Arturo Schomburg Satellite Academy
English Course
Shakespeare and Short Fiction
Teacher: Noah

Narrative Overview of the Course:
In Shakespeare and Short Fiction, we focus both on decoding Elizabethan English and discussing/responding to Shakespeare’s themes in Othello and Hamlet, specifically issues of race, gender, trust, betrayal, angst, and family difficulties. The plays are treated as scripts, texts that can be performed or interpreted in many ways. As a result, there is no focus on ‘the right answer,’ and the shared texts of the classroom become conduits to pressing issues in the learners’ lives. We continually imagine what these scripts might look like if performed in the context of the Bronx in 2002, and what differences, if any, this shift would cause for the themes of racism, trust, betrayal, angst, or family difficulties. Film versions of Shakespeare’s works allow for a comparison of staging and editing differences in disparate accounts of the plays. We also compare and contrast the themes of the plays to issues raised in short fiction by Langston Hughes and Julia Alvarez. Using Shakespeare’s plays and fiction from this century allow us to examine our questions concerning personal relationships (trust, betrayal, racism, family) through several genres and points of view.

Topics to be Included:
This course will be broken into eight units, which are as follows:
• Introductory activities
• Reading and Responding to Othello
• Reading and Responding to Langston Hughes’ “Father and Son”
• Reading and Responding to Hamlet
• Reading and Responding to selections from Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
• Writing Literary Analysis Essays
• ELA preparation and assessment
• Portfolio preparation and practice

Skills to be mastered:
The skills we work on in Shakespeare and Short Fiction stem from a focus on critical thinking: each skill revolves around empowering the student to look at and understand the world in new ways. Group discussions necessitate the skills of active listening and tolerance for differing viewpoints, provided those points of view are supported and adequately debated. Students often work in groups to decide how to re-write a passage or create a character analysis. This necessitates cooperative learning and working toward common goals with those who may have a different perspective or skill level. Thus the students are given the opportunity to teach each other and add to each others’ knowledge and skill base. In their writing, students navigate the revision process through peer editing, and students learn to assess each others’ writing through rubrics similar to those used on the ELA. Students improve their writing, comprehension, and decoding abilities through interacting and responding to the text.

Instruction Strategies and Assessment Strategies
Goals: In this course, we work toward all learners having the ability to respond to the text through multiple genres of writing and speaking. Upon completion of this course, learners will be well on their way to being prepared to face the ELA. Students will be able to traverse the different ‘codes’ of English that we will be dealing with: Elizabethan English, Standard English, and Everyday English (the vernacular). This experience with code-switching is invaluable to further education, where students are exposed to forms of language that are at first unfamiliar. Further, decoding is an important part of the ELA and other standardized assessments. Vocabulary quizzes and activities lead to an increased vocabulary base. Students also respond to the script through persuasive essays, personal letters, resumes, theater and film reviews, character analyses, performances, poems, scene re-writes, and journal entries. In all of these genres, students will gain the ability to brainstorm/pre-write, organize their ideas, and work toward a final draft through the revision process.

Instruction: This course provides a balanced approach toward learning, a blend of progressive and traditional methodologies. Projects alternate between individual and communal work, and traditional skill work is employed so that learners can become comfortable with the conventions of Standard English. When doing skill work, modeling is vital so that learners always have examples from which to begin. As shared meanings and interaction are extremely important to the learning process, group work is held in high esteem, yet students are also individually assessed through their own writing. Large and small group discussions, writing shares, and personal letters ensure that each student’s voice is heard to some degree. In all of the course’s activities, the goal is to begin with the familiar and, through “scaffolding,” to continually build on the known by guiding learners through new ways of thinking and communicating.

Assessment: Students are mainly assessed through unit projects from which their final course portfolio will be comprised. To ensure that students see the differences between writing and speaking genres, many projects are multi-genre. This allows students to learn how certain forms of writing or speaking are useful (or not useful) in terms of reaching the desired goal of communication. Assessment of written work is done with rubrics that are similar to the grading method used on the ELA. Group projects, class discussions, vocabulary quizzes, comprehension and grammar work, and regular homework also contribute to assessment of students’ progress in this course.

Alignment with State Standards:
This course is aligned to the New York State Performance Standards in terms of the guidelines for reading, writing, responding to literature, speaking and listening, and usage of English. Learners work on the skill of reading for specific information and learn new vocabulary through context clues. Similarly the expository writing in the course corresponds to the requirements for the writing component or the standard section of responding to literature. Group discussions and shares (for both individual and communal projects) fulfill the speaking and listening needs of learners. The focus on revision and the writing process also provides skill work to accord to the usage of the English language component.

Shakespeare and Short Fiction Long-term Plan

Week one: Introductory and group-building activities
Lessons on iambic pentameter, code-switching activities, drama warm-ups

Weeks two through five: Reading and responding to Othello, writing scenes in contemporary English, multi-genre project (persuasive essay, critical lens essay, poems, artwork), letter-writing, character analyses, newspaper project, vocabulary decoding activities, writing conventions, film comparisons

Week six: Reading and responding to Langston Hughes’ “Father and Son,” letter-writing, making comparisons between Othello and “Father and Son” in terms of the racism, interracial relationships, the role of women, and the betrayals

Weeks seven through ten: Reading and responding to Hamlet, writing scenes in contemporary English, multi-genre project (persuasive essay, critical lens essay, poems, artwork), letter-writing, character analyses, newspaper project, vocabulary decoding activities, writing conventions, film comparisonsWeek eleven: Reading and responding to selections from Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, letter-writing, making comparisons between Hamlet and Alvarez’s work in terms of angst, loss of faith in the world, overcoming difficulty, relationships, and family problems

Weeks twelve through fifteen: Working on Literary Analysis Essay, comparing or contrasting characters or themes between two of our four pieces of literatureWeek sixteen: ELA preparation: taking and assessing practice ELA Regents exams

Week seventeen: Portfolio preparation and practice