Teaching Macbeth virtually…it can be done! Despite qualms about the viability of teaching Shakespeare to young elementary students in a virtual classroom, I have, successfully proved that it can be done. For the past six months, I have taught two on-line Literary salons; ‘Macbeth’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ to 8-11 year old students from all over the world for Stanford University’s Education Program for Talented and Gifted Youth, (EPGY)
Similar to a book club, the Literary Salon classes meet weekly in the virtual classroom for eight consecutive weeks to discuss a variety of texts. Students are presented with pre-class reading assignments and activities so that they are prepared for the weekly discussions.
Using the Carel Press Shorter Shakespeare Series version of both plays, and a variety of film sources to supplement the text, these young students gain an understanding and appreciation of the material, in a context where they can discuss with, and learn from their peers. Each class ran well over the one hour set limit as these enthusiastic and sophisticated students discussed the nuances of our tragic hero and his manic wife. They wanted to keep talking as they delved deeper and deeper into the Macbeths’ arrogance, madness, and death. They argued about the most effective way to portray fairies if they were directing ‘The Dream.’ They laughed at the 1909 silent movie version of ’A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, but thought that the Mechanicals depicted in this version were much better than those in the 1981 BBC’s version of the play.
The enthusiasm for this class continued well after the end of the course. The students wanted more! After much discussion with these opinionated young people, they decided to create a final project for inclusion on the ‘myShakespeare’ blog. Since these students hail from a variety of countries and states, they decided to create a visual representation that connects the play ’Macbeth’ with their home country. “It is a global project after all,’ they told me. Some contributed videos and others photographs. You can see their results posted on the ‘myShakespeare’ blog, and I think you will agree that the enthusiasm both impressive and infectious.
The Dean, was impressed with the caliber of the discussion and the intensity of the on line learning experience. Below you can see the students’ work. The Literary salon classes are still a new addition to our department’s schedule of offerings and the next one; ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is now online this autumn.
Instructor at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California
Hunter’s project http://youtu.be/TcfsbeLp-DQ
Sander’s project (above image)
Jim’s project - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcuYnP5F4Gs
Daytona’s project - http://youtu.be/4vpbjdJs0AU
Ira’s project - http://youtu.be/bLixL4qnvMI
Peyton’s project (above image)