by: JARREL WADE World Staff Writer, Tulsa World
Active lessons stressed
A meddler may be who mixt Shakespeare and teens, but schooling those who teach the art yields gold.
Writing in iambic pentameter is no simple task, but teaching students to understand and enjoy Shakespeare in any meter is a feat many middle school English teachers and scholars of all levels fail each semester.
That is why Tulsa's branch of the English-Speaking Union hosted scholars from the the Folger Shakespeare Library from Washington, D.C., and others from around the country this week at the University of Tulsa's Zink Hall.
The Teaching Shakespeare Institute collected Shakespeare scholars from various fields of study and 30 teachers who learned new ways to teach Shakespeare in the program's three different styles of learning: scholarly lecture, teaching classes and teaching through performance.
Ruth Ann Willsey, chairwoman of the local English-Speaking Union's Shakespeare workshop, said the program brings together the country's most talented teachers to offer participants active, practical ways of teaching Shakespeare and the love of language.
"This has been so exciting for me. I can't believe how well it's going," she said. "I didn't do any exercises this morning because I was so tired" from Monday night's workshop, she said.
Michael LoMonico, Folger Shakespeare Library senior consultant, said the teachers who attended were among the best he has encountered through the program, which draws attention wherever it goes.
"We had people apply from out of Oklahoma that we didn't take because we wanted to concentrate on Oklahoma," he said.
About 23 of the institute's participants came from Oklahoma and seven came from out of state, including one from Idaho and another from North Carolina.
Amber Harrington, a teacher at Edison Preparatory School, said the program was intense, but it gave her an educational opportunity that is not specifically offered at many schools.
"I'm a drama teacher, so there isn't any professional development for me. I've never been to Shakespeare camp," she said.
Harrington and fellow teacher Miranda Johnson were performing in a scene Tuesday from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in which Caleen Jennings, professor at American University, told them to overact and have an action for each word to find individual meaning in the play.
"Leap in. Overact. Ham it up," Jennings told the enthusiastic participants. "We are our students."
She said the group was achieving the impossible with only two days devoted to acting and learning to teach Shakespeare from a stage instead of a book.
Lars Engle, chairman of the English department at TU, was a participant in the institute for acting but was also a faculty member who provided morning lectures and seminars.
"I tend to be teaching literature rather than drama, but we often use drama. We do little acting exercises in my classroom," he said.
Paul Stevenson, Edison Preparatory School curriculum specialist, said Tulsa was fortunate to get the institute to help improve local teachers' knowledge and teaching of classic literature.
"It's a real plum for Tulsa. It's something I think Tulsa can be proud of," he said.