City of bones

The term ended yesterday; no classes today, but a day for teachers to wrap up and prepare report cards.  I’ll be going in to SA a little later, but the Snork Maiden is still sleeping, and I want to exercise and have breakfast in my own house, even if historically I get the most done when I start early.  I’ll probably start early tomorrow.

It was a stressful few days grading and dealing with the end of the term.  A couple of meetings, too, just to make time a little tighter.  But the first two days of Hamlet with the AP kids went really well, surely because I was so jammed for time that I did in fact make them do a lot of individual and small group work, and we watched the first 25 minutes or so of the film with David Tennant.  My favorite activity turned out to be this: I stuck one of those larger lined sticky notes on each person’s desk before they came in (one way to get them focused right away) and put on the board a list of concrete images, phrases and allusions from the “O, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt” soliloquy–something like this:

a dew

“weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable”

unweeded garden







and told them to jot down the list on the big sticky note and quickly write down whatever they remembered about how Hamlet uses the word or phrase–what he says about it, how he uses it to express his feelings.  No peeking at the book.  (They’d seen this soliloquy the previous day.)

So interesting!  For some of them the list evoked nearly everything, some of them almost nothing; some of them made educated guesses that turned out to express the ideas of the speech quite well; almost all of them wrote either “incestuous sheets” or “sheets–incest”–it was by far the most widely remembered item.  We had a quick discussion about the soliloquy and I liked the way that the speech seemed to have become more concrete and fixed in their minds.  I think.  You don’t always know what’s going on in there.  But I have the sense that I’ll be able to refer back to the soliloquy next week and they’ll remember: Oh right, unweeded garden, Hyperion to a satyr, incestuous sheets.

Someone noticed that “a dew” sounds like “adieu,” which made me happy EXCEPT that I really hope this isn’t because they were reading SporkNates or some forbidden guide the night before (I think I might have to start reading those–we’ve had a couple of brushes with plagiarism in other classes recently and it’s making me wonder how many kids are consulting them.  Our library subscribes to Literature Resource Center and JSTOR, so I might need to remind them that there are approved ways of getting support with reading, and that we do expressly forbid their consulting guides that are meant to substitute for doing the reading and thinking on your own).

We use the Folger editions for classroom Shakespeare, by the way, though we keep other editions, with more extensive notes, around to consult.

That was a wonderful antidote to a difficult week, as was the Snork Maiden’s first concert of high school.  She played both her instruments (the band director let her switch to sax for the final number) and it all sounded good to me, although afterwards all they could talk about were some problems with one of the jazz numbers.  Possibly the very best part was chatting afterwards with one of her friends and his parents, and then with one of the new kids, who was waiting for his ride–we stuck around so he wouldn’t have to wait by himself. They just seemed so relieved and delighted and happy to be in high school.  I’m so glad she didn’t drop out of band!


One response to this post.

  1. I love this lesson! I did a project once with sonnets where the students had to make a slideshow where they had to choose a visual image that represented each line of the sonnet, but some had to be figurative while others were concrete. They really enjoyed breaking the text down line by line.


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