Sunday, 21 February 2016

Lord of the PowerPoints - Shakespeare


One PowerPoint slide to rule them all,

One PowerPoint slide to find them;

One PowerPoint slide to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

There is one resource above all I constantly use. Each time I visit Shakespeare I go to this one little slide I made a few years ago. I use it with any year group and usually it is met with a lot of success and fruitful discussions. And, here, for your benefit, it is:

What choices has Shakespeare made for this scene?
       Inside vs outside
        day vs night
        home vs away
        public vs private
        soliloquy  vs dialogue
        action vs inaction
        political vs social vs religious
       men vs women vs men and women
        positive vs negative
        comic vs tragic vs serious
        long vs short
        plot-driven vs not plot-driven
        family vs friends vs enemies vs lovers
        blank verse vs prose vs both 

One small, simple PowerPoint slide and I have had students explore the structure of whole plays precisely and clearly. Recently, we have used it in the analysis of ‘Macbeth’ and the class’ fruitful discussion led us to the idea that Shakespeare keeps alternating between the private and public thoughts of the characters across the scenes. The public scenes tend to me friendly, civil scenes and those are punctuated by scenes of darkness and decay. There are daggers in men’s smiles sand there are daggers and smiles in the structure of Macbeth.

The great thing about this slide is that it needs very little teaching. It is a plug-in and go resource. You know that scene we just read, which of these can you tick off. Then, the important questions kick in:
How does this compare with the previous scene?

Why has Shakespeare made these choices? What is the benefit of this choice?

What choices do you think Shakespeare will make with his next scene?

Like all good PowerPoints, you tend to have another one just in case. Lord of the PowerPoints – Part 2. And here is another one, I use with top sets.

Which words can we use to describe the characters?
       Catalyst
       Foil
       Contrast /juxtaposition 
       Mirror 
       Cipher
       Protagonist
       Antagonist
       Tragic
       Comic
       Anti-hero
       Minor / major
       Symbolic
       Stereotypical  

A large part of my degree was focused on drama and I relish the chance to teach Shakespeare every year. Yet, each year I use two PowerPoints. Simple, short and without any pictures – because that’s how I ‘rock ‘n’ roll’. Minimum work – I’ don’t even both with a background and go for black text on white slide – maximum output.

Thanks for reading,

Xris    

1 comment:

  1. Really interesting blog, thank you. I am definitely going to experiment with this. I hope this is not a stupid question, but what is your perception of a cipher? The noun can mean "zero" or "a disguised way of writing", how would you relate this to character?

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