sher also about playing Richard III. The problem for me is that Shakespeare’s plays come alive in performance, not in reading them. I found them dreary and unintelligible at school. I am sure you can do better!!

    1. bookssnob says:

      I have never heard of that, Sally – thank you so much for the recommendation! I am the same – I am all about performance. I love the idea of approaching it from the actor’s perspective – I am going to research that!

  13. Deirdre says:

    Hi, I feel exactly as you do about Shakespeare but made an effort last year to see a couple of well reviewed productions which I loved – the RSC’s Julius Caesar with an all black cast, set in Africa (a brilliant, exciting production which showed what a profoundly political play it is and still entirely relevant to today) and Henry V at the Globe (also wonderful and I even laughed at the jokes – a first for me with Shakespeare!). The Julius Caesar is available on DVD, not sure about the Henry V. Also brilliant is The Hollow Crown, the BBC production of Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V, with Ben Whishaw and Tom Hiddleston. Also available on DVD. I’d also recommend Shakepeare’s Restless World, available as a free BBC podcast, which is a series of 15 min broadcasts by Neil Mcgregor, each looking at a different item from the British Museum relevant to the period. Fascinating! And lastly, Prof James Shapiro’s series for BBC – The King and the Playwright: a Jacobean History. This was a brilliant look at the plays Shakespeare wrote during the reign of James I and how they were staged. Not on iPlayer any more nor available on DVD as far as I can see but worth looking out for in case BBC4 repeats them. Anyway, not a Skakespeare fan – all that going round in class reading in turn – but these productions and series sparked my interest very much. Hope this is of some use to you.

    I really enjoy your blog, thanks especially for the one about Helen Hull, you inspired me to read her and I’ve tracked down all her novels except for Morning Shows the Day. Have loved them all and they filled the gap left by my having read all of the wonderful Dorothy Whipple.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks so much for the tips, Deirdre! You sound like me – I need to track down some of those videos!

      I’m so glad to hear that about Helen Hull – isn’t she marvellous? Do let me know if you’d like a lend of any of her books. I have loads!

      1. Deirdre says:

        Hi Rachel, I’d love to borrow Morning Shows the Day if you have it – promise to read it quickly! If you’d like to borrow the Julius Caesar dvd I mentioned, just let me know.

  14. For inspiration, try Bernard Levin’s wonderful poem/essay “Quoting Shakespeare.”

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks so much!

  15. flat stanley says:

    As many others have written already, the key to Shakespeare is that they were written for performance on a stage not to sit and read a script – a format that is always very distracting on the page.
    We live near The Minack cliffside theatre and the production of MacBeth this ‘summer’ was dramatic and relevant, Military themed in Iraq/ Afghanistan – very different from any version taught at school.
    Although not passionate about Shakespeare the amazing variations possible with his scripts mean you can see the same play several times and it will be like a new story and always something you never noticed before appears.
    The recent Odeon showings of recorded live performances at the Globe were brilliant.
    To get going if you get the choice of plays go with a comedy first , break them in gently, Sir Brannaghs film of Much ado about Nothing or hit them with the relevance to today with Baz B’s Romeo and Juliet.
    Good luck – maybe this is the time for your first field trip ?

    1. bookssnob says:

      Oh absolutely – that’s what makes him so hard to teach! I love that idea of updating the play. I’ve been thinking about ways to do that as I think showing the timeless relevance of his themes is the key to unlocking the image of him as being inaccessible and irrelevant.

      I wish I could do a field trip! Red tape abounds, unfortunately!

  16. jackiemania says:

    I will echo many people above, and encourage you to have the students hear the play (as they said back then). There’s the magic 🙂

    Love your teaching posts. I’m back in school (20 years after graduating from university!) to become certified to teach. I work in higher ed now, but want to work with much younger students.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Oh yes, we will be doing plenty of acting to get the words off the page!

      Thanks very much — glad you’re enjoying them. How wonderful that you’re training, too – isn’t it a brilliant experience?!

