One of the most fearful topics for almost every grade in English is Shakespeare. It is sad as there are so many interesting things a teacher can do for the students to fall in love with Shakespear. When I know that my students have ‘prejudice’ towards the topic before they have even started it, I try to think of ways to make this topic as interesting as possible.
We know that a good first impression is very important in social intercourse. So important that I even have a blog post on it. 🙂 I believe it’s also important for a successful topic in the classroom. In order for the students to be interested in it, they need to find it compelling.
During our fist class dedicated to the topic, my students were going to learn new information on their own and at their own pace as they had their gallery walk. I wanted to avoid some of my students copying information from their peer. Thus, it was important for the students to think about working independently. When my students got ready for class, I asked them to think about independent learning and what those words meant for them. They got a chance to talk to their partners (the purpose of this was to give weaker students the chance to get some ideas). The students were then asked to jot their ideas down on post-it notes and attach them to the cardboard paper. That’s the result of their work.
Now that they were thinking about successful independent learning, it was time to kick off our Introduction to Shakespear unit. My students were given some time to brainstorm all the information they know about Shakespear. Some of the strongest students jumped right into recording their ideas. Some of the students needed support. In order to provide some guidelines of what they should be thinking about, I projected a mind-map on the board.
After 5 minutes, I used Think-Pair-Share. You can read more about this strategy here. I love it. It’s simple, doesn’t require any preparation on teachers part, and students love it. It gives them the authority of their learning. The communication that happens between peers is vital for successful learning. Moreover, students can learn high order thinking skills from their stronger peers. After they discuss the information, they share it with the rest of class.
Now it was time for a Gallery Walk. You can read more about this strategy here. I love this strategy for the fact that it allows my students to move around the room while they learn new things. One of the things I keep asking myself during every class is ‘How long have they been sitting?’ I’m a strong proponent of the theory that students need to move. This makes learning engaging and meets different learning needs.
Around my classroom, I had 6 different ‘stations’. For the topics with more information, I love to use corridors and areas around my classroom but this topic did not require more space than a classroom. At these stations, students could find the information about Shakespeare, his childhood, family, education, literary work, etc. Each student received a worksheet where they had to write the key facts from the ‘stations’. This is what their worksheet looked like.
They had to move from ‘station’ to ‘station’ noting down the information. While doing it, they were accompanied by music. I like to play music in my classroom for activities like this and writing tasks. When students are writing something down, I select music with no lyrics, so that the words do not distract my students. Sometimes I select songs with lyrics when they match or fit the topic we are discussing in class. Read my post about how I used Lenny Kravitz’s American Woman with my Grade 9 IGCSE class when studying Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck here. Most of the time I just search Youtube for some concentration music. One day I will find time to create my classroom playlist.
Here are some pictures from the Gallery Walk
As they have recorded the information, students discussed the information with their partners and finished the class with this task.
This was a fun and active class. The main purpose of it was to make sure my students are not intimidated by Shakespear from the very beginning. It went well and I’m glad that my students enjoyed their lesson while learning new info.