Teacher Review for Starting Shakespeare

Good introduction, but wish there was more

Christine F.
Classroom teacher
Van Wyck Junior High School
Wappingers Falls, United States
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My Subjects English Language Arts
My Rating
Learning Scores
My Students Liked It Yes
My Students Learned Yes
I Would Recommend It No
Setup Time Less than 5 minutes
Great for Further application
Knowledge gain
Small group
Great with General
How I Use It
I only have access to one ipad, so I was looking for a way to use this as part of a station activity. This app would work best if there were enough ipads for partners to work together, but I can use parts of the app for one station. The app contains the following: textual summaries of Shakespeare's World and Shakespeare's plays, narrated and acted out summaries of Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream divided into two parts, brief descriptions of the major characters, a summary of a key scene of each play, and an interactive learning journey for students about that key scene. The app provides a well written and age appropriate summary of Shakespeare himself, as well as background about his world, and the Globe theater. This is not interactive in any way, so it isn't necessary to use the app to impart this information. The app provides easy to follow summaries of the plot which I see being used best prior to the reading of the actual text. However, using only one ipad would mean that students at other stations would have to do other work that would not necessarily make sense before knowing the plot. Again, having ipads for everyone to use at the same time would work better for the summaries. While the actors are great, the same few are used for several roles which can be confusing to some students, especially when the plot itself was designed to be confusing. The key scenes featured for both plays have to do with spells. For Macbeth, it is the witches' spell, and for A Midsummer Night's Dream, it is the spell cast by the flower that causes Titania to fall in love with Bottom as a donkey. Using both works could point out a common motif used by Shakespeare for compare/contrast purposes. The Learning Journey for Macbeth has students working with the text of the witches' spell by dragging the adjectives into blanks (Mad Lib style). Then they come up with their own gross ingredients and draw pictures of them, write their own spells, and record themselves reading it. A Midsummer Night's Dream Learning Journey is similar. First students use spinning wheels to choose a new magic spell (e.g everything smells like sneakers, or various other combinations), then they write new dialogue between Bottom and Titania, draw an alternate setting, and record themselves performing their new scene. Because I only have one ipad, I would probably have students use the ipads for choosing a new spell, and then write dialogue and draw scenes on paper, and then use the ipad to record the new scenes,or even use their own devices to record.
My Take
For what this app provides, I don't think it is worth the money, but because I purchased it, I will use it to get students excited about reading Shakespeare's plays. It provides a very superficial understanding of the plot, and much is left out. For example, all of the characters aren't described, and while the plot summary is a good summary, that's all it is. Students will like the learning journeys, which are engaging. However, the activities aren't very deep, and they might not do much for helping them understand the language/plot of the story, but at this introductory stage, getting them hooked is crucial, and having them play with the concepts of spells will do that. Once I saw the first learning journey, I had hoped there would be similar ones for other key scenes, but there was only one. I see this as being useful for an introduction to the play, or one supplemental activity after reading the spell scenes, but if you plan on reading the entire play, as I do with my students, it doesn't offer much more.