  17. Deborah says:

    I have been reading your posts on teaching with interest. I have been teaching for a number of years at an independent school and think you have made a magnificent start! You clearly have enormous passion and dedication and am delighted you recognise the importance of positive self-reflection – it is all too easy to beat yourself up in this job!
    As for the Shakespeare, I think what is important is that they see it as a living, relevant story with characters whose problems and concerns they can relate to. It is so often delivered as a period piece and the language can present a hurdle but if you use role play, with the students performing sections in their own words, this certainly helps overcome it. Recently there was a brilliant programme with Lenny Henry learning to perform Shakespeare and this showed how exciting and relevant Shakespeare can be. The programmed ended with him and Adrian Lester going into schools and working with a group of kids – it was brilliant! I wish I could remember the name of the programme but am sure you’ll be able to google it.
    You might also find Rex Gibson’s book “Teaching Shakespeare” helpful. I also agree with previous comments that a trip to the Globe is a must and that “Lookking for Richard” is excellent too.
    Hope this helps!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hi Deborah! Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words – they mean a lot!
      Absolutely – I really want to help them make it relevant to their lives. I love the idea of the Lenny Henry programme – I’m going to google and see what I can find! I’ve seen that Rex Gibson book in the university bookshop and been meaning to get it – I’ll have to buy it next time I go. Thank you for all of these tips – it’s so useful to have all these resources!

      1. Deborah says:

        I’m very glad to help. Of course, the most important thing is an enthusiasm and love of literature – which you clearly have in spades. You’ll be fine!

  18. Frankie Moore says:

    You might want to look up writings by Harold Bloom. Best of luck. I can’t say I envy you!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks Frankie! I will!

  19. cbciucci says:

    Congratulations on completing your first term of teaching! You seem like an amazing teacher, and I wish you all the best with both of your projects.
    Speaking of Shakespeare: Bill Bryson’s “Shakespeare: The World As Stage” is a fantastic way to ease your way into the subject. It’s very easy to understand, not to mention fascinating. It left me wanting to learn everything I could about the Bard. Harold Bloom’s biography is also highly recommended (not by me; sadly, I haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy yet), but it’s enormous, so if you don’t have much time before the new term starts you might want to try something else.

    1. Elke says:

      I second the recommendation of Bill Bryson’s book. I don’t get the appeal of Shakespeare (and also feel very guilty about it) but this book is a very good read. It almost – not quite – convinced me to read all of Shakespeare’s plays. That feeling went away somewhere at the half-way point of ‘Julius Caesar’. I will stick to his sonnets in future.

      1. bookssnob says:

        That sounds very encouraging, Elke! Thank you!

    2. bookssnob says:

      Thank you so much! You are very kind 🙂 I love Bill Bryson! I didn’t realise he’d written a book about Shakespeare – I shall check that out!

  20. Nicola says:

    Possibly a visit to The Globe to see a production? I had an inspired teacher for Hamlet when I took A-levels and I’m very fond of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Can’t say that I ever read Shakespeare for pleasure, though.

    1. bookssnob says:

      I’d love for us to do that but not sure if we’ll be able to. I’m hoping some form of trip will be organised by the Head of Department!

  21. sue rosly says:

    Shakespeare is an entertainer and as others have said: performing plays, seeing live performances if possible, watching films (Julius Caesar comes to mind with Marlon Brando as Mark Anthony if I remember correctly) and tapping into the web resources mentioned above.

    I am reading a library book at present entitled Shakespeare by Bill Bryson (2007) and it is full of quirky but riveting nuggets of information about Shakespeare. Recommended.

    Oh, and I too had an inspired teacher at secondary school who made us read aloud A midsummer night’s dream. We loved it. It was funny, who knew!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Shakespeare is an entertainer – re-reading him has shown me that. Now I am older I understand it all much more clearly and can read the innuendo in his lines. I think much is lost on school kids!

      Another recommendation for Bill Bryson – I’ll have to get down to the library!

  22. Bruce Fleming says:

    If you don’t know it, I think you would love The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street by Charles Nicholl. Silver Street used to run between Noble Street and Wood Street (EC2) and the Bard lodged there for a couple of years while he was writing the so-called problem plays. Nicholl shows how some of the domestic drama was incorporated into All’s Well … and even plausibly suggests that the character of Parolles was an exceptional case of self-projection. More than this, the Lodger could profitably be used to give your older classes a vivid glimpse into what life in Shakespeare’s London was actually like.

    1. bookssnob says:

      This is fascinating, Bruce! I didn’t know that! I shall see if I can track it down!

  23. chrissywest says:

    Rachel, I haven’t had time to read all the above comments yet so excuse me if I repeat some.

    I was enchanted by the Shakespeare plays we studied at school and can still quote chunks from Macbeth and The Merchant. Then I forgot William and devoured the novels we’ve been discussing with you. Recently, however, I bought a CD of Sonnets ( From Shakespeare With Love – read beautifully by some of our best actors) and was enchanted all over again. Perhaps your pupils are too young to be interested in love poems but their cadence and beauty might well involve them for the sake of the language, if nothing deeper.

