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The Folger Method

A Revolutionary Way to Teach and Learn Complex Texts

What is the Folger Method?

Imagine a classroom where:

  • The place is buzzing with the energy of student-driven learning.
  • Students shout, whisper, and play with lines from Shakespeare and other authors.
  • Small groups discuss, with textual evidence and passion, which parts of a text are the most compelling and how to perform them effectively.
  • All students bring their identities and customs, their whole selves, to fresh performances of juicy scenes and passages.
  • Every student experiences firsthand that literary language is their language, demanding to be interpreted and re-interpreted, questioned and yes, even resisted sometimes.
  • Joy and rigor work hand in hand.
  • Where every student realizes they can do hard things on their own.

This is a real place. This is your classroom when using the Folger Method.

Why wait? Dive in! You’ve got this!

8 Foundational principles

The following 8 principles form the foundation of the Folger Method approach to literature.

The arc of learning

Students progress through an arc that reflects the architecture of a play. Right from the start, students are doing things directly with the original language. No teacher modeling. The learning is scaffolded by increasing the length and complexity of the language, by following this arc:

A grey arc with red flags at equally spaced intervals that indicate each component of the Folger Method arc of learning.

9 Essential  practices

The Folger Method involves nine essential learning activities that get students connecting directly and deeply with literary language. These are student-centered, language-focused protocols that work with a wide range of texts and units of study. Below are simply the names of the essential practices.

Touchstone questions for teachers

As teachers, we use these questions to guide our planning, teaching, and reflection:

  1. Are Shakespeare’s words in ALL students’ mouths?
  2. Are ALL students collaborating with each other and Shakespeare?
  3. Has the voice of every student been included, honored, and amplified?
  4. Have students bravely and respectfully confronted the tough issues (identity, difference, power) raised by the text?
  5. Did I, the teacher, get out of the way?

What teachers say about the Folger Method

“The Folger Method has changed how I teach not just Shakespeare but everything. It has transformed my classroom, my students, and me.” – High school English teacher, Iowa

“With this method, my students are reading more deeply than they ever have before. They are breaking down language and really understanding it.” – High school English teacher, Washington, DC

“I am equipped and empowered to take risks as a teacher and let my students own their learning.” – High school English teacher, New York

“Students complain when it’s time to [leave]. I have gleefully stepped back so they can create scenes, shout [lines], toss words and lines, and cut speeches. They volunteer to read aloud even when reading aloud is hard for them. We dive in and focus on the words. It’s working.” – Middle school English and drama teacher, Maryland
“I now have my tools to get students inside any text.” – High School English teacher, Georgia
“Our English department has ‘Folger-ized’ practically everything we do, and students are so much more engaged, excited, and challenged!” – High school English teacher, California
“Connecting with the words this way empowers [students] to become stronger, more confident and enthusiastic readers and communicators.” – Community college English instructor, Massachusetts