Friday, February 02, 2007

Today I re-discovered a wonderfully simple way to teach Shakespeare: go slowly, read each word, use all the footnotes, and understand as much as possible. That’s what my students and I did today. Rather than using special, exotic “hooks” to keep the kids’ interest, I just took them through a scene line by line, word by word. We read every footnote (they were extremely helpful), discussed almost every line, and made certain that we genuinely understood a page before we went to the next one. It reminded me of something I’ve intuitively known for a long, long time – that good teaching can be much simpler than I usually realize. I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that my teaching needs to be complex, flamboyant, and glitzy, but today I kept it simple, modest, and restrained. I simply dealt with the words Shakespeare had written, and that, I found, was more than enough. Perhaps what actually happened is that I focused less on myself and more on the content of what I was teaching. Instead of being a showy, center-stage teacher (which is an old habit of mine), I stayed somewhat in the background and let the words of the play (The Tempest) have the spotlight. All I did was lead the students from page to page; the words did the tricks and put on the show. It was a stunningly simple and rewarding way to teach, and thank goodness I discovered it once again.

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