Using dance to teach Shakespearean literature

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Delphia Maria Birchfield (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Mary Adams

Abstract: Examining the obstacles of teaching beginning Shakespeare students, whether in middle school, high school, or undergraduate levels, this study explores integrating dance as a teaching method to improve students’ engagement in lessons. Summarizing some of the shortfalls of current approaches used to teach plays to populations that are inexperienced in Shakespearean studies, by presenting scholarly and anecdotal insights, the research examines the potential of dance to reach this audience. The exploratory study provides a structured program of research into these issues, and proposes a methodology for such an investigation. By assessing beginning engagement levels, and manipulating the level of students’ participation through using dance to encourage their direct interaction with the chosen literature, it should be possible to distinguish the influence of these factors on the quality of students’ attention outcomes. Applying this theory involves an assessment instrument used to record the effects of these ideas as they are practiced in an undergraduate Shakespeare class. The time in this class is used to observe students’ engagement prior to and following the teaching of Shakespeare’s Othello through movement. The students and instructor are surveyed before the movement lesson concerning their experience in English classes, preferred methods of study, and suggestions for improvement. All participants, class members and professor, are then surveyed and interviewed after the lesson to collect their reactions to the experience—information that provides the basis for measuring outcomes and analyzing results. After reviewing the trends and patterns of the responses, conclusions of the study determine the effectiveness of this approach. Suggestions are then made to assist educators in incorporating this method into their own teaching. An appendix of movement terms and clues is provided to help teachers find resources that support this endeavor.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2009
Creative Movement in the English Classroom, Dance and Teaching Literature, English Teachers, Integrating Arts in Education, Pedagogy, Shakespearean Pedagogy
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616 -- Study and teaching
Dance in education

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