by Rachel Taliaferro
Studying Shakespeare in high school was a fairly passive experience for me. The majority of my literature teachers had students read the assigned Shakespeare works at home, then would show their respective modern film adaptations during class with few discussions or activities. I'll be generous and say that the teachers did this in an effort to make the material more relevant to us, but I was mostly just delighted for the chance to watch movies in class, as I'm sure many of the other students were.
Over at Edutopia, English professor Rick Taylor has a blog post about teaching Shakespeare by stoking students' imaginations. He encourages teachers to set aside the modern-day Shakespeare interpretations and to invite students into the past by having them imagine what life was like when the plays were actually written. By giving historical context to the vocabulary, the allusions, and the imagery in the plays, students are able to use all of their senses to come up with their own unique interpretations, resulting in a new appreciation and understanding of the plays and the themes within them.
For more tips on stimulating interest while teaching Shakespeare, be sure to check out our Advanced Placement Classroom series, which features major works like Hamlet and Macbeth.