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Today, We Celebrate Shakespeare!

Portrait of English playwright, William Shakespeare
Portrait of English playwright, William Shakespeare

In 1564, William Shakespeare was born on this day. In his life, Shakespeare wrote at least 38 plays and over 150 short and long poems. Shakespeare’s plays can be divided into three main categories: the comedies, the histories, and the tragedies. The following from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org provide more resources on Shakespeare’s plays.

Comedies

Histories

Tragedies

As author Ben Jonson wrote of him, Shakespeare is “not of an age, but for all time.”

National Poetry Month – Dramatic Poetry

dramaticAfter looking at narrative poetry and lyric poetry, let’s look at dramatic poetry! Dramatic poetry can be thought of as any drama written in verse which is meant to be spoken, usually to tell a story or portray a situation. This type of poetry appears in varying, sometimes related forms in many cultures. Here are some resources on dramatic poetry from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org

Arguing that analysis of the musical qualities of poetry is often avoided, the author of “Learning to Listen, Listening to Learn: Teaching Poetry as a Sensory Medium” presents strategies teachers can use to help students understand how these elements contribute to constructing meaning. He relates the musical qualities of poetry to similar features of popular music. A poem from Ben Jonson is used as an example. “Finding Poetry in Prose: Reading and Writing Love Poems” from ReadWriteThink.org also highlight’s a Jonson poem.

In “Masters as Mentors: The Role of Reading Poetry in Writing Poetry” the author shares how to present well-known poems andsuggests ways students can pen their own poetic responses to them. “This technique is a wonderful way to prompt student creativity, as it gives children specific guidelines without limiting their
spontaneity.” A piece from dramatic poet Christopher Marlowe is used as one of the examples in the article.

A classic example of dramatic poetry is “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. “Reimagining Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ through Visual and Performing Arts Projects” invites students ti incorporate film, painting, performance, and other arts in their imaginative and innovative responses to a classic work.

How does dramatic poetry play out in your classroom?

National Poetry Month – Lyric Poetry

lyricWe’re now in our second week of celebrating National Poetry Month! Last week, we looked at narrative poetry. This week our focus is lyric poetry. A lyric poem is a short poem of songlike quality. Lyric poetry is a genre that, unlike epic and dramatic poetry, does not attempt to tell a story but instead is of a more personal nature while focusing on thought and emotion. The following resources from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org support work with lyric poetry.

Poetry Made Easy: Of Swag and Sense” shares how a ninth grade teacher used lyric poetry in her classroom. They explored how imagery reifies theme, how musical devices create mood, and how diction affects theme and mood. Connections were made later to concepts with the prose and drama they read thereafter.

‘Beautiful’ Poetry: Tuning In to Poetry through Rhythm” taps into the music of
language, to introduce rhythm and beat in poetry, and help students hear metrical patterns.

John Donne provides a great example of lyric poetry. His poetry is noted for its vibrancy of language and is often considered the greatest love poet in the English language. “Donne’s ‘The Token’: A Lesson in the Fashion(ing) of Canon” examines the work of Donne as part of Renaissance literature.

To work more with lyric poetry, pass out an example of the Italian sonnet “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why (Sonnet XLIII)” by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Have three students read the poem aloud, one at a time. This technique, touted by Sheridan Blau, helps students to get immersed in the poem. By the third reading, students have had time to absorb the readings and think about possible meanings.

What other ideas are there for incorporating lyric poetry?

Poems that Tell a Story

narrative-poetryEach year the month of April is set aside as National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate poets and their craft. Various events are held throughout the month by the Academy of American Poets and other poetry organizations. Follow along this month as we unpack some genres of poetry and find related resources from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org.

We will kick off with looking at narrative poetry. This genre of poetry tells a story, usually with a human interest element. Narrative poetry combines poetic language with short-story elements and is thought to be the oldest type of poetry. “Poetry Preference Research: What Young Adults Tell Us They Enjoy” shares that the most popular type of poem chosen by a survey of students was the narrative.

Edgar Allen Poe wrote narrative poetry and one example is “The Raven”. The lesson plan “Modeling Reading and Analysis Processes with the Works of Edgar Allan Poe” invites students to explore reading strategies using “The Raven” and other works. Students read Poe’s works in both large- and small-group readings then conclude with a variety of projects.

Chaucer also provides examples of narrative poetry. However, high school students can see reading The Canterbury Tales as daunting. “Avoid the Edifice Complex and Enjoy Teaching Chaucer” shares lessons “combining the literary and the vulgar” that fully engage the students with the text. Another strategy is to explore The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales using wikis.

What narrative poems are used in your classroom?

Beware the Ides of March!

0315-ides-of-march_full_600In Julius Caesar, a soothsayer warns Caesar to “Beware the Ides of March.” Caesar ignores the warning and is, in fact, murdered on March 15, called “the Ides” on the Roman calendar. Over time, the date has become associated with doom and momentous events – particularly ones with disastrous effects. The following resources from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org offer solutions for bringing Julius Caesar to life for all students.

Shakespeare in the elementary school? The Primary Voices article “”Creative Drama through Scaffolded Plays in the Language Arts Classroom“” chronicles how the author first used creative drama in a summer reading program with first graders, and then over the years, developed a much broader understanding of drama as an important teaching tool. She also describes writing “scaffolded” plays with sixth-grade students and illustrates their annual thematic dinner theater.

The ReadWriteThink.org lesson plan “”Book Report Alternative: Characters for Hire! Studying Character in Drama“” asks students to create a resume for one of the characters in a drama. Students select a character from the play to focus on and jot down notes about that character. Next, they search for historical background information and then explore the play again, looking for both direct and implied information about their characters and noting the location of supporting details. Finally, students draft resumes for their characters and search a job listing site for a job for which their character is qualified.

Julius Caesar, with its themes of loyalty, ambition, and deception, still resonates with high school students and remains a favorite text in classrooms everywhere. Through differentiated instruction, the NCTE text Teaching Julius Caesar: A Differentiated Approach offers solutions for bringing the play to life for all students – those with various interests, readiness levels, and learning styles. Discover more by reading the sample chapter.

An Introduction to Julius Caesar Using Multiple-Perspective Universal Theme Analysis” from ReadWriteThink.org is an introduction to William Shakespeare’s tragic play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, through the study of universal themes using multiple-perspective investigations of betrayal scenarios.

How can students build new connections with the poetic details of Shakespeare’s plays? In this digital movie project, “Connecting Students with Shakespeare’s Poetry: Digital Creations of Close Reading” students explore close reading and thoughtful selection of imagery to create deeper understanding.

What ideas do you have for Julius Caesar in the classroom?