I am interested in your views. Should Shakespeare be taught in ALL schools to ALL kinds of children? What relevance does he have in today's society? If so ... WHY and HOW ? If not ... why not...
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I would say it is more relevant than ever, given how the English language, but American English especially, has become "text-ualized". It's easier, perhaps, than ever before to forget that there can be and is art and poetry in writing. It's a difficult transition for kids that have to learn "his" language, but it's also pretty magical when they start to think as a Shakesperean student. The modern day movie version of Romeo and Juliet, I have found, has changed students' minds on Shakespeare, and led them to want to read more of his work.
I teach Shakespeare to even my low level and average level high school students. They expect to read some Shakespeare. Of course, they will grumble and complain, but they like the fact that they can quote some Shakespeare with their peers who may even be at a higher level of reading. Somehow, they feel normal if they are reading Shakespeare just as their peers from higher level English. Of course, I use the original text, modern day text, and a video to help with comprehension.
I told my freshmen every year when we started Romeo and Juliet that if they could read Shakespeare they could read anything. We spent a lot of time with this play and I used it to teach innumerable reading techniques, critique styles, literary terminology, etc. By the time we moved on from Shakespeare, my students had grown so much in their reading abilities and comprehension skills. Shakespeare in particular has themes in each of his works that are still frequently found in literature and movies today. It was easy to relate this material to things the students were more familiar with. That made it easier for them to grasp difficult concepts within the material. Still, I think the most valuable lesson my students gathered from Romeo and Juliet had more to do with learning how to interpret literature than anything else.
Until Shakespeare is dethroned as the greatest writer of the English language, his plays and poems will always be pertinent. I'm not sure that elementary school children are ready for the study of his work, but middle and high school students should certainly be exposed to his writing. A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet are both suitable for middle schoolers, and Shakespeare's histories and comedies are among the best ever written, so at least a sampling should be required study for high schoolers.
To be honest, before I went into teaching, I didn't like Shakespeare much, because no one took the time to reveal the relevance of it to me . Once I started reading it to teach it, I discovered just how timeless his passionate themes are.
What teenager today cannot relate to forbidden love, lost love, betrayal, etc. Presented properly, and maybe with some modernized touches, I think even the most jaded high schooler could get passionate about Shakespeare.
Shakespeare is important in the classroom because the text loks at contemporary issues that many of our students face today: conflict, resolution, temptation, and morality. Even though the text is "old" to many students, it does not change the fact that the message is still contemporary. My only suggestion would be to use the Mondern English translations backed with the a movie. Shakespeare can be confusing- why allow the language to confuse further?
I'm not a literature teacher so my view is likely to be different from many other people's views... To me, the only reason to be sure to teach Shakespeare is for purposes of cultural literacy. Shakespeare's more famous plays are such cultural icons that it seems important that students have at least a passing familiarity with them. Outside of that, I do not think teaching Shakespeare is vital. However, I do think cultural literacy is important, particularly for populations (minorities, immigrants) who might be likely to have trouble assimilating or fitting in to American society.
I was typing this before the previous post was up. So let me add that this is why I would teach Shakespeare to low ability students not headed for college. They, too, need to have some basic grasp of Shakespeare so they do not feel ignorant and isolated from society.
Interesting question! There will be lots of angles for discussion from this starting point - I'm looking forward to reading them.
I would really like to think that Shakespeare is relevant to the learning of all students, if only because he provides such great examples of use of the English language that we are all attempting to learn and use for communication. Analysis of common phrases in use today that he introduced can be a great setting for all kinds of activities. His use of descriptive phrasing is unparalleled - the examples are priceless even if the exact words aren't in use in today's world.
I must admit, I'm not sure of the value of teaching Shakespeare to students who are low ability or motivation, clearly headed for vocational training classes with minimal literary involvement in their life's activities. Maybe what I'm looking for with these students are some ways to present a few shining examples, not an in-depth analysis. Suggestions/other ideas, anyone?
Shakespeare has wrote many important plays and it has taught us all many things.
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