Friday, December 3, 2010

Sixth Graders Learn Shakespeare Desk-Free

The first thing Sandy Guinto (above) did when the school year started was to remove every desk from her 6th grade language arts classroom at Waggoner Road Middle School in Reynoldsburg. Out in the hallway the desks went. Inside the room she arranged all of the students’ chairs in a big circle with ample room in the center for active learning.

Guinto is one of 38 Columbus-area teachers involved in a program that’s at the heart of a partnership between The Ohio State University and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Spearheaded by The Arts Initiative at Ohio State, the professional development program is transforming the way children are taught and is based on the RSC’s renowned “Stand Up for Shakespeare” program, which advocates “Doing Shakespeare on Your Feet; Seeing it Live; and Starting it Earlier.”

“It was very scary to start this process,” Guinto admits. “As an educator, we are taught how to arrange desks so that classroom management is easier. When the desks were gone, all of the safety of what I had known for management went out the window. But I jumped in and have been learning ever since.”

She adds, “It is unbelievably amazing as I watch students – who consider school to be extremely hard – work with Shakespeare’s text and understand it. They have debates about why a character says or does things. They are challenged to have an opinion and be able to justify it. They beg to do Shakespeare! How many times does a teacher get to hear that?”

One of her students had a similar reaction to the reconfigured classroom. “At the beginning of the year I was a little confused when I walked into Mrs Guinto’s room and there were no desks. I was like, where are the desks? But now I realize it’s really fun (to be active) without desks. And Shakespeare is fun!”

Guinto’s class is studying Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and using the play as a springboard for various school subjects. For example, they are just starting to work on their first quarter essay about their own “four personal worlds” based on the overlapping worlds that the fairy Puck experiences in the play.

They also are investigating Shakespeare’s characters. While Guinto was in Stratford-upon-Avon last summer, 10 master of fine arts acting students from Ohio State also went through the RSC training program, and are now visiting the schools to help with acting processes. One Ohio State student, Alison Vasquez, (right) recently came to Waggoner Road Middle School.

“Alison came to my classroom as Hippolyta so the students could interview the character,” Guinto explains. “She did an awesome job fielding some difficult questions posed to the Queen of the Amazon. The students were mesmerized when Alison ‘became’ Hippolyta and demonstrated how she can switch her voice to different dialects. One student was so captivated with an actor being in our room that she declared she wants to act when she grows up.”

Sandy Guinto is one of 38 Columbus-area teachers in grades 1-12 who are part of an intensive teacher professional development program called Stand Up for Shakespeare America, which is at the core of the unique partnership between The Ohio State University and the UK’s Royal Shakespeare Company.

Notable News

The for/word company, in association with Whistling in the Dark Theatre Co., presents a staged reading of a new play by Jen Schlueter. The Little Book, featuring Christina Ritter, Christopher Roche and Emily Bach, will be presented Sunday, Dec 5, at 3 pm in the Arts Initiative space in the South Campus Gateway alley (across from OAL and the Green Room). The play chronicles the story of EB White, once best known as the voice of The New Yorker, and later as the author of Stuart Little. It follows White's professional and personal experiences with two powerful women, and takes a look at the clash of the modern world with the Victorian, the tension between style and sentiment, and a battle over a book about a little mouse. Admission is free.

Don't forget the award winning Sketch by Number troupe presents The Eight Reindeer Monologues, a play by Jeff Goode, at 7:30 pm on Dec 9, 11 and 12 at the Green Room, in the South Campus Gateway alley. Cost is $10 at the door.

And Artillery Ohio presents its Holiday Art Market on Saturday, Dec 11, from 10 am to 5 pm at the Gateway Film Center at South Campus Gateway. Plenty of artist vendors will be offering items for your gift-buying browsing, from paintings and ornaments to pottery, glass and jewelry.

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