Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Language Shakespeare, Language

Picture this: twenty-eight students sitting in the semi-darkness of a high school classroom,  midday. Some sit on the rug, some in the U-shape made by desks, some at tall tables. All look to the screen and watch the second half of the first act of Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is about to tell her husband to man up, but what do tenth graders hear?

"I have given su..."

"Language Shakespeare!" someone calls as if calling out a curse or a bad word.

The room explodes in laughter. Kids turn to see my reaction and miss the next few lines.

Did I mention I teach tenth grade?

Even when I prepare kids for the scene many are still caught off guard and distracted by Lady Macbeth's language.

We laughed. And the moment? It worked  as a sequeway to a quick assessment of what kids actually understood. To borrow from Carol Jago, I had kids do a quick four-square to record their  thinking about the scenes we watched, so that I could assess their understanding.
Lots of them thought they didn't understand anything, but in reality many understood more than they thought they did. Loved that.


  1. Wait until they see how this formidable woman begins to crack. Out, out...

  2. Haha! What version of "Macbeth" were you watching? The Folger staged one does portray the Macbeths as very sexual. I've only taught "Macbeth" to seniors, so I'm now curious about how things would change w/ sophomores.

  3. One of the small pleasures of teaching Shakespeare...

  4. I like this idea, I will have to try the four square with my 9th graders when we read Romeo and Juliet next month.