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Lesson Plan: Shakespeare via Rap

Updated on September 26, 2012

The Importance of Aesthetic Education by Maxine Greene

"Education,"as I view it, is a process of enabling persons to become different, to enter the multiple provinces of meaning that create perspectives on the works. To enter these provinces (be they those identified with the arts, the social sciences, the natural sciences), the learner must break with the taken for granted, what some call the "natural attitude," and look through the lenses of various ways of knowing, seeing, and feeling in a conscious endeavor to impose different orders upon experience.


"Aesthetic education," then, is an intentional undertaking designed to nuture appreciative, reflective, cultural, participatory engagements with the arts by enabling learners to notice what is there to be noticed, and to lend works of art their lives in such a way that they can achieve them as variously meaningful. When this happens, new connections are made in experience: new patterns are formed, new vistas are opened. Persons see differently, resonate differently; as Rilke wrote in one of his poems, they are enabled to pay heed when a work of art tells them, "You must change your life." (1940/1974, p.93).

Excerpts taken from Maxine Greene's work, Variations On A Blue Guitar: The Lincoln Center Institute Lectures on Aesthetic Education

Reframing a Rigid World

We have all heard of and used the adage, "it is written in stone," in so many instances. In fact, it has been overused in my opinion because nothing should be unmovable or petrified. The act of living and learning are processes that need to be fluid, exponential and fertile like the beings who embark on these journeys.

To that end, as educators, we must be mindful of the fact that the products in our care, those we have sworn a dedication to academically enrich are organic living beings. And, like all living things, they need to be given experiences that will extricate them from stagnation and enable them to grow.

Unfortunately, the sad state of affairs in our educational system today, the current reforms, have devolved academia into a "genericized"conveyor built product that is only fit to service a fixed institutionalized setting. It is why we no longer hold a position of strength in this sector of the marketplace globally.

It is my fervent hope, that during my lifetime, I would love to see a return to authenticity in education that parallels current needs, where the arts will be embraced, uniting subject matter across many disciplines, captivating hearts, illuminating minds, elevating discourse and provoking learners to want more than the mundane.



Shakespeare via Rap

The most important thing we can do as educators is to facilitate learning by making the learning, "student centered." We must also make the learning relevant to the students we teach.

So, how do we go about morphing critical works like Shakespeare's, Romeo and Juliet into a palatable feast? Well, simply put, we configure it to the culture we are educating. And, that culture feeds off of reality shows and musical competitions.

Having said that, creating a learning experience aligned to this structure is easily executed and I will blueprint the steps for you as follows:

1. Decide which reality show interests your students the most. Yes, take a vote. Align it with the election process. Work with the social studies department and hold an election (America Votes!).


2. An Exemplar: Let's say you are going to reconfigure the program, The Voice. Students are assigned the homework of watching this program and understanding its dynamics. A review of the show will be conducted in class, possibly seeing a DVD version if time permits. Have the class vote for 4 judges. The four judges will be responsible for the blind auditions (and that means that the judges will have to understand the passages being auditioned---does the rap align with the essence of meaning from the original work?). Students will read passages from the critical work, digest these passages and then they will spin them into "rap" versions and sing them (or recite them) for the judges. A side bar: You have to understand what you have read in order to transform it into a rap version (comprehension).

3. Once the class has voted and has studied the format being used, the critical work is to be divided among the student body. Every student then becomes a "peer tutor" to the rest of the class by virtue of having to convey meaning borne from the verse they are responsible for delivering.

4. Executing this mission will have to be divided into the periods you allot for this critical work to be covered (a bells and cells approach, unfortunately). However, wouldn't it be cool to conduct it in the auditorium and to the totality of the student body in the building? Just saying.......

5. This process should evolve until the entire work is completed and digested.



Summing it all Up

This lesson should help students to not only enjoy Shakespeare, but to understand his work and be able to articulate its meaning in a very palpable way.

This can be elevated even more by creating an open forum for the audience, opening it up to questioning by audience members and/or underscoring important verses from the raps, drawing connections to the original body of work, much like a Socratic circle. Getting everyone involved is essential (the motivational aspect).

