Globe Education Academy: Day 8

Day 8 started with Voice.  Sarah’s goal was to give us pointers for outside voices (to help with our performance) and class control.

Sarah told us that “the Globe isn’t outdoors–it’s a theater without a roof.”  We would benefit from the fact that the Globe is intimate and enclosed.  That said, there were some tricks she wanted us to remember for being on stage:

  • Articulation is key.  Your intention needs to be clear and your direction (both physical and vocal) needs to be clear.
  • You cannot wander.  You cannot let your head float.  Turn your head and body together. You have to direct your audience.
  • If it is very noisy (an airplane flying overhead, for instance), give yourself a break.

As for voice and class control:

  • Prepare your voice daily.  It will last longer and help you be heard.
  • The daily semi-supine position will help you find your breath, relax, and cultivate a sense of calm.
  • Proper alignment and straight posture is key.
  • Don’t lock your knees — it affects the voice by stopping the breath.
  • Quiet, firm speech is more likely to get people’s attention (vs. raising one’s voice).
  • Make them come to you.  Don’t go to them.
  • Think about the value of silence.
  • No one can compete with 30 young kids.  A quiet, positive voice will bring calm.  Be very clear.  Imbue your words with color (pitch/range).  Think before you speak (this gives time to calm yourself).
  • When you’re sick: Use steam for sore throats.

Then it was off to Movement with Gylnn!  After a really good stretch, Glynn had us do a run-through of our scenes so that she could see them.  Then it was time for sitting in a circle for a pep talk to get us ready for the evening performance.

That evening, we had thirty minutes with Margo to calm our nerves and four hours of rehearsal to finalize our performances.  Then it was off to the Globe stage!

P1080491I actually walked onto stage without feeling nervous.  It was amazing.  I hate being up in front of people.  Once, I had to present something at a conference in front of 1000 people, and I couldn’t eat all day.  This, though?  I had been so well prepared by everyone at Globe Education that I was just ready.

Yes, I forgot a line — which completely frustrated me.  I knew my lines cold, and I had since our first rehearsal.  I think I got so caught up in the moment that I looked at Helen (playing Tranio) and it just went right from my head.  This is where I learned to true value of team work, Helen picked up with the next line and the scene was saved.  I was able to get right back into things and stay in character, all because my teammate had my back.

I applied to this program, because I wanted to challenge myself.  I wanted to do something that I was completely not comfortable doing.  Traveling without my husband to London, spending two and a half weeks with people I barely knew ahead of time, and standing on a stage acting pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me a lot about myself and about teaching:

  • Being comfortable in front of a crowd isn’t necessarily a personality trait.  It’s something that we have to build as teachers.  The practitioners at the Globe provided a safe, nurturing environment where I felt comfortable taking risks.  They then provided structured practice time so that we could practice our performance until we were all on the same page and knew our parts cold.  As a teacher, I’m constantly asking my students to get up in front of the class and give presentations, but I’m not sure if I do as good of a job making that as effortless for them as the Globe did for me.
  • When I was on stage, I knew that my team had my back and that we could get through any difficulties.  When things didn’t go as planned, they were able to pick up the slack and the performance moved on.  There were hugs backstage at the end of the performance.  We were a team, and we had grown close not only because we had a common goal and had spent so much time together, but because our director made sure from the beginning to do acting games and warm-ups to start developing that sense of team.  She said that this was a play, and that we would play together.  I think that’s a lovely idea to bring into teaching.  My students work in “teams” all the time, but how often do I let them play together in order for them to build the trust that they need to actually work together?

I’m so glad that I applied to this program.  I’m glad that I was able to stretch myself as an individual, and that I was able to learn so much from some great teachers.  You too can apply by clicking here.


Globe Education Academy: Day 7

Many apologies for so many days between posts.  Our schedule at the Academy didn’t leave a lot of room for blogging, and the jet-lag that I’ve been experiencing didn’t leave a lot of motivation to blog.  I’ll be catching up on the last four days of the Academy throughout this week.  I’ll also be posting photos–yes, long overdue–from my trip.

