What does a poor teacher do when circumstances force her to return to online learning at the start of the drama unit? Create a Web 2.0 tool, of course.
I spent weeks planning my unit on Macbeth prior to the winter break only to be sidelined by the spread of Omicron. At my school, we long ago decided that since Shakespeare was meant to be watched and not read, we would begin with the movie and pivot to study important scenes and passages after that.
Last year, I discovered the PBS version of the play starring Patrick Stewart and was blown away by it. The movie is available for free on the PBS site, but only so many viewings are allowed each month. In class, I can show the video to my students, racking up maybe 10 viewings (2 classes watching over 5 days), but at home, sending students to the site to watch, I am looking at more than 300 views in a week, which helps to push the quota and shut down the availability.
My only other choices for cinematic quality movies (not stage productions) are the Fassbender version–featuring a nude Lady Macbeth–and the Polanski version–which shows Macduff’s son in full-frontal nudity and soldiers raping Macduff’s servants in the background of the scene that seals his family’s fate. Needless to say, neither is suitable for viewing in a grade 10 classroom. Unlike when we watch face-to-face with the Polanski version (or the Zeffierelli version of Romeo and Juliet just after they consummate their marriage), I can’t skip over these scenes if I ask them to watch at home.
Time constraints were another issue. We lost two days while the government pondered what to do with the situation (under the guise of pivot prep days) and (as would happen later) another two as snow days at the end of the two weeks, meaning that I lost almost a full instructional week when time was scarce to begin with. It is for this reason I made the shift to teaching Macbeth using Web 2.0 tools.
To put it simply,
Web 2.0 was coined to indicate all of the interactive tools available online. These tools “enable users to create, share, collaborate and communicate their work with others, without any need of any web design or publishing skills.
Using YouTube and Google Docs, two Web 2.0 tools, I created my drama unit as follows:
- Students were given copies of the organizer.
- We watched videos of important passages and/or scenes on YouTube (links in handout for easy access).
- Students were given 5-10 minutes to annotate the passage (we learned how to annotate early in the semester).
- We took up the answers to the given questions.
- I made notes on a master copy that I later shared with students.
- Students completed a Google Form diagnostic quiz after each act to test their understanding of what was discussed as we took up the questions on the organizer.
This took us 6 days (+/- one day) of classes to complete. The nice thing was that it killed two birds with one stone: not only did we watch the important passages, but we also went back to make sense of them.
The reason this worked so effectively was due to the work done on the context of Macbeth prior to beginning the play, which included watching the Animated Macbeth (also on YouTube), looking at character relationships, and act-by-act breakdowns of the play. Because students began this task knowing the specifics of the play, it was okay (I think) if we didn’t watch the whole play (which we couldn’t without breaking copyright or my responsibilities as a teacher).
Here is the link to the Google Doc I shared with students.
For more ideas as to how to integrate Web 2.0 tools in your classroom, buy 22 Practical Ideas: Web 2.0 Teacher’s Toolkit by Elise Abram on Amazon.
Elise Abram is an educator in the GTA. She is the owner and operator of EMSA Publishing.