Saturday, February 12, 2011

Shakespeare Detectives: Extra Credit

My dear 807, 810 and 814 classes,

Studying arguably the greatest writing the English language has to offer is quite a task. You are discovering that you might have to read a sonnet several times before it makes any sense. You might even have to - dare I say it - look up several words in the dictionary. Reading not just Shakespeare, but any difficult text (especially ones that use 500 year-old language) can be a research-intensive activity at first. Though as with any text, the more practice you have and the more effort you put into it, the easier it will become. 

A helpful way to dig deeper into any given text is to understand what was going on at the time it was written. What was going on when Shakespeare was writing these sonnets? Why, oh why, did he write 154 of them? Who is this mysterious "young man" he wrote so many for? Did everyone wear those those funny white collars?

The more you know about Shakespeare's world, the better you'll understand just what the heck he was talking about. When you all read Please Don't Take My Air Jordans, you might not have understood all of the slang or even the importance of a Starter jacket or Air Jordans since it was written before you were all born. A little research can reveal a lot, furthering your understanding of the poem and hopefully your appreciation as well.

"Alright, Mr. Records. Get to the part about extra credit."

Okay. Therefore, for extra during our study of Shakespeare, Ms. Galang and I challenge you to dig up or seek out all things Shakespearean. He's just about everywhere if you look hard enough. We would like to to find something The idea is not only to compile as much information about the Bard himself and the world he lived in, but also how he has affected the world you all live in today.

*Remember: All projects should be posted online for your classmates to see and learn from.*

Possible extra credit projects (but not limited to):

 - Shakespearean lyric search. The music you listen to today is created through manipulations of language and beats, just like Shakespeare. Here's an example that I used in class:

"Offend in Every Way" by the White Stripes

I'm patient of this plan
as humble as I can
I'll wait another day
before I turn away
but know this much is true
no matter what I do
offend in every way
I don't know what to say

I'm coming through the door
but they're expecting more
of an interesting man
sometimes I think I can
but how much can I fake
I'll speak until I break
with every word I say
offend in every way

You tell me to relax
and listen to these facts
that everyone's my friend
and will be till the end
but know this much is true
no matter what I do
no matter what I say
offend in every way 

It's totally iambic! To receive extra credit, find at least three songs that follow the techniques of Shakespeare. Then scan each line for us.

 - See a Shakespeare play with your parents and write a thorough response on it.
Check out BAM. There a several shows coming up.

 - Watch a film adaptation of a Shakespearean play:
    Julie Taymor's The Tempest or Titus 
    Baz Lurhman's Romeo + Juliet
    Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet
    Royal Shakespeare Company's MacBeth or Othello - both starring Sir Ian McKellan
    10 Things I Hate About You (for this one make sure you draw comparisons to the play on which it is based)

 - Be a detective. Dig up interesting articles about William Shakespeare's life and work. Write a thorough response.

 - Find today's Shakespeare. Who do you think is a modern equivalent of the Bard? Who can go toe to toe with him in today's world? Find him or her and argue your case thoroughly.

 - History report. Believe it or not, Shakespeare wasn't the only thing special about Elizabethan England. Write a report on the fashion trends of the day, who was who on the art scene, what kind of games did they play to pass the time, or whatever else might interest you.

 - Custom Project. If you have another idea that isn't listed here, feel free to run it by either Ms. Galang or myself.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sonnets Are Not That Scary

Sonnets. A bit scary at first, I admit. They have that structure that is so specific! Iambic pentameter can also seem a bit intimidating at first, but by the end of the lesson you guys really got it. I just finished my own sonnet ( my very first one!) and I will share my process with you next week if you want. I can't wait to see what you guys come up with on your own.

For fun, write your name in the comments below and scan them. It would be awesome to have all of 807, 810, and 814. Here is mine:

  /   ˘       /     ˘      /     ˘
David | Weller | Records

It's the opposite of iambic - trochees. They appear in works like the nursery rhyme Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater:

Peter, Peter pumpkin-eater
Had a wife and couldn't keep her.

Or even another work of Shakespeare, MacBeth:

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Many of you may be wondering why Shakespeare decided to write sonnets in the first place, let alone 154 of them. Why not other styles of poetry or more stage plays. Well, I did some research for you all with the hope that it will not only shed some light on the mysterious man himself, but also peak your interest a bit more.

During the 1590s, the Black Death was all over London. As you might guess, this doesn't inspire citizens to rush out to the theater. Playwrights were no longer able to produce their works for the stage. Therefore, Shakespeare looked elsewhere to keep himself busy until the danger subsided and the public renewed its interest in the arts. Sonnets were not only a fashion of the time, but they are also a very natural way of speaking. You probably speak in iambs everyday without even knowing it!

"I do not want to do my work!"

"The subway smells like rotten meat."

"I wanna go see Justin Bieber's movie NOW!"

"I will not eat green eggs and ham."

Not surprisingly, many songs are also written in iambs. I challenge you to find a few.

As to whom Shakespeare was writing his sonnets and why sonnets were invented, that is a discussion for another day. I hope you all will begin to embrace the art and skill of these poems as we delve deeper in the Shakespearean world.


Below are my slides from the lesson, as promised:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Salutations Is My Fancy Way of Saying Hello

Yes, that is a Charlotte's Web reference. Five points to Gryffindor. I am excited to work with you this semester in all things ELA and hopefully some things not so ELA.

I hail from Brooklyn, but I am originally from St. Louis - home to the greatest baseball player in the history of the game i.e. Albert Pujols. I am a cinephile (my fancy way of saying that I love movies) and, consequently, addicted to Netflix. After a hard day of work, nothing is more soothing to listen to than Billie Holliday or Blind Willie McTell.

I am already learning a lot about you through your blogs. They are very impressive. I will do my best to participate in your virtual classroom just as much a I will be in your actual classroom. 

Alright, lunch break is over. See you in 103.