On Tuesday, we returned to the Globe well-caffeinated, and ready to work.

We started with a two hour session with Margo on “Creating a Production.”  For the first time, we sat down together to tackle the task of putting together our own production of Taming of the Shrew with our students.  Our first goal was to split the play into 12 parts.  (Each of us will be responsible for casting and directing one of these sections, our students eventually performing on stage at Mondavi.)  Margo split us into two groups to come up with a list of sections.  As always, she had us practice what we were learning: creating a tableaux for each of our scenes.  We then compared our lists and compiled one master list.  This was e-mailed to all of us so that we could take a look at it on our “spare time” and come back later in the week to finalize.

Our next session continued our Globe Education Practice.  We worked with Romeo and Juliet.  First, Margo split us into groups of three.  Each group was given three strips of paper that contained key lines from the text (each line representing a separate moment in the play).  We came up with a tableaux for each of the lines.  Then, Margo had us sit in a circle, and began to tell the story of Romeo and Juliet as if it were a fairytale.  When she got to each of the major moments, a group would go up and create their tableaux.  One member of the group would read the line.  They would then sit down and Margo would continue with the story.

I thought that this activity could be great at the beginning of a Shakespeare unit: to preview the play.  It could also really work at the end, to summarize what was learned.  You could also do this for individual scenes.

Next, we turned to a particular scene in Romeo and Juliet (the beginning of 3.1, starting with Tybalt’s entrance).  After reading the scene through with a partner, Margo introduced us to five signs:

  1. To accept: We opened our arms wide
  2. To block: We crossed our arms in an “X” in front of ourselves
  3. To hook: We moved our arm like we were hooking an object
  4. To probe: We pointed and twisted our finger from one side to another
  5. To attack: We made stabbing motions with our pointing finger

We then worked in groups reading the same scene (each person taking on one character).  Our job was to decide which actions went with the words we were speaking.  After time to decide and practice, Margo had groups demonstrate what they had come up with.  What was interesting to note was the different–and valid–reasoning between groups.

Knowing that there would be differences between groups, Margo introduced a protocol in order to ask questions during a group’s demonstration.  We could clap to interrupt and ask a question.  Allowing the class to interrupt and ask a question holds the group presenting accountable to the actions that they had decided upon.

To finish, we looked at a scene between Banquo and Macbeth.  In pairs, we read through the scene.  Margo then introduced the following idea:

  • When your character is attacking, take a step towards your partner.
  • When your character is retreating, take a step away from your partner.
  • When your character is trying to figure things out/maneuver, step to the side to circle your partner.

Again, this got us thinking about the intention behind dialogue.

After two hours of historical dance, we had an hour for dinner and then three hours of rehearsal in preparation for our performance Wednesday night.

R&J: Day 8

Today was attempt one in using the five-step rehearsal protocol that I learned in the second of my Globe Education workshops.

After reviewing our Act 2 Prologue translations, I had students get into groups of threes.  Their job, to rehearse Act 2, Scene 1 with each student taking a role (Romeo, Mercutio, and Benvolio).  I told them I’d give them 5-7 minutes to run through it as many times as they could.  Their goal was to try to understand what each character was talking about.

After the allotted time, we stopped and gathered back as a class.  I asked how it went, and their response was mixed.  I asked if it was easy for them to act when holding bulky books in front of their faces trying to read.  Their response: “No!”

I told the kids that we were going to take a look at a five-step protocol for looking at a scene, and explained the steps:

Step 1: Simply read through the text.  You’re not acting here.  You’re just reading from beginning to end, getting a sense for the text.

Step 2: Talk about it.  Ask questions like:

  • What’s the context?
  • What are the characters talking about?
  • Why are they talking?  What’s their purpose?
  • How do the characters feel?
  • Are there any words that I don’t know?  Anything that I just don’t understand?  (And get those clarified.)

