I will begin Julius Caesar with my high school sophomores in a couple of weeks. My kids are not the strongest readers, so I thought it would be beneficial to provide them with a graphic representation of difficult portions of the play. This is my second year teaching and my first time teaching this play. Does anyone have any thoughts or recommendations regarding what qualifies as particularly challenging for this age group? I would like to be as prepared as possible before stumbling into difficult areas.
Whenever I teach Shakespeare, I have students act it out. I also do not have them read it silently, ever. We listen to an unabridged audio CD and we watch a fim version, in addition to acting. Shakespeare is not meant to be read, it is meant to be acted. This dramatically increases comprehension and enjoyment.
I am a big fan of using parallel text when working with Shakespeare in a high school context. I also believe strongly that you should offer film clips, not just of the play under study, but popular films that have themes, characters, and/or subject matter that corresponds to the play.
When I taught JC to high school sophomores, I used the film Gladiator as a parallel film study series of film clips. The themes of pride, friendship, revenge, honor--they are all there. I've also used clips from Braveheart.
The biggest mistake a teacher can make is the death march through the text of reading it all aloud in class, without stopping periodically to look at film clips, hold discussions, and do other similar engaging activities.
Setting up an online discussion board can also help students develop proficiency in understanding the play. I like discussion boards because each poster can see everyone else's response, sparking synergy in the discussion as well as helping struggling posters. Reading questions submitted by individuals don't allow the same interactivity; they also lend themselves to copying and cheating in an effort by students to figure out what the teacher wants to see.
In regards to post 4, it's not heretical at all to do so, in my opinion. I don't teach "Caesar," but I do teach both "Macbeth" and "Hamlet" and cut portions of both. When you attend a Shakespearean performance in today's theatre, you'll find most directors trim the plays down to about 2 to 2.5 hours of performance time, much less than originally intended. I think it's also okay to do this in the classroom. Some of the scenes simply just don't translate to today and end up alienating kids from Shakespeare altogether.
Post 5 is referring to the 1953 movie "Julius Caesar" with Marlon Brando. It is a great adaption and I would recommend it as well. The actor playing Brutus is especially good.
There are also books out there like "No Fear Shakespeare" where the original text is presented on one side and the "translated" modern English is on the other, although I've never used them and don't know how good they are. There are also many annotated versions that include glossaries and explain antiquated ideas or references.
We use the Marlon Brando film version of Caesar in conjunction with reading the play. It is a fairly close adaptation, with the exception of a few scenes. We read each act in it entirety, then we watch that act on the screen. I then give them a summary of each act so that that can catch anything they have missed.
This might be a heretical idea, but I always skip Acts IV and V. They are easily summed up in a short lecture. I like to draw on history as much as possible, so I use documentaries about Julius Caesar rather than showing films of the play (there aren't any good ones anyway). This is not one of my favorite plays, but the Elders Who Laid Down the Great Law of Curriculum decided that all American sophomores should study Julius Caesar, so I try to make the best of it.
One thing I used was a fully dramatized version of the play on CD. This way, even though the words were challenging or difficult, they still had a way to understand what was going on due to the inflections in the actors' voices, etc. You can find a really good version by googling "Caesar, fully dramatized CD". It has a black cover, and says "fully dramatized" on the front. It even has some music, and some great sound effects. I would highly recommend using something like this, as it will make the reading go more smoothly, rather than letting kids stumble through the reading themselves the first time.
I taught this to high school sophomores last year, and it went so-so. They liked the action, the rivalry, the violence, etc. They didn't get the humorous parts at ALL. When I taught it, I used the "Secondary Solutions" teacher guide, which was nice because it helped with summaries, vocabulary, and review questions for each scene.
Generally, I would have the students read the play out loud in original text, either in small table groups or as a class, with various students in various roles. We would alternate this from small-group to whole-class; during the whole-class reading sessions I would pause them and explain things as they went along. If they did a small-group reading, I would give them a copy of a modernized text AFTER they finished reading the original. This helped them get a handle on it. Also, you can always show a movie version piece by piece, so that each time they finish reading an act or scene or whatever you show it to them on the DVD. There are a lot of versions of the film, one that was made fairly recently and will actually have actors they recognize.
Good luck teaching the play - I enjoyed it, and my kids did pretty well on their final projects (from the Secondary Solutions book), so I guess they "got" most of it! :)
i taught hamlet to 8thgrade last year .detail story ofthe play was told to them .then read by the students as actors of the play.after every act the students as different actors were changed.after reading of each act the scenes were discussed by asking questions and discussing answering with them characters were explained. i have 15years expearence of teaching english and social sciences
I allow students to "try out" for parts and I take the best readers and assign them to parts, then we read through the book in class and have group discussions about hard parts to understand. (This is very time intensive though)