Clip 1, “Task 2 Engaging Class Discussion,” illustrates a time during my lesson that I engaged students to construct meaning from two film adaptations of the same scene, Act 3 Scene 4, from Hamlet. I engaged the class by asking questions to draw inquiry, and it initiated a class discussion, where students were drawing on their initial reactions and interpretations that they had from just reading the text and comparing them to their interpretation now after watching both clips. I wanted the students to understand that analyzing an original text with the use of media can alter or enhance each individual’s interpretation.
Clip 2, “Task 2 Student Interaction,” illustrates a part from earlier in the lesson, when I went around facilitating each group. Students were split into groups, and each group had different aspects of the film that they had to discuss; they had to discuss aspects such as, Gertrude and Hamlet’s tone of voice, the settings, props, and costumes, and the background music and how all of these aspects may or may not have altered their interpretation, and how exactly they succeeded in doing that.
Throughout Clip 1, I support a positive learning environment by affirming the students and their participation and responses during the class discussion. For example, the first student told me about his interpretation being about how he believes the play still follows a revenge plot, but he didn’t believe Hamlet loved his mother, Gertrude, anymore; he thought Hamlet was just using her to get everyone to turn against Claudius.
I followed up with a question to help him draw on his thoughts: “now, did you get that feeling from both the adaptations? (00:30) I said that I wanted to hear from others before giving my interpretation, which initiated more hands to go up and respond. I respectfully accepted all of the responses from the students, even if I didn’t agree with their interpretations. Instead of giving them my interpretation, I gave students the opportunity to respond to their classmate and give different interpretations or expand on the same interpretation given by the first student.
The reason I did not instantly correct them or guide them toward another interpretation is because I wanted to give students the opportunity to engage in the process of understanding and building on the ideas of their peers. After going back and forth with some different opinions, I mentioned that all of these answers are not wrong, because the text leaves it ambiguous for us to actually know about Hamlet and Gertrude’s relationship before he came back from school (01:20).
Shakespeare can be very difficult to process, especially in high school, therefore, being honest with the students about my interpretation or about general interpretations not having one specific answer lets them know that I don’t know everything and allows them to freely respond and be comfortable responding. In Clip 2, I visit each group and ask them to share the information they have discussed so far. I continued to encourage the students to build on the information they have discussed by asking guiding questions.
For example, with group one in the clip, I asked if they thought the Hamlet in the Branagh version is crazy or just angry, since there have been many arguments about Hamlet going crazy, and his madness is what leads to his behavior. They were quickly to respond, but not just whether he was crazy or not, they went into detail. They talked about how the Hamlet in Branagh was just angry, but the Tennant Hamlet was crazy and you could tell he was crazy through his actions. He was “all over the place” and “then he was on the ground at one point” (00:50).
I felt like my excitement about the material also helped build this mutual respect and responsiveness with the students, because if the material I was teaching wasn’t something I was excited about then how would I be able to keep my students engaged or get any kind of response. During Clip 1, I lead the class discussion by opening up the room for volunteers to just comment on their thoughts and reactions, since they didn’t have the chance to do that after their Do Now or after watching the video clips.
The discussion formulated into talking about how these changes that they picked out from the clips altered or enhanced their interpretations of the play; class discussions allow students to apply their analyzing skills, because they get to compare their knowledge of Hamlet and Gertrude from the play to how Hamlet and Gertrude are portrayed in each adaptation. They are drawing on their previous interpretations and constructing meaning from those interpretations in addition to the clips and then responding.
For example, when we were talking about if we think Hamlet loves Gertrude, I told them we aren’t able to really develop a clear consensus about their relationship, because we don’t see much of Gertrude and Hamlet together after he comes back from school. So I brought up the question of “what would have happened if she didn’t shout for help and Polonius didn’t come and… ” (01:44). This allows students to respond to what they think would have happened if Polonius wasn’t there, and interpret how the mother/son relationship stood and where it stands in that particular scene.
In the lesson, I connect the ideas we discussed to the Oedipus complex. We didn’t go into too much detail during the group conversations or the class discussion, but one student in Clip 1 mentions that she believes that the idea of Hamlet’s inappropriate love for his mother and his violence towards Gertrude in the bedroom stems from his misogynous beliefs (02:05). Which could be true, because of how Hamlet treats Ophelia. The Oedipus complex derived from Sophocles, and it became defined as being a boy or man having an attachment to a parent of the opposite sex, and having repressed and aggressive feelings toward the parent of the same sex.
Hamlet, especially in this scene, seems to have an unhealthy attachment to his mother, and he wants to kill his stepfather (uncle), who is married to his mother. This is prior knowledge that is used to help develop interpretations about the relationships between characters in the story. We also talked about the argument of Hamlet being crazy, which allows them to answer the bigger question of what makes an individual crazy or mad? What kinds of actions do they display or what kind of things do they say that make them sound ridiculous?
We drew on these questions in clip 1, during the class discussion. The second student who spoke in the video drew on how Tennant’s Hamlet was getting psychotic and how he was laying on the ground in a fetal position when the ghost of his father showed up in his mother’s room (00:40). I asked a lot of questions to promote thinking, and as students would answer I would provide more information to get them thinking about the play and the relationship between Gertrude and Hamlet within the play.
For example, when we were drawing on the relationship between Gertrude and Hamlet, the students were going back and forth about if Hamlet loved his mother and vice versa, so I said, “either interpretation would work, but it differs because of, okay, well that is his mom, so he has to love her, but how much does he love her? He looked like he was literally going to kill her in either one, or he could kill her, but they were interrupted, so what would have happened if she wouldn’t have shouted for help and Polonius didn’t come” (01:35).