Step 3: Put down the script and improvise.

Step 4: Talk about it.

Step 5: Read through the script a second time.

I selected a group to try it out (after having asked them during the “rehearsal” time if they would be alright doing this in front of the class).

After a read through with our three actors, we chatted our way through the scene.  Since the actors were doing the heavy lifting in terms of being vulnerable in front of the class, the remainder of the class did the heavy lifting in terms of talking about the scene.  After we had a good sense of the scene as a class, I asked each actor how their character felt at that point in time.  “Romeo” said that he was in love and just wanted to get back to Juliet.  “Mercutio” said that he was tired from the party and just wanted to go home.  He didn’t want to ditch Romeo, and, as a friend, tease Romeo as he called him.  “Benvolio” said that, as his cousin, she was worried about Romeo, especially because she wasn’t able to find him.

At this point we put down our script and improvised.  This went especially well in my first class.  I think for the first time doing the activity, it was good that I chose a group that would go all out.  (My choice the next period was not as wise, and I think the momentum of the class suffered a little.)  Afterwards, I asked the class if they missed anything.  We discussed how they could have added them, and then transitioned to the final read-through.  I strayed from the original protocol that I had been taught, and had them act this second time.  I think this worked well–it was good to see that they incorporated their improv work into their scene acting.

Back to their groups they went, this time armed with the 2.1 Promptbook handout, which I modified from Shakespeare Set Free (2.1 — Promptbook).  Now that we had a much better idea for the scene, in groups their job was to read back through a portion of that scene and decide what the actors would be doing at each spot.  I told them that they were demonstrating their understanding of the scene through demonstrating an understanding of what the characters would be doing throughout the scene.  I modeled a line or two (taking suggestions from them, of course) and then set them free.  Again, this worked better in my first afternoon class than in my second, and I’m wondering if this is a combination of a lack of momentum and less time (due to my constant stopping for side conversations and such).  The kids are finishing this activity for homework, and we’ll probably start class tomorrow by having a group walk us through their decisions.

R&J: Day 7

I feel that with this project our school schedule is my enemy:

  • On Monday’s I have shorter class periods (only an hour vs. about an hour and a half).  This would not be bad, except that it is combined with the other items on this list.
  • On Friday, we had an alternate schedule because of our Student Appreciation Breakfast (meaning shorter class periods).
  • This coming Friday, we have an alternate schedule because of the jog-a-thon (meaning a shorter class period).
  • The following Friday, we have a minimum day for staff development.
  • And just in time for my students to read Act 5: I chaperone our Sophomore Trip.

Don’t get me wrong.  All of these things are amazingly awesome.  It’s just that I want more time!

Due to Friday’s altered schedule–which I didn’t know about when making my initial calendar–I had to rearrange and remove some things that I wanted to do with my kids.

P1070844The class that had started the Queen Mab posters got 15 minutes to finish them up.  (I let them know that if they weren’t done at this point, I’d be available after school for them to come in and finish them up.  I won’t grade them until Tuesday or Wednesday to accommodate this after school work time.)  I loved having them with books in hand comparing what they were drawing to the text.

Acting 1.5 went well–for having squirrely 9th graders on a Friday afternoon on an altered schedule.  We took some time with Romeo and Juliet’s exchange.  In particular, we unpacked their discussion of hands, lips, and kisses.

The finish up, we previewed the Prologue for Act 2.  They had a bit of time to start in class, but are finishing up their translations this weekend using this graphic organizer (Act 2 Prologue) to help them.  We’ll start class on Monday hearing a few of their translations.

In other news, I just finished my in-depth planning for the week and I’m pretty excited for a few things:

  1. Using more of my Globe Education learning in class.  We’ll be attempting the 5-step rehearsal protocol from Workshop #2 in class on Monday with the ever-so-short 2.1.
  2. Using scenes from Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet.
  3. Using BBC’s Shakespeare Unlocked (videos + activities).

Should be a great week!


