Are you a middle or high school teacher who now has to teach Shakespeare remotely?
Chaney Tullos, Alley’s Assistant Director of Education, has created an adaptable exercise that was designed to introduce students to Shakespeare’s poetry using a digital teaching platform. Having approached Shakespeare as an actor, director, AND teacher - his scaffolded approach eases students into the language while promoting active participation.
Shakespeare ZOOMED Instructions:
Before class starts, ask one or two outgoing students to think about a popular song they like (school appropriate) that utilizes poetic elements like rhyme. Ask them to memorize a few lines if they don’t know them already.
At the start of online class, establish an order for students and type it out in the chat feed. Ask students to memorize whom they follow.
Ask students to make sure their cameras are on and that they can quickly mute/unmute their mics.
If you haven’t already, make sure students understand that Shakespeare was a poet and that people in Elizabethan England didn’t walk down the street talking like the characters in Shakespeare’s plays. In fact, Shakespeare made up many words, so his audiences would have known fewer words than we do.
Remind them that these plays were written to be performed by actors who use their whole body.
Also remind students that we act every day and that we also usually listen to poetry every day via music.
Have one or two of the students you chose to sing or recite a few lyrics of a song they like. Using the chat feature, ask the class to name some poetic elements.
Introduce the idea of iambic pentameter if you haven’t already.
Ten syllables. A repeating pattern of unstressed then stressed.
Tip: Keep it simple. We are going to make them feel it.
Type out this line for students in the chat box: we HIT the WORDS we WANT the WORLD to HEAR
Have students speak the line, with each person taking a syllable in the order you established in the chat. This modern, monosyllabic line of iambic pentameter will help ease them in.
Have students play with stress and unstress via their relationship to the camera.
Stressed words should be close to the camera and colorful.
Unstressed words are farther away and less emphatic. Encourage them to be creative but not compromise the words.
Repeat over and over. Don’t let them get bored with it. The rigor and repetition will increase their comfort if you push them to be creative with their delivery. Maybe they can grab a prop to help?
As they become more comfortable, have them play around with cadence and color of each word.
Once they get the hang of it, have them repeat the exercise with a line that fits into their world. One that works well in my city is: The rain in Houston comes at any time.
It’s time to onto a line of Shakespeare:
But soft what light through yonder window breaks?
Two households both alike in dignity
Or a regular line from the play you are studying
After they grasp the rhythm, have each student do the entire line and pass it. Try layering on acting circumstances or stakes
More Resources on Shakespeare can be found on alleyresourced.com.
Meet the Artist
Alley ECE, Assistant Director of Education
Chaney Tullos has worked regionally as an actor, director, and stage manager. He has performed with companies including Ford’s Theatre, the American Shakespeare Center, Virginia Stage Company, The Colorado Shakespeare Festival, SITI Company, and the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival. Before moving to Houston, he served as Associate Artistic Director of the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival and was an adjunct faculty member at Tulane University where he taught courses in Acting, Shakespeare, and Stage Management. Additionally, Chaney also served on the faculty of the prestigious New Orleans Center for Creative Arts where he helped students earn spots in the nation’s best acting programs. He holds an MFA in Acting from LSU and is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA.