Wordplay Cowboys – teaching Shakespeare

Wordplay Cowboys is a learning activity based on transforming Shakespearean language into cowboy slang from Hollywood Westerns.

First read and summarize the play.

classroom Rand J
Students write scene summaries in groups and then share on the board.

Moving onto the Student Scribe activity, start by giving students an example. Make the example interactive. Here they are introduced to the activity and asked, as a class, to offer up verbally some possible dialog. First they must identify the scene.

This is a nice way of reinforcing students’ understanding of wordplay and checking for understanding of plot and character.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 6.53.23 amStudents then divide into groups with a handout on cowboy slang and the script for the scene they must translate. To make it easier, choose a well-known scene – The Balcony Scene. If they are confident, they may choose their own scene.

Suggested scaffold – list of cowboy slang:

* reload gunslinger * pilgrim * hit the trail gringo * fancypants * Hell of thing, killin’ a man

* burnin’ daylight * we deal in lead, friend * deed to the ranch * will, coffin, grave, grace

* dead in the dust * Bounty, Reward, Price on yer head * meltin’ cowboy’s heart * coddle

* Pretty as a picture * fancypants * cinch * We may not get out alive * humdinger

* like spittin’ in yer eye * cowboy up or bleed * yep * Howdy partner * what’s that stranger?

* Easy gal * I’m gonna blow yer head off * there’s right and there’s wrong * God dang

Students may be daunted from the start, however, it is a reasonably good formative activity to coax their performance and language abilities out before assessment tasks requiring these skills.

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Writing: Story egg surprise

A couple of Easters ago someone gave me a metal egg with chocolate inside. It was my first year of teaching. I came back to school to teach a novel unit that required students to write a reflective, imaginative memoir as a character in novels they disliked. Most of them disliked reading (full stop) – particularly the boys.

One morning I was out walking when something caught my eye. Long grass with the most delicate Santa Clauses – will o wisps. I gathered them up and took them home. I was in the middle of lesson planning to inspire these Year 10s to write memoirs as characters.

It was ambitious of me to think that I could incorporate experiential learning into my lessons, as a first-year teacher, particularly as the school’s pedagogical model was Explicit Teaching. It was all: I do, We do, You do.

But I gathered the students up to give them a little pep talk holding this metal egg in my hand. I asked them to guess what was inside.

story egg

I told them that every story should hold a surprise that delights the audience – this is the message that I have been told countless times by master story tellers and I was simply passing it on in hopefully a memorable way that imprinted upon their minds. I opened the story egg and let the will o wisps fly around the room. It was a demonstration and an experience. And my students produced some lovely work. Most of them wrote intently with great purpose. And it carried over into the poetry unit.

story surprise

Employment ads for teachers often say something like: must be familiar with contemporary pedagogical strategies. My interpretation of this is that they want someone who is familiar with the latest teaching and learning strategies to create engaging lessons and learning opportunities.

Well, I’ve watched teachers proudly trot out activities they have been satisfied with for years – and they are pleased to admit this. Tried and tested. Except that students of today aren’t the same as the students of just five years ago when there was no Snapchat or Instagram.

In 2005, I wrote a proposal for a website to engage new audiences. I found this lying in a box today while I was cleaning out rubbish.

And this is a story I noted:

“Digital natives teaching Gen X teachers in the classroom”

Teacher confiscates student’s PSP in class.

Teacher: “What do you want to be when you grow up Finn?”

Finn: “A gamer”

Teacher: “Check the dictionary, there’s no such thing Finn.”

Finn: “But Coca-Cola, Pepsi and PSPs aren’t in the dictionary either”

Teacher: “Um … no, but they are not  …”

Finn: “You’re not going to tell me that THEY don’t exist either!”

The bell rings. Finn turns to go back to his desk and the teacher looks at the classroom full of children playing computer games, talking on mobile phones and listening to iPods.

And this is the situation that teachers face in the classroom today. I think teachers need to surprise students in the same way as creative story tellers do.

PBS video resource: developing empathy

#identity #family #home #friends #Syria #empathy

Activity: Watch the video. Answer the questions. Write a reflective short response.

Everyone constructs their identity through their feelings about where they belong and what they are connected to. How many connections to Ossama’s identity are represented in the video?

Return to Homs

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