R&J: Day 4

Today we had our first moments working directly with Shakespeare’s text, and I think it went fairly well.

I had two goals for our kids today:

(1) That they have an understanding of the prologue and Act 1, Scene 1.

(2) That they get used to speaking and hearing Shakespeare’s language.

Their homework was the preview Act 1, Scene 1 by reading the “modern translation” of the scene.  I figured that if they do a bit of a preview with a more “modern” text, then maybe our class would run a bit more smoothly today.

We did several readings of the prologue.  First, depending on the class period, either myself or my team teacher read the prologue the entire way through.  We paused here and asked if anyone needed clarification on any words or phrases.  After answering those, we did a second read through.  This time, I had two volunteers: one read the first part of the line, the other finished (as it is divided on the Shakespeare Set Free handout).  After this second reading, we went line by line.  I asked questions about each line to get them to work through the prologue and make meaning.  For example:

Me: “Two households both alike in dignity.”  Two households?  Who are our two households?  You should know from the film.

Kid #1: The Capulets and the Montagues.

Me: Oh ok.  So two households–the Capulets and Montagues–are “both alike in dignity.”  What do they mean by that?  What’s dignity?

Kid #2: Does that maybe have to do with pride?

Me: Pride?  Explain.

Kid #2: Like… they are both the same in that they have this dignity or extreme pride for their own family.  Too much pride.

We discussed “civil blood” and “civil hands.”  We figured out what “star-crossed lovers” were, tying it to the idea of horoscopes and our destiny being determined by the stars.  Once we made our way the entire way through, I asked for another volunteer who wanted to read the prologue by themselves.  Afterwards I asked how everyone’s comprehension level was.  They said that they were understanding it a lot more than the first time I read it.

Next came the acting.  I think it’s a crime to have kids sit there silently reading Shakespeare.  Plays are meant to be acted, and as much as possible we’re going to act this.  (We might act in small groups, large groups, or create prompt books for a scene — but in some way our reading of this play will revolve around the fact that it is a play.)

After assigning roles (and giving Nerf swords to those who would need them in the scene), we began Act 1, Scene 1.  We stopped and discussed.  We stopped to translate.  We stopped and re-acted a line when needed.  It was slow.  It took time.  But, you know, that’s just how it had to be.  I had to toss a YouTube video that I wanted to use.  I didn’t get to my little activity on iambic pentameter.  BUT, kids were working with language and hearing language and were understanding.  My goal was met.

And you know what?  I think they’re excited about it.  A group of them stayed after school to read tonight’s homework (1.2-1.3 in the translated version).  They decided to act it together–and not the translated side.  They went straight to Shakespeare’s original words.

It was pretty awesome.

R&J: Day 3

Today, was just fun.

Immediately following the end of Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo + Juliet we divided our class into two groups.  Standing in lines that faced each other, one half of the room was told that they are Montagues.  The other half were Capulets.  Immediately, they started to pose and posture.  They became one with the family that they represented.

I walked up to the Capulets.  “Alrighty.  So you guys are the Capulets.  Who are you related to?”

“JULIET!!” they yelled.

To the Montagues: “Ok, Montagues.  Then who are you related to?”

Not to be outdone, they yelled “ROMEO!” with spirit.  (My student named Romeo beamed proudly.)

We began by defining what a feud was.  After posing the question, I took answers from both sides and then synthesized them into one working definition.

Then we got loud.

I explained to the kids that tomorrow when we first see the Capulets and Montagues in action, they were going to meet in the street and have a bit of a confrontation.  To preview this confrontation, we were going to sling some Shakespearean insults.  Using the handout from Shakespeare Set Free, kids had two minutes to work together to create their best insults to hurl at the other side.

When two minutes were up, we began.

I walked over to the Montagues, and picked a student to yell at the other side, “Do you bite your thumb at me sir?”  (I explained that biting ones thumb was basically like giving someone the finger.)

A Capulet responded, “No sir, but I bite my thumb sir!”

The same Montague: “Do you quarrel sir?!”

And with that, we took turns making eye contact with someone across the room and yelling our Shakespearean insult to the other side.  A Capulet would yell  something like, “Thou whoreson raw-boned miscreant!”  The whole Capulet side would yell, “Ooooooh!!!!!!” to back-up their teammate.  The Montagues would have none of that.  “Thou brazen eye-offending ruffian!” one would reply.  And so on and so on.

I’ve seen this activity all across the Internet, and I thought that the one thing that was missing was a bit of a debrief.  So we paused in our insulting for a few questions:

  1. What happens instantly when an insult gets thrown?
  2. How can this “fun” quickly lead to danger?
  3. How can words make conflict worse? Or start conflict?
  4. When one person yelled an insult, why did everyone react?  What was the purpose?
  5. How do you see words create conflict here at school or in your life outside of school?

We followed this with Jim Burke’s “Conversational Roundtable.”  I told students that this type of enemy relationship was one of the five types of relationships we’d be seeing in the play.  We were going to use the rest of class to discuss the other four.  Staying in their Montague/Capulet family groups, I had them arrange themselves knee-to-knee in groups of three or four.  Armed with the Pre-reading — Conversational Roundtable handout, students discussed what the “rules” were for each type of relationship in the book.  (While they discussed, I handed out copies of the book.)  We then shared out from our discussions, adding additional ideas that other groups came up with.

(The handout is set up in the following way: The center circle says “Rules for Relationships.”  The four sections surrounding the circle are labeled “Romantic,” “Parent-Child,” “Friends,” and “Mentor/caretaker – Child.”  I had them label the bottom box “enemies.”)

To end class, we went over their reading packet and their homework for this evening: to read the “translated” version of 1.1.

R&J: Day 2

Today started with a guest speaker and ended with a film.

Voila_CaptureFirst, the guest speaker: During our first period block, our guest speaker from Panacea Services, Joaquin Fabela, came to talk to all of our students.  He entered our classroom, which was filled to the brim with students, and captivated them from the very start.  Many thanks to Mr. Fabela for providing a fantastic introduction to gangs and gang prevention, and for giving some awesome information that our students can use in their final products.

Next, the film: Since this is for most of my students their first attempt reading Shakespeare, I feel like my role as their teacher is to make this experience as pleasant and non-scary as possible.  For that reason, I decided to show the film before even handing out the books.  Today, in class, we watched Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo + Juliet (1996), using this R+J Viewing Guide.  My goal was that they would get the idea for the plot and be introduced to the characters.  In addition, I wanted them to get a taste for Shakespeare’s language with the visual.  To that end, I turned on the subtitles.  (This ended up being one of the smartest things I’ve ever done as a teacher.)

It took them a little bit to get into the language, but there did come a point where they started to ask less questions and just start to understand what was going on (and laugh Mercutio’s dirty jokes on their own).

We’ll be finishing the film on Monday, and then move on to some Shakespearean insults and a discussion about relationships.

Workshop #2

Waiting in my e-mail yesterday afternoon was my Globe Education Academy Summer Residency info!  Fourteen glorious pages answering every question I could ever come up with regarding my life in London for two and a half weeks.  It’s currently printed and sitting on my coffee table along with my Fodor’s London travel guide.  I’m getting excited!

Also in recent news: Today my students and I attended the second of our Globe Theater workshops at UC Davis.

The focus of this workshop was rehearsal.  After a few warmups (including a demonstration of living iambic pentameter), we found partners and were assigned a scene from Taming of the Shrew to rehearse.  We were given no other instructions.  My partner Rhiann–a fellow-teacher participant–and I were assigned a scene between Bianca and Katharina from Act 2, and energetically went about rehearsing our scene.

After a short break, our facilitator asked us what we had done to rehearse and asked if what we had done had really helped us to understand the text or the characters’ motivation.  He introduced a five-step method of rehearsal that he advocates, and then led two different pairs through this rehearsal process in front of the group:

Step 1: Simply read through the text.  You’re not acting here.  You’re just reading from beginning to end, getting a sense for the text.

