Archive | April, 2014

A song called ‘Romeo’

30 Apr

I found yet another awesome contribution from Hip Hop Shakespeare… a song entitled ‘Romeo‘.

How to use it in class?

I could use it as part of a lesson about the ‘balcony scene’.  I could also ask students to listen to song and use it to infer the mood/tone/atmosphere of the play.  Hopefully, students would pick up on the depth and darkness and suggest that it is likely to be a sad play.  That could lead into a discussion about tragedy, and also the fate of the young lovers as flagged in the prologue.

Crowdsourcing stories

29 Apr

Today was my first creative writing lesson with my Year 7 class.  I always get nervous about teaching creative writing… creative writing is not really my skill set.

I have a really bright and very loud Year 7 class.  As such, I wanted to run an activity that would get them thinking creatively.  However, the lesson also had to meet the objective of students understanding the five elements of a narrative (orientation, complication, sequence of events, climax and resolution).

The idea that I came up with was to briefly discuss the elements of the narrative and then crowdsource a story  that illustrated all the elements.  The result was awesome!

I began by providing the details of the orientation, picking up on student cues.  These cues are noted in bold and square brackets.

Year seven sat silently.  They were in English class.  A poetry lesson.  [Some students were swaying in time to the rhythm of the story].  Caught up in the rhythm of the lesson they swayed slowly, keeping time with Ms W’s words.  [One of the boys was pretending to beatbox].  Sensing the innate musicality of the moment, two boys sitting up the back dropped a beat.  They began quietly [I pointed to two boys and the began to beatbox], the volume building.  [Three girls had their hands in the air, moving their hands in time to the beat]. Hypnotised by the beat, students began to raise their hands in the air, their arms moving as if conducting an invisible orchestra.

Sensing that Miss was about to spit some verse, the beat petered out and silence reigned.  However, before the class could experience the power of Spoken Word….

At this point I stopped so that we could discuss.  They identified that this was the orientation, and they also noted the elements present.

I also asked students for suggestions for a complication.  I got a range of suggestions.  My favourite (and the one that we used) was that Miley Cyrus, riding her wrecking ball, tore through the classroom, knocking me down and causing my death.

The lesson continued in this way, with students offering suggestions and me weaving them into a narrative.  We stopped periodically to discuss, evaluate and check understanding.

The kids really got into it.  They were quick to stand up, act out the descriptions, offer authentic dialogue and volunteer character quirks.

I know the kids really enjoyed the lesson, and I did too.  I wish that someone had recorded the story… it was a fantastic collaborative effort!


29 Apr

After listening to Akala’s Tedx Talk the other day, I Googled The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company and found this awesome Macbeth rap by Mc Lars.  To be honest, I think part of the reason why I love it is because it is called ‘Rapbeth’.

I am not really sure how I would use this in a lesson… maybe as an intro to the “fair is foul” section of the text, maybe as a way to introduce themes or narrative… I don’t really know.  I do know, however, that I kind of love it and really want Year 10 kids to experiences the nerdy awesomeness that is ‘Rapbeth’.

“Out damned spot!”

28 Apr

It is common knowledge that Shakespeare’s plays are continually being re-imagined and restaged.  This is most definitely true in relation to Macbeth.

In order to give students an opportunity to hone their comparative skills and learn to write paired paragraphs and a comparative essay (this is also a focus in my Year 9 Romeo and Juliet unit).  In other words, I want to make space in my Macbeth unit to give them the opportunity to examine how key scenes are represented in different productions.  Today I stumbled upon a YouTube clip that showcases four different approaches to dramatizing Lady Macbeth’s famous soliloquy ‘Out damned spot!‘  Again, with the aid of graphic organiser, I would have students compare the productions, noting the implications of staging, costuming, setting etc on mood and meaning.

More texts for a unit on gender

27 Apr

I wrote the other day about representations of women, with a view to one day reviewing all my posts and putting together a unit that required students to engage with how gender is represented in our society.  I still have not figured out how the unit will sit together, but I do have another two texts to potentially include.