Because the students went back and forth and we had two different responses, I had to build on those responses to promote more inquiry and thinking so that they did not continue to go back and forth about that one aspect of the scene. My lesson was built around visual interpretations of Act 3 Scene 4 of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Students already read and learned about this scene, so this lesson asked students to draw their thinking back to when they first read Hamlet to see what their original responses were and comparing them with their analysis of the two interpretations of the scene from the text.
In both clips, I asked a lot of questions that supported the students to share their interpretations and be comfortable with justifying them to me. For example, in clip 1, I ask one group about the guiding questions from the Do Now and bring up the Oedipus complex, and it sparked the attention of the one student (02:16). She went on to say how she had gotten a lot of feedback about Hamlet and the Oedipus complex before they started reading the play, so she went into this play expecting it to be all about it. However, when she did read it she did not get that same vibe.
To start, I would definitely change the “Do Now” from having students answer a question, to instead having them formulate their own question that they will answer at the end of class as an exit ticket. I would also allow students more time to complete the “Do Now. ” As I watched the video of my lesson, I realized I did not provide a subsequent amount of time for students to finish writing down their thoughts. Although I gave my objectives at the beginning of class, I did not provide the end result. Many students are grade-oriented, especially in upper level classes like Honors, and AP.
Because many of the upper level class students are more grade-oriented than those students in the regular A and CP classes, I would provide them with not only the objectives for the day, but I would provide the end result, and what successfully completing this assignment will mean for them. I will let them know how this will be graded, and how heavy the grade will be counted in conjunction to their overall grade. By providing them with the end result, students would be more engaged because they are striving toward a certain goal.
I would not show so much of the Patrick Tennant clip; if I did decide to keep the whole clip, I would make sure to provide the same amount of time from the Kenneth Branagh version. Because of the different things I required students to look out for, I think it would be helpful to have students re-watch the clips a second time; the first time the students would just watch and observe everything and write down anything that comes to mind. After watching it the first time, I would split them into groups and have them get into groups, giving each group a specific part to watch and observe.
After they know what they need to observe (Hamlet/Gertrude’s Tone of Voice, Setting, Props and Costumes, and Background Music) I will play the clips for the second time, giving students the opportunity to catch details they may have missed the first time around. I found myself catching small details that I did not catch the first several times around when I was creating this lesson, and even mentioned it to a group during the video, but not within one of the clips I’ve included. I said that I noticed there was music playing when Polonius was killed in the Tennant version, and I asked the group if any of them caught that.
It would have been helpful for students to see the clips a second time, because many students may have a problem with multitasking. Another aspect I found while reflecting on my lesson, was that I asked students to cite information, but students were not able to cite unless they went back into the books themselves to refer back to the scene, or if they remembered the words from the film adaptation. Next time, I would definitely add handouts of the scene so that students have a visual text they can refer back to.
It could have helped them a lot, because they could’ve seen how the text was written and if it gave off the same feeling or interpretation as it did when they watched the clips. I made the mistake of splitting the class into groups, which was caused by a miscommunication between my cooperating teacher and I before the class started. If I could go back, I would have students count off from one to three, and let the class disperse into their number groups. I think this would make it easier in the long run because there are students, even in Mrs.
Brady’s AP class, who are shy, so students kind of circled around this particular student, instead of her getting up and moving into a group. It would have been a lot easier if I knew the student’s names also, because it felt a little awkward to just keep saying, “go ahead” (00:38) to a student who had their hand raised. By reflecting on the lesson I taught, I know I need to work on taking a different approach to group work, because some of the groups were getting off task. They were engaged at first, but as time went by students lost focus.
I like the way the authors of “Using Small Groups for Response to and Thinking about Literature,” describe successful group tasks: “Typically, the teacher (a) defines the goal of the group, for example, arriving at a consensus concerning some controversial issue; (b) outlines the tasks to be accomplished, for example, the group composition of a letter outlining their views to a public official; and/or (c) assigns roles to group members, that is, two group members argue one side of the issue while two others argue the other side and one student acts as the recorder” (17).
I think this would definitely work, especially in an English class, where interpretation can be so ambiguous, it would be interesting to hear conversations about literature, when students are taking different sides within their groups. I think it would engage them more, because students love to debate, and I believe the conversations would be rich and it would give students the opportunity to verbally argue about their interpretation using evidence and reasoning.
Besides circulating the room to listen and make sure their respectfully debating, I would not interrupt the conversations; “Britton and Martin believe that uninterrupted student talk in small groups can help students develop well-articulated understandings of their readings” (14). Research supports the fact that students are able to learn more from these deep conversations rather than filling out worksheets, or listening to a teacher lecture.
These discussions “promote learning because they elicit relatively sustained responses from students and thereby promote retention and in-depth processing associated with cognitive manipulation of information” (16). They give students the chance to interact with the material and make them a part of solving the problem, or trying to collaborate to figure out which interpretation makes the most sense and why. I believe that modeling how I want group work to be would also decrease a lot of the problems, because students would know what to do, and wouldn’t be so confused.
I noticed that students would slowly form into groups after I told them it was okay to get into groups when they were ready. That was also partly due to a misunderstanding between me and my cooperating teacher. My cooperating teacher mentioned that I did a really great job at circulating from group to group and I was able to keep the group discussions on task, but I tended to circulate toward one group more than the others. I know I need to work on dividing my time evenly with all groups, so that I can make sure the students are staying on task, and they know what they are doing.