For fifteen years I’ve been trying to make my students active readers. I’ve used study questions; I’ve used critical thinking questions; I’ve used annotation rubrics. While all of these were successful on some level or another, and while I still employ guided questions, especially with struggling readers, annotations have been my “go to” for the past five years. The problem I was finding with my students’ annotations is that many of them were flat: they would underline or highlight, and they would write a word or two in the margin sometimes to clarify why they underlined or highlighted, but true analysis was missing. It would peep up during our class discussions, but we spent precious minutes trying to remember exactly why they chose a particular quotation. I knew there had to be a better way.
My AP students enter my class having read Romeo and Juliet in ninth grade… and that’s it. No Othello in 10th. No Julius Caesar. No Hamlet. It’s the hand I’m dealt and rather than lament this, I have to get to work building skill as quickly as I can. This isn’t an easy task because Shakespeare’s language can be difficult for experienced readers, let alone ones that lack exposure.
I knew I had to develop a way to reduce their inhibitions, build their close-reading skills, front load information about the play, and make it fun and inviting at the same time. That’s when I came up with Shakespearean Musical Chairs. Here’s what I do: … KEEP READING