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Hamlet meets Oprah Winfrey?!Just wanted to share one of my recent success stories as a...

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 2, 2010 at 4:05 PM via web

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Hamlet meets Oprah Winfrey?!

Just wanted to share one of my recent success stories as a teacher - when they come we need to make the most of them! So, having studied Hamlet up to and including Act III, I gave my students an assessment where they were divided into groups and given one character to analyse: Hamlet, Ophelia, Claudius and Gertrude. Each group had to come up with a full description about that character plus a list of questions about things they didn't understand. Then, they had to try and answer those questions using the text. Then they had to present the character being interviewed by Oprah being asked those questions.

Whenever I do character analysis with my students it doesn't go terribly, but it also isn't the most exciting thing in the world either. However, with this assignment the students did an INCREDIBLE job, acting out their parts with aplomb. The group looking at Hamlet transformed him into a 21st Century black rap star with the accompanying outfit (baggy pants etc), and Ophelia was turned into a dim-witted blonde who didn't really know that much except that she needed to obey her father. I found that the students really enjoyed this assignment and they have already asked me to do it again, and it resulted in their interacting with the text far more than a normal "boring" character analysis would have made them. So I went home a happy teacher that day!

So what success stories have you had recently? Share the joy!

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Scott Locklear | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted December 2, 2010 at 4:50 PM (Answer #2)

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Hamlet meets Oprah Winfrey?!

Just wanted to share one of my recent success stories as a teacher - when they come we need to make the most of them! So, having studied Hamlet up to and including Act III, I gave my students an assessment where they were divided into groups and given one character to analyse: Hamlet, Ophelia, Claudius and Gertrude. Each group had to come up with a full description about that character plus a list of questions about things they didn't understand. Then, they had to try and answer those questions using the text. Then they had to present the character being interviewed by Oprah being asked those questions.

Whenever I do character analysis with my students it doesn't go terribly, but it also isn't the most exciting thing in the world either. However, with this assignment the students did an INCREDIBLE job, acting out their parts with aplomb. The group looking at Hamlet transformed him into a 21st Century black rap star with the accompanying outfit (baggy pants etc), and Ophelia was turned into a dim-witted blonde who didn't really know that much except that she needed to obey her father. I found that the students really enjoyed this assignment and they have already asked me to do it again, and it resulted in their interacting with the text far more than a normal "boring" character analysis would have made them. So I went home a happy teacher that day!

So what success stories have you had recently? Share the joy!

Excellent!...You didn't video it by chance did you?

Scott Locklear

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 3, 2010 at 6:43 AM (Answer #3)

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I am afraid not, Scott. I realised I should have soon afterwards! I did however film an activity from the Prestwick Activity pack on A Tale of Two Cities that I downloaded from this site where my students acted out a part of the novel...

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 3, 2010 at 11:42 AM (Answer #4)

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Love the creativity in the idea, accessteacher!  Well done.  I think any way kids become more intimately and personally involved with the material, the longer they'll remember it.  I'm sure those kids will be talking about that activity years from now.

Just finished a mock Presidential campaign where we used editing software, commercials the kids shot and put it all on youtube.  We incorporated polling data from the school on world issues and had a debate.  I've run campaigns before, but the addition of technology to this one made a big difference.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 4, 2010 at 6:47 AM (Answer #5)

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Love it!  I could just "see" this going on in your class.  My class and I have begun the journey into Macbeth starting yesterday, and we are using the Shakespeare Set Free book to get more intimately involved in the text.  Already, the kids who were telling me "I can't understand it" are becoming directors and finding answers to questions in the text.  This week, we will stage scenes from Act I using shoeboxes and coins or buttons, or Legos...whatever they bring in.  It should be fun!

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reiton | Middle School Teacher | eNoter

Posted December 5, 2010 at 8:36 AM (Answer #6)

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Whenever we as teachers can create educational settings that allow our students to synthesize content in a purposeful manner, we propel learning to a new level.  The students use all of the skills we would have to evaluate separately in a variety of extended response question and answer formats to interpret these types of assignments.  What is most rewarding is to find students who can't typically express what they know in writing as the ones who display some of the most creative and innovative interpretations of an assignment such as Hamlet Meets Oprah Winfrey.  Recently,  my seventh grade students wrote folktales based on the ancient Chinese and Indian cultures being studied in social studies.  If I or the social studies teacher had asked students to explain and debate some of the social issues of the time, we would have had dry, forced responses except from only a few of our students.  Instead what we got were students who wrote beautiful tales with believable characters who were battling against the ills of their culture, such as foot binding and oppression of females.  We also had students place themselves and their own experiences with life into the characters they wrote about, bringing to life in a metaphor, some of their own struggles with  family, peers, and self.  We spent two days sharing our folktales, and I was amazed at their thoughtfulness and understanding of folktales as well as the ancient Chinese and Indian cultures.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 7, 2010 at 10:58 PM (Answer #7)

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Perhaps the greatest thing about your assignment is that you were able to engage your students: they had fun and learned the material.

I have found that if my students don't have a strong sense of who the characters are, they will be lost for the rest of the story/play.

I was speaking with my daughter just yesterday about one class in particular that she really likes. She says the best thing about the class is that the lessons are different, she gets to work with other students, they sometimes do things that make them competitive when working in pairs (in a positive way), and she finds the class valuable because it is fun.

Part of me is troubled by the "old-world" view that if I make it fun, I'm somehow missing the intent to prepare students for a world that will not be fun. I like to mix things up, but usually it's usually an occasional treat.

However, viewing this lesson, and listening to a youngster who is on the other side of the desk, I find that if the material is covered and the student is engaged, the information will probably become meaningful to the students, and thereby be placed in their long-term memory. I can see nothing wrong with this, and wish I had the kind of creativity it takes to shake the kids up more often by changing my tactics. Research shows, this is the way to go.

This was a really effective activity you implemented into the classroom curriculum. Nice job!!

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted December 29, 2010 at 12:26 PM (Answer #8)

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Another nice aspect about this lesson is that all students are benefiting. In any activity there are always students who don't get involved with the reading or the analyzing or etc. However, all students are exposed to the "talk show", so even if they aren't involved they are still exposed to the explicated material.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 2, 2011 at 8:24 PM (Answer #9)

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Sometimes the activity that is not really so worthwhile ends up having worthwhile benefits, so as one teacher has already said, the engagement has positive results that extend beyond the assignment.

For instance, students in French class had watched a video of French commercials which really seemed inane to the students.  "All right, then.  Why do you not make some of your own."  They did and one student video taped his and his partner's:  It was a commercial for a fire extinguisher.  After zooming in upon a model car which was ablaze, one of the boys blasted the fire extinguisher on the car, but the foam went onto the other boy who started to jump and roll and scream--while all the time, a third student continued to film.  The students, of course, thought it was hilarious, especially because the "extinguished" boy kept speaking in French and paraphrased the line from Sartre's play about hell, No Exit,that the class had just finished: "Hell is---other people,"  by saying, "Hell is--other idiots like you!" 

"Now, that is application of learning," was all I could say.  Since it seemed that the more lethargic students started to be interested in the course after that incident, there must have been some value to it.  At least they learned the line about Hell being other idiots.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 4, 2011 at 11:57 AM (Answer #10)

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I am often impressed by how creative students can be in analyzing classic texts from pop culture perspectives.  For example, when my class was reading A Tale of Two Cities, they compared Sydney Carton to House from the TV show.  They are both addicts, both are brilliant but grumpy, and both secretly loved a woman they had to work with/for.  It was a fascinating comparison!  My students do tend to give stories the soap opera treatment, and that is completely appropriate for this book!

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