Sharing The Bard With Natomas Students

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz


In a 7th grade classroom at Natomas Charter School’s Performing and Fine Arts Academy, students hurl insults at each other with passion and enthusiasm. 

Meanwhile, a teacher stands by prodding the teens to be meaner to each other.

In classrooms elsewhere, students may earn detention for being so harsh. But in 7th grade Language Arts, teacher Elise Wallace encourages students to use their best Shakespearean insults to demonstrate an understanding of metaphor and to fully experience the Bard’s gift of language.

Wallace is one of a select group of teachers participating in the Mondavi Arts Globe Theatre Academy. She is among 12 middle and high school teachers from the region studying Shakespeare and theater for several months.

“I cannot wait for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. To bring back the experience for my students, to teach them Shakespeare as it was intended, is truly magical.”

The teachers participate in workshops to learn classroom strategies, creative ways to use Shakespeare in the classroom and how to teach students to dissect the language of his plays.

“It’s all about embracing the idea that Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be seen, heard and experienced physically not read as words on a page,” Wallace said.

Wallace and colleague teachers are attending a series of workshops through University of California, Davis and the Los Rios Community College District. The cornerstone of the project is a two-week summer residency at the Globe Theatre in London. To prepare for the trip, professionals from the Globe Theatre will fly in to train the teachers.

In fall, when Wallace returns from the Globe, she and her students are scheduled to attend festival at the Mondavi Center to showcase their talents.

“I have never been to the Globe but when I launched my Shakespeare unit this year I took my kids to the Globe via Google Earth,” said Wallace. “They could not believe it was still there!”

At a recent Shakespeare workshop, an instructor reads an excerpt from Romeo and Juliet and students react to the emphasized words by running to the “good” wall or the “bad” wall. By reacting physically to the positive and negative associations with individual words, students are able to understand how confused Juliet was in this speech (delivered after she learns that Romeo killed her cousin Tybalt).

“Did ever a dragon keep so fair a cave?/ Beautiful tyrant! fiend angelical!…” (III.ii.74-75).

Speak Your Mind