Thursday, June 14, 2007

Shakespeare Brainstorming

I've gone through the state standards and "translated" them into normal speech, picking out what I believe are the Big Ideas behind them. Now I'm trying to sort of cross-reference that with my Shakespeare unit, which will be the first major literary work we tackle after cutting our teeth on short stories, poems, and newspaper and magazine articles.

So. What do I want my students to understand?

Well, I definitely want them to be able to recognize and pick out the various literary, dramatic and poetic techniques that Shakespeare uses. Beyond just identification, though, I want them to be able to figure out why each element is in the play. One of the important ideas that isn't spelled out in ELARL1 (but, I believe, should be) is that in good writing, there is nothing extra. Everything in there is important to the story; the writer put it there on purpose, and it's there for a reason. Quite often when the students are focused on identification, I get the feeling that they're looking for the "parts of the story that matter." (And don't get me started on the teacher who asked on one of the LJ communities I read if it was okay to cut "some of the the unimportant scenes" from Romeo and Juliet.)

The other facet to ELARL1, which I think I can incorporate, is the idea of prove-your-point (identifying techniques used and using them as support). The idea I want to emphasize behind that is that no, you don't "just think so." There is no such thing as "it's just my opinion." Don't just write, "I believe A." You darn well better write "I believe A because of X, Y, and Z."

ELARL2 deals with theme - figuring out what it is and then identifying how the author illustrates it in the story. (I just had a sudden mental picture of using that sentence in front of my students: "But, Ma'am, this book don't got pitchers...") Anyway. Plus the idea that a work can have more than one theme, and then, tying it back in with ELARL1, giving examples and explaining how the action or statement or whatever relates back to the theme.

More later.


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