#Shakespeare400: Shakespeare and Students “See Eye-to-Eye”

Idioms are word combinations that have a different meaning than the literal meanings of each word. In the texts of his plays, Shakespeare was very creative with these word combinations, and some of the idioms he is responsible for either coining or popularizing include:

Tonight, the local intermediate school housed a “Festival of Arts” that featured the work of 5th and 6th graders in all subject areas. The Reading Department hallway had a large banner spelling out the word IDIOMS, showcasing the figurative language that the students had been studying this past month.

Idiom 3In “IDIOMS” hallway, the parents, family and friends could wait in lines to receive a donated book. While they stood in line, they also could read the idiomatic phrases that students had designed hanging on the walls:

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Just as Shakespeare used word play and figurative language to create images in the minds of the playgoers 400 years ago, these idioms showed that “pictures paint a thousand words” and that student illustrations were “second to none”!


#Shakespeare400: Six Sloppy Signatures

Penmanship or the art of handwriting, is not being taught in most schools today. As a result, when the students do have to sign their names to documents (like the SAT or ACT), they scribble, they scrawl, or they scratch. Their longhand is illegible, a quality they may not know that they share with famed poet William Shakespeare.

Just how bad was Shakespeare’s signature? There are only six surviving signatures of Shakespeare that have been authenticated, all of them on legal documents: a deposition, a house purchase, mortgage, and his Last Will and Testament (3 times).

What is interesting about these signatures is that each one is spelled differently:Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 7.27.04 PM

  • Willm Shakp
  • William Shakspēr
  • Wm Shakspē
  • William Shakspere
  • Willm Shakspere
  • By me William Shakspeare

Bad handwriting? Bad spelling? Looks like Shakespeare has more in common with today’s high school student than simply being the topic of an assigned essay.

Kindergarten Games

Today was Kindergarten registration in my school district, and that means all hands on deck. It is an enormous undertaking student came into answer questions about numbers, colors, iand do a retell on a story they were told. Most every student could point to a door when asked, Some could write their first names.

before the children were tested individually they would wait outside the Room where they were told that they were waiting before going to play a few games.

Upon hearing this , one kindergarten turned to his mother an remarked, “mom, they’ve got games. looks like I am going to need some quarters.”

E.B. White and Spiders

This month, E.B. White’s classic Charlotte’s Web is the read-aloud book for the 2nd grade. They take the book home to share with their families; the hallway is decorated with spiders and pigs. The enthusiasm shown by teachers and students alike is “T double-E double-R double-R double-I double-F double-I double C, C, C!” to quote the Goose in the novel.

I mentioned to one of the teachers that I had seen an exhibit at the Eric Carle museum in 2013. The exhibit, Some Book, Some Art: Selected Drawings by Garth Williams for Charlotte’s Web, celebrated the 60th anniversary of the novel with original illustrations by Garth Williams. They showed how the spider drawing “morphed” as a collaboration between White and Williams.

At the end of the exhibit, there was a poem that  White wrote in 1929 shortly after his marriage.  The poem’s title is “Natural History” and the first of three stanzas reads:spider

“The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unwinds a thread of his devising;
A thin, premeditated rig
To use in rising.”

The choice of words such as “devising” and “premeditated” are certainly part of any spider’s nature, but these characteristics are central to the plot the character of Charlotte devises to rescue the pig Wilber from the butcher’s block.

White also saw spiders also as loyal, spinning metaphorical connections of threads to lives as evidenced by the closing stanza:

“Thus I, gone forth, as spiders do,
In spider’s web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken strand to you
For my returning.”

While it is unlikely the 2nd graders will understand all the language of White’s poem, their experience with the character of Charlotte-her loyalty, her bravery, and her compassion- will be the silken strand that keeps them forever connected to this wonderful book.

“When I Am 100 Years Old….”

The 100th Day of school is celebrated by students in many different ways. They will count. They will have parties.

This past week, I was walking through the first grade hallway decorated with the student statements of what will happen to each of them when they turn 100. They had carefully “aged” their portraits by wrinkling the paper. What they anticipate will happen to them at age 100 is, in a word, hilarious!

I will sleep all day.

I will live in a nursing home in Orlando.

I will have glasses.

My husband will get the food.

I will have white hair and I will live in a white house.

I will not be pretty anymore.


The Lucky Shamrock In the Hallway

St PatsBecause I grew up in a large Irish Catholic family (nine children), I am conditioned to expect to see decorations of shamrocks, pots of gold, and leprechauns every March 17th.

And because of my job, I am able to see how this tradition is being passed on in schools, even when the students are not all Irish Catholic. Schools today use St. Patrick’s Day as one way to discuss the culture heritage of this holiday in America today.

When I walked down the hall this morning, I saw how the teachers had used the motif of luck in their hallway decorations. There were construction paper rainbows attached to construction paper pots of gold. On the bow of each arch was the statement, “I am fortunate because of my ….” This statement was completed by each student with a different sentiment: a puppy, a friend, a nice house, or lunch.

On the opposite wall, there were the leprechauns and additional shamrocks with even more student writing. Students wrote that they were lucky because of favorite foods, favorite books, and recess.

Then, I found the one shamrock almost hidden behind a dancing green leprechaun that touched on a fraternal nerve:

 “I am lucky because my report card was better than my brother’s.”

Reducing academics to luck? Sibling rivalry with a brother? A confession?

How much does that statement sound like someone who could relate to growing up in a big-maybe even a big Irish- family?

Pink and Say: The Hand that Shook the Hand of Abraham Lincoln

Tomorrow is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, a fact I remembered while looking for a picture book to use with older students.

cover Pink and SayI remembered Pink and Say  by Patricia Polacco.

This true story about the author’s great-great-grandfather, Say Curtis, describes his meeting with Pinkus Aylee, a black soldier, during the Civil War. They are both Union soldiers trying to avoid capture by Southern troops.

One of the most powerful moments in the book is when Say recounts his meeting Abraham Lincoln. Sitting with Pink’s mother, Moe Moe Bay, and listening to Pink read from the Bible, Say speaks:

“I wish I could read,” I said without thinking.

When Pink saw I was ashamed, he took my hand.

“I’ll teach you, Say, some one day I’ll teach you.”

I could feel my face flushing up, then I spoke up.

“I done something important,”  I announced.

"Now, you can say you touched the hand that shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln.”

the hand that shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln

“Of course you have, child, of course you have,” his mother said.

“I touched Mr. Lincoln’s hand. It were near Washington. We were quartered there, just before Bull Run.  The President himself were shaking everyone’s hands, and I just put my hand right out.”

“And he took it?” Pink asked.

“Yep, he took it,” I answered.

“Now, there’s a sign, ain’t it ?” he said smiling broadly.

“Touch my hand, Pink. Now, you can say you touched the hand that shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln.”

“Next best thing next to touchin’ him,” Moe Moe Bay said wonderingly.

Polacco’s story of Pink’s humanity and compassion is conveyed in both word and illustration. She proves that best stories are true.