Step 2: Talk about it.  Ask questions like:

  • What’s the context?
  • What are the characters talking about?
  • Why are they talking?  What’s their purpose?
  • How do the characters feel?
  • Are there any words that I don’t know?  Anything that I just don’t understand?  (And get those clarified.)

Step 3: Put down the script and improvise.  One thing that we all noticed was that by holding the script in front of us, we weren’t interacting with our acting partner.  Instead, we were focusing on saying the words correctly in the right order.  Taking our responses to step 2, we were encouraged to put down the script and improvise our way through the scene.  By improvising, you learn motivations behind the characters’ words.  You also apply the answers to the questions that you asked in step 2 to your acting.  We were encouraged not to focus entirely on doing it right.  Just as much can be learned by making mistakes–you learn what you don’t want to do in a scene.

Step 4: Talk about it.  Go through the improvised scene and talk about what worked and what didn’t.  What would you keep for performance, and what would you leave out.  What you learned about the character you portrayed and the character you interacted with.

Step 5: Read through the script a second time.  Here, you’re not necessarily standing up and acting.  What you’re doing is reading it through and noticing what makes more sense now about your scene.  (What you’ll see, though, is that students will read through this time with more emphasis, inflection, and passion.)

Now the part that I love: the drive home with the kids.  I never have to ask them what they thought, and I never have to ask them how we can use it in class.  They tell me.  As we drove back to Sacramento, Brianna told me all of the ways that we could have used this strategy in class this year.  She thought it would have been great if we had used it with the novels we read (like Lord of the Flies and To Kill a Mockingbird).  She said that going through a similar process with important pieces of dialogue in a book would have helped her understand the characters and their motivations a lot better.  (She also is excited that we’ll definitely be using this strategy when reading Romeo and Juliet.)

My takeaways:

  • I think I’m going to attempt the living iambic pentameter with my kids.  I think it’s a great way to introduce them to the idea of meter that is both kinesthetic- and audio-oriented.
  • I am definitely going to have my students use this rehearsal protocol in class in order to help them interpret the text.  (Besides, I promised Brianna I would!)  I think my next step is to go through the play and determine which sections we’ll attack through activities like Reader’s Theater, this protocol, etc.  I like this protocol, because not only do I think it helps kids get to a deeper understanding of the text, but it also changes up how we attack our in-class reading.

A Viewing Guide and a PowerPoint

Spring Break is here!  What this means is that I have a little bit more time to myself, and much more time to finalize lesson plans, create resources, etc.

Today’s primary achievement was creating a Viewing Guide for William Shakespeare: A Life of Drama, the A&E Biography that I plan on showing my students at the beginning of our project.  I wonder if my students ever realize just how much work (the watching, the re-watching, creating a viewing guide, etc.) goes into showing them a film?

My second achievement was creating a rough draft of a PowerPoint on Theater during Shakespeare’s time.

My plan is to use both to help kids visualize the historical, social, and professional contexts in which Shakespeare wrote.

In Search of Shakespeare

Although the A&E Biography of William Shakespeare was good–it provided the facts in a concise way–it was a little dated.  My fear is that it wouldn’t capture my students’ attention.

This week, I went to the library and picked up a copy of In Search of Shakespeare, which originally aired on PBS.  I’ve only watched the first installment, but I’m pretty sure that this is going to be the video I will show my students.  It’s updated.  It’s interesting–both in terms of content and visuals.  The only problem is that it’s four hours in length.

My job this weekend: To determine which segment would be most useful for my students and set the historical context for our reading.

In other news, we have a guest speaker for our classroom!  It looks like Joaquin Fabela, who works for Panacea Services’ Gang Prevention and Intervention Services, will be coming to speak to our students during the first week of our project.  (You might remember that our project is going to be asking our students to examine the themes and conflicts presented in Romeo and Juliet and apply this to our city’s issue of escalating gang violence.)