In any event, have fun with the learning (you and the students). Teach them that although we read bodies of work from other eras, these pieces have relevance in today's culture.

Teaching Romeo and Juliet

How did you study this play?

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Romeo and Juliet

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  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile image
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    Robin Grosswirth 4 years ago from New York

    b. Malin Thank you so much for your warm welcome. I wish your granddaughter well. I do hope that she is successful and can have fun with teaching. Thanks for reading this hub.

    suzettenaples Thanks for your accolades. Coming from a seasoned professional, well, that means a lot to me. I am thrilled that we share the same educational philosophy.

    Billybuc (Bill) Thanks for stopping in and for the pre-mention:-0) Your praise is always appreciated.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    I wanted you to know that I will be mentioning you in my Saturday hub; didn't want you to miss my praise of you. :)

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 4 years ago from Taos, NM

    I have to agree with your philosophy of education - yes, it should be student centered at all times. I always tried to do lessons such as this with my students. Music was an integral part of my classroom and lessons and yes, my students have written raps in response to readings of literature. We have had so much fun with lessons such as this. My principal nearly fainted dead away, when he saw me in the auditorium with my class on stage performing during class time. Education does not have to be dull and boring. Thanks for an insightful, interesting and informative article! Very thought provoking!

  • b. Malin profile image

    b. Malin 4 years ago

    Learning can be Fun as well as Educational. You have definitely proven that Robin, in this Wonderful Hub.

    My Granddaughter, is now student teaching, and has so many New and Interesting Ideas of what she would like to Incorporate into teaching...Hopefully she will get the chance to do so.

    I now look forward to Following your Hubs, Robin. A Warm Welcome to Hub Pages, we are like a "Family" of Writers here!

  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile image
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    Robin Grosswirth 4 years ago from New York

    teaches12345 Thank you. It really means a lot. And, I agree, motivation is key.

    IntegrityYes Thanks!

  • profile image

    IntegrityYes 4 years ago

    I definitely voted up.

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

    Your approach to teaching Shakespeare is one that I admire. it is always better when you can add fun to the learning experience. It makes them retain the lesson longer and promotes interest of the subject. Great post and voted up.

  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile image
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    Robin Grosswirth 4 years ago from New York

    Bill: Look at the Edutopia site. Project based, infusing the arts is a great way to teach. I am sure you were a wonderful teacher with a brilliant and long career. Like you, I understand that the operative word is "active engagement." Thanks for taking the time to read my work.

    Best,

    Robin

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Your fervent hope is my fervent hope, Robin! Bravo for this hub. I would have been proud to have taught alongside of you. I never taught in the Arts but I am a huge advocate for them, and I am also a huge advocate for doing anything necessary to engage students to actively participate in their education.

    I like you more each day.

    bill

  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile image
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    Robin Grosswirth 4 years ago from New York

    rcrumple Thanks for stopping in to read my lesson plan. Traditional meaning didactic learning I assume? This is where the students listen to a lecture passively and hopefully become consumers of the information being presented, correct?

    While this format is regarded as scholarly and necessary in college, it isn't the same up through high school. And, discipline can be achieved by virtue of the structure put forth in this lesson. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to play this out; however, the learning is more active and the information will be retained.

    Oftentimes, we see fun as frivolous, but it really isn't. And, creativity leads to high order thinking that will inevitably be the foundation for success and achievement when mature enough to engage in scholarly academia.

    Thanks for the compliment, much appreciated.

    Best,

    Robin

  • rcrumple profile image

    Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

    I can understand what you're doing, and recognize that it makes learning somewhat fun. I'm also aware of the ridiculous situation you have to follow thanks to various government programs. My only concern is that there is no discipline being taught here. It may have been somewhat boring for some, but the discipline traditional learning installed assisted me tremendously during college. If this isn't taught in the school systems, and obviously not at home, where do the kids learn it? Great hub and strong presentation! Up & interesting!