UH Moment

UH Moment: William Shakespeare

A high school rite of passage, trudging through intimidating language and hard to access stories.

William Shakespeare.

A high school rite of passage, trudging through intimidating language and hard to access stories.  Literary spinach—perhaps not all that tasty, but a nutritious diet for critical thinkers in training…and there is a banquet to feast on.

“There are 10,000 reasons to love Shakespeare plays, but it’s not always clear why you teach Shakespeare plays. It’s big cultural capital or it’s important to understand the language or it’s important to understand Renaissance history.”

University of Houston College of Education professor Laura Turchi (whose “literary spinach” term I stole), says educators teaching Shakespeare shouldn’t feel like they have to teach everything.  She co-wrote the book “Teaching Shakespeare with Purpose: a Student Centered Approach.”

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“Our goal in writing the book is touch on the reasons 21 century learners can get a lot out of a Shakespeare play if the approach is centered on who they are and not on sacred history,” she said. “What do you need to know about learning in order to learn Shakespeare?”

Turchi and her co-author, Shakespeare scholar Ayana Thompson, say the goal of teaching Shakespeare is to emerge with the skills to wrestle with a critical text. Part of the key is finding entry points in the text and active approaches let students discover him.

“There’s Twitterature, where students use Twitter feeds to capture what’s going on in a play, feaux-Facebook pages to capture Romeo and Juliet, fantastic YouTube performances,” Turchi said. “Kids who show their understanding of the relationship between two characters are creating a modern monologue, a video or a series of Instagram photos and captions.” 

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The authors’ research includes important studies on gender, race, status and history as ways for students to discover Shakespeare.

“Then I think you start to have an independent facility with the words, a more sophisticated skill set for understanding complicated things. ..Complicated life.”

William Shakespeare is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston.  I’m Marisa Ramirez.

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