    I think your students are very fortunate indeed to have you as a teacher! I went to an independent school in South London with a very good reputation but, thinking back, the quality of the teaching was poor in comparison to today’s. I’m so glad to hear you sounding confident and proud of your first teaching post. Happy New Year!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks for the tips, Chrissy – so much of Shakespeare is poetry so I think looking at the sonnets will be really interesting. I shall see if I can find some videos online!

      You are so lovely. 🙂 I’m not sure if they’d say that! Happy New Year to you too!

  24. Merenia says:

    Hi Rachel,

    Happy New Year. Regarding finding the passion to teach Shakespeare: Visit Anne Hathaway’s Cottage at daffodil time – one of the most romantic house and garden pilgrimage’s in UK – it rivalled Jane Austen’s house. The surrounding countryside and a visit to Stratford Shakespeare Museum should really start to get your romantic imagination firing and help you into the world of Shakespeare. Also, for fun, read up a bit about the Shakespeare authorship debates and throw that into a lesson. (My favourite candidate is Mary Sidney). Love you lots.
    Thanks for your precious blogging.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Oh Merenia, you make it sound so amazing! I’d love to go – perhaps I can make a trip at Easter. Thank you for being such a lovely reader – Happy New Year and lots of love to you and the family! x

  25. Lucy says:

    Happy New Year, Rachel! I haven’t been overly active online lately and I really missed your blog! Glad to hear that teaching keeps getting better and better for you and I completely agree that making the classroom more student centered rather than teacher centered is the way to go 😉 Helping your students become independent learners will allow them to develop real skills they can use for life!

    Have a cozy and lovely week, yay!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Happy New Year, Lucy! Hope all is going well with you and that you’re enjoying your course! Thanks very much for your encouragement! It’s lovely to see you around again – don’t be a stranger!

  26. kheenand says:

    for Shakespeare, try and see a performance before you read the text would be one suggestion. Even if its DVD rather than live performance, it will give you the idea of the story and characters which can be difficult to grasp in a text. these were plays after all and designed to be performed and not read. For your students, select one or two scenes and try to watch that together if you have access to a dvd so they see the text come alive. you can also get a few of them to give the scene a go – probably best to avoid a love scene but the comic ones or arguements usually work pretty good

    1. bookssnob says:

      Yes, the film is going to be vital! My dept favour the text first, play later approach…but I might sneak in a few scenes once we’ve read Act 1!

  27. savidgereads says:

    Belated congrats on the new job, where have I been (ha), and glad it is going well. My mother teaches Shakespeare and she recommends the Lurman Romeo and Juliet aswell as the condensed Shakespeare that was on in the West End and I think you can buy the books of, it makes it funny and entertaining and that is what it was meant to be.

    Mind you said mother recently scrapped The Woman in Black at her school, shes now Director of English, because she cant stand it – we have had words. We also had words at Christmas as one of her year eights suddenly shouted ‘oi Miss, does your gay son have a blog about books and cats and stuff?’ last term… awkward. Ha!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks Simon! I appreciate those recommendations – added to the list!

      I’m with your mum on that! And what a little oik – I hope they were disciplined for that remark!!

  28. bookgazing says:

    See plays for definite (or if you can’t – film versions that use the original language). It’ll really help you get a feel for the rhythms and after five minutes the speech inflections, actions and sets can help to fill in any places where your understanding isn’t quite there. If you’re looking for magic, I suggest getting one of the slightly off the wall adaptations, like the Luhrman Romeo and Juliet or The Tempest, with Helen Mirren as Prospero, because they make the passion and creativity behind Shakespeare very obvious. Or you could trip it to Stratford, see an RSC play and take the tour of some of the historical sites.

    As for the time period it’s one of my absolute favourites. Do some basic reading on James I and the witch trials (just get some student textbooks of the type you might find in colleges, they’ll do as a primer) then try Macbeth. It’s one of the most obvious examples of the influence of Shakespeare’s time on his (often historically based) plays.

    You might also like to check out the RSC’s Shakespear toolkit for educators:

    1. bookssnob says:

      Do you want to come and teach my class, Jodie? I’m sure you’ll do a much better job! All suggestions taken on board. Reading up on the history is definitely a must…I’ve been bluffing along so far but I definitely need to brush up on the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods…so much to learn!

  29. bookgazing says:

    PS If your kids like Dr Who Tennant was in Hamlet just after he left and that’s available on DVD (saw it live – really good).

    1. bookssnob says:

      I think they’re a bit too young to fancy him, unfortunately! 😉

  30. Jenny says:

    I’m sure you’ve done this before, but what’s worked for me in the past is seeing really good performers do Shakespeare. When people can make it sound like regular talking, that’s when it’s the most best good. But I’m sure you’ve seen good Shakespeare before! So this is not a useful recommendation. The David Tennant Hamlet is indeed very good, but Hamlet’s not my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays. The Emma Thompson Much Ado about Nothing is a dear of a movie and I have the world’s biggest crush on Denzel Washington in that movie.

    Anyway the thing that truly sold me on Shakespeare forever — to where I loved him with my whole heart — was seeing The Tempest at the Globe as a groundling. Magic.

    1. bookssnob says:

      I wish I could just take them to the Globe every lesson! But sadly that’s not possible so they will have to make do with DVDs and my rubbish attempts to explain stuff I don’t really understand!!

      1. flat stanley says:

        Oh but you do understand, all his plays just repeat everyday human emotions (mainly flaws) greed, lust, jealously etc. just in different times and locations .
        Probably just as well field trips not possible, about a year ago a friend took his aged mother for a birthday treat to stratford I think it was ‘loves labours lost’ ? This version was set in a bondage club with a leather set !

  31. Elena says:

    I’ve just started teaching myself and although at first I was worried a) I wouldn’t like it and b) I would feel uncomfortable, I can gladly confirm neither a) or b) are true after my first three days. Ask me in a few months, but I think I have found “joy from the classroom.”

    1. bookssnob says:

      I’m so glad to hear that Elena! It’s such a rewarding career – I hope you continue to love every minute!

  32. reeloldbooks says:

    The worst thing about teaching literature is that the curriculum occasionally requires us to teach something with which we are unfamiliar, uncomfortable, or just plain unhappy. For me, this is poetry, especially Walt Whitman, but also all of the romantic poets. I have always loved Shakespeare, but I have rarely had the opportunity to teach it.

    My tips are as follows:

    1. Make positive connections first. “Shakespeare” is a scary word to some kids, especially those who have ever struggled with reading. They think it’s hard. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. Shakespeare is everywhere. If you do Hamlet, explain at the beginning that they already know the story because they’ve undoubtedly seen The Lion King, and most probably enjoyed it. There are similar examples for many of the tragedies, and some for the comedies too.

    2. Handouts, etc. My high school teachers had lots of handouts about who is who and graphic organizers about how characters relate to one another. Very helpful for quick reference. In my experience, understanding the plot is the most important thing.

    3. Read in class. We read the bulk of the texts in class, taking turns reading different roles, so any confusion was short-lived because our teachers explained a lot. That way you can point out all instances of humor when the students don’t catch it.

    4. Don’t rush the unit. Don’t try to do a play in 1-2 weeks, so don’t save it for the end of the semester. Do it early when your time may be more flexible.

    5. Video. You might want to show video (either movies or filmed stage performances) as you watch. Try to get the more recent ones with some actors with whom the kids will be familiar, and remind them of other stuff the performers were in, because that makes it much more relevant.

    Even if you don’t do a video during, let them watch an entire performance before the test. They’ll do better on the test. And after reading a play, they deserve a little reward.

    Offer an extra credit opportunity of writing a short essay on similarities and/or differences between the play and movie, if your curriculum allows extra credit. It will inspire them to go above and beyond a little, and it’s fun.

    6. Like someone else said, No Fear Shakespeare is an idea. It’s better for remedial readers or for teachers looking for certain points when skimming the text in advance, but the original is best for upperclassmen and advanced readers. I’m not a fan of NFS because it suggests that Shakespeare is something difficult to be made easy, not something challenging but wonderful.

    7. Allow them different ways to demonstrate their expertise. Writing will probably be required, but you will probably have performers/artists/poets/etc. in your class, so let them show off their skills by covering a particular act/character/theme/etc. in front of the class.

    8. Select the play with care (if you get to select it yourself). Pick one you like. If you have to teach one you don’t like, highlight everything you like about it.

    Good luck, and have fun!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thank you so much for the tips, much appreciated. I am stuck with what plays I have to teach, but the tips you’ve given me are very useful! 🙂

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