The first is the ‘Ban Bossy‘ campaign website, which aims to draw attention to the differing expectations and judgments made of girls and boys.  In the words of the website:

When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.” Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.

The second is an opinion piece by Kasey Edwards, which explores her view of the representation of assertive girls and her response to the Ban Bossy campaign.

As a side note, the ‘Ban Bossy’ website would also be a great resource for Society and Culture as it explores an attempt to challenge gender norms.

Hip hop or Shakespeare?

26 Apr

In December 2011, Akala gave a great Tedx Talk which talked about the connections between hip hop and Shakespeare.

I doubt I will have the time to show students the talk, but I am keen on using some of Akala’s ideas in my class.  In particular, I am keen to use Akala’s hip hop or Shakespeare game as a way into the unit.  In essence, Akala quotes a line from one of Shakespeare’s plays or a hip hop song and asks the audience to decide if they think it is Shakespeare or hip hop.  This appeals to me as a way of showing my students that Shakespeare is not as foreign to them as they expect it to be.

For my Year 9 mainstream class, an activity like this will make the difference in terms of student attitudes to Shakespeare.  I think it will be particularly effective as I have a number of boys in that class who consider themselves to be just a little bit gangsta.  My Year  10 students do not labour under the delusion that they are gangsta (although some of them enjoy hip hop music), but they do get super excited when we do unexpected things in class.  It is for these reasons that I would like to be able to add this as a hook activity early on in my Year 9 and Year 10 units.

Analysing and staging Macbeth

25 Apr

Shakespeare’s plays are, of course, designed to be performed.  In order to perform them, actors must first understand the language and structure.  Indeed, language, punctuation and structure all provide subtle clues for staging.

This is explored really well in Ian McKellen’s analysis of Macbeth’s ‘Tomorrow’ soliloquy.  I am inclined to show students this clip to help them understand the depth of analysis required.  This is quite a long clip for students to simply watch.  Accordingly, I think I will have to provide them with a graphic organiser or something that allows them to use the information to annotate the soliloquy along with McKellen.

Making inferences

25 Apr

My Year 10 students respond quite well to the use of videos in English class.  This, coupled with the fact that the visuals often helps students to make better sense of what is happening in Shakespeare’s plays, have prompted me to add another activity to my very rough Macbeth unit.

I would like to show my students a range of Macbeth trailers, asking them to make inferences about what they think the play might be about.  Trailers with potential include: a contemporary version of Macbeth, Royal Shakespeare Macbeth trailer, Polanski Macbeth trailer,  and the National Theatre Scotland version.

In order to assist students, I would give them a graphic organiser to complete.  The organiser would direct their attention to music, lighting, language, characterisation, interactions with others, and setting.


24 Apr

Velvet Verbosity offers a weekly 100 word story challenge.  However, instead of offering a visual prompt, she offers just one word.  The word for this week?  HACKNEYED.



I stare at the blue loops and lines scrawled across the page.

The sun shone like a bright ball in the skyHot.

Unimaginative. Uninspired. A hackneyed phrase.

I cannot write these things on a student’s paper.

Instead, I offer alternative phrasing and some advice for improvement.

It balanced on the horizon, suspended by the wings of the fireflies that converged on its body. A humming heat radiated from its core.

Good start. Develop your use of imagery. See above.

I return the paper.

He reads, adds blue loops, and passes it back.

Unimaginative. Same comment as last time, Miss.


Friday Fictioneers #8

24 Apr

This is my Friday Fictioneers contribution for the week.  The prompt can be found here.


Together they sat. Against the backdrop of the village, electric stars twinkling in the sky. Father and son; mirrors, if time had not disrupted the symmetry.

Together they played. Father played regret, and son played yearning. Their songs began at different places; the conflicting chords screamed in pain.

Together they played. The screams gave way to a solo; through his guitar, the father spoke to the son, yelled at the son. The son’s fingers strummed a response; muted, breathy with the undercurrents of rage.

Together they sat. Silently. Staring. A stand-off.

Then, as if by mutual agreement, they played. Together.