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Teaching Shakespeare

What My Students Really Think About Studying Shakespeare

At the start of our Romeo and Juliet unit, I had my students begin a Digital Shakespeare Portfolio: a blog account that would house all of their annotations, as well as a place to discuss their thoughts on the interactive approach we’ve been trying out in class. So far, engagement has been high and responses have been positive. My students admit that sometimes the language can be tricky but that acting it out makes it fun and understandable. Oh, and they LOVE shouting Shakespearean insults at one another. Here are just a few of their comments from their Digital Shakespeare Portfolios:

  • My thoughts on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is that when we started to read it at first is that it was very confusing because it’s not like I hear poetry all the time to get a better idea on what they were saying, but as time when on I started to understand it and Shakespeare is very interesting to learn about. It’s interesting how the intertwined ideas of youth, time, aging, love, death  occur and recur throughout Shakespeare’s plays/stories. My favorite activity that we have done is the acting because it’s really fun saying some lines or words over and over again to get a better understanding.
  • My favorite part is when we actually got to act out the play. Acting it out helped me understand and analyze each scene better.
  • My favorite Shakespeare activity that we have done so far is acting out scenes from Act 1. Acting out the scenes really helped me to understand the conflict and emotion that was happening in Act 1. It was also fun and gave the class an opportunity to get up and move around. It let me experience Shakespeare in a different, interactive way.
  • My thoughts on Shakespeare is that he is a very poetic and descriptive person. He also adds humor in many of his plays but it can get confusing. I understand Shakespeare better when we read it out loud because instead of reading it, we can hear it and see it being done so we can know what is going on. My favorite activity so far was when we did the Shakespearean insults. That was my favorite activity because we used the language of Shakespeare to have fun with everyone and we did something that is used a lot today.
  • So far I am liking what we have done with Shakespeare’s work and how we have learned it. All of the activities we have done have helped my understand his work better. My favorite activity we have done was definitely acting the play and dissecting it. This was very helpful in helping me understand his meaning or the puns that were placed into the play. Shakespeare’s jokes and puns are sometimes hard to understand as today many words have changed meanings and by going over them in class I can appreciate Shakespeare more.

Getting started with Shakespeare is all about empowering students to say and hear the lines multiple times, and in a variety of ways. This practice not only removed their anxiety of having to learn the language, but by Act II my students have become experts, analyzing and annotating without truly realizing they’re doing it. For me, the key to unlocking Shakespeare is immersing them in the language– and being able to trace my students’ journeys via their digital portfolios has been illuminating.


I’m curious, what is the digital portfolio like? Do you have directions that you could share? We use Schoology and I’m trying to visualize how I can do this with JC and Macbeth. Great ideas!

Julie Hogan — July 24, 2017