Tag Archives: teaching

Teaching Shakespeare? Check Out These Three Common Core Lesson Plans.

Last year I started an undergraduate research project titled Integrating Technology into the California Common Core Performance Classroom. From inception to completion the project took me a year, but I am very happy with the results. Here’s the abstract to get a taste of what my research was on:

In 2010, President Barack Obama set forth a plan called “Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology” which mandated that technology needed to be integrated into American classrooms to enhance student learning (Ash). The need for technology in the classroom is not only government endorsed but helps improve students’ familiarity with the use of technology in a future job market that is becoming globalized and technology-driven (Ehrlich). In 2013, the Los Angeles Unified School District spent one billion dollars to distribute Apple iPads to over 47 schools in an effort to comply with the directives set forth through President Obama’s plan and ended up recalling the iPads in under a week due to the operating system being hacked (“L.A. Unified”). The purpose of this project is to find ways of meeting the 2010 mandated use of technology within a performance-based classroom teaching Shakespeare by creating learning opportunities in which technology can be incorporated into the classroom through the use of student-generated content. Through examination of other successful classroom models incorporating technology, looking ahead at some proposed, yet still controversial, technology-driven classroom models, utilizing performance approaches to teaching Shakespeare, and studying the new Common Core standards being implemented in K-12 schools throughout the nation, a hybrid of technology and the study of 16th century Shakespearean plays can be successfully implemented in a Common Core classroom.

Story Shots: Shooting for the Stars

People are as unique as snowflakes. It’s really true – even twins have variance in their fingerprints. When I assigned “Shooting for the Stars” as the topic for this month’s Story Shots, I expected a bunch of stories about reaching for goals and either obtaining them or falling short. What I got back from our writers surprised me. They were brilliant and their stories were riveting, and while some stuck with the idiom theme, some writers were wildly interpretive and redefined the idea of shooting a star.


“Who would see a movie about this? I mean really, its just a bunch of shots of a Lohan-look-a-like and Franco reading her Salinger.”

“Sh! He could hear you and then we’re out of jobs!” The set was bustling with stage hands powdering the red-head’s face until she looked like porcelain and draping the sheets on the bed so it looked liked it had been used, but only for sleep. Not sex. Never sex. He definitely did not have sex with that woman.

“Director on the set!” Mr. Franco saunters into the studio, crooked smile cracking his face permanently, and glances at the carbon copy.

“Her hair isn’t nappy enough.” He waves his hand, and more stage flies buzz around her, tugging and pulling at her hair.

“Better. Okay everyone lets get started. Now Lindsay…”

“Her name is Amber.”

“Excuse me?” Franco turns on the camera man, glaring at him with his dead eyes.

“The actress’s name? It’s Amber.”

Franco breaks his face again by stretching his grin. “Well here she’s Lindsay now isn’t she?” He puts his hand up to silence the camera man’s protest and turns to the woman on the bed. Not in it. Never in it. He did not sleep with her. “Now, Lindsay,” he stresses, “are you ready to perform the scene?”

“Yes, I’m ready.”

“Okay, let’s get started. You ready camera man?” He lowers his hand.

“Sure,” the camera man replies, holding back his disdain.

“Good. Get off the bed and enter the door. The dead bolt will be on, so you need to press your face in the crack to deliver your line.”

The clone exits the set and waits at the door. Franco lays out on the bed, pulling up his pajama bottoms so that his dick was faintly outlined. He glares at the camera man through the lens. “Ready?” The camera man counts down, and then “Action!” The red-head opens the door until it catches.

She pushes her face in the crack “Open the door, you bookworm punk blogger faggot.”

“Cut!” Franco jumps to his feet and places his hands tersely on his hips. He shakes his head as he unlocks the deadbolt and looks his Lindsay duplicate in the eyes. “You see, you sound mad. Angry. What you need to sound like is like you want me. Like you need me inside of you.” Her eyes flutter as she apologies and promises to get it right the next take. “Actually, let’s take a break.”

“A break?! We just did one take!”

Franco returns his harden glance to the camera lens, though the camera man was standing next to it. “I’m the director and I say we need a break.” He turns back to Lohan and gently takes her hand. “Want to go grab some lunch? There is this diner by my hotel room I’ve been meaning to try.” As they left the studio, the crew knew that he was going to sleep with her. Actually fuck her. He did have sex with her. “Okay, let’s break down the set.”

The camera man spins around. “What, you don’t think he’ll be back?”

“Oh hell no, he’s done for the day. This is what happens when you shoot movies for the stars.”

By Nicole Neitzke


That old saying, “nobody is perfect” – ain’t that the truth. In fact, no one is anywhere near perfect because sometimes life throws some crazy shit in your way and despite your best efforts or talents or hard work, the opportunities are simply not there. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t try. Sure you might fail, but you absolutely need to try your hardest for what you really want in life because, well, it is what you want out of life that is important.

I realized that I wanted to be a teacher about the time that I entered high school. I had some pretty kick ass mentors that gave me a quality education. Someone gave this poor little Mexican boy a chance to succeed and I wanted to take that opportunity and show the world that I could pay it forward to several generations of students by encouraging them, motivating them, and showing them that they had potential to be somebody in life. I wasn’t going to be just a teacher, oh no. I was going to be the teacher.

Is Writing Across the Curriculum Important?

I used to begin the school year by telling all of my students that my job as an English teacher was the most important job in the world and that their class would be the most significant they would ever have. I used this bit of hyperbole to capture their curiosity, but I would explain to them that it was my job to teach them what they would have to use in all of their other classes, and jobs, for the rest of their lives. This was my way of expressing to them the importance of reading and writing in our society. I do not do this anymore because I truly value the movement of interdisciplinary writing and writing across the curriculum, and I would hate to belittle that concept to my students by demeaning my colleagues and their approach to teaching literacy skills. On the contrary, I want my students to make the connection that writing has across the spectrum of education.

Reading and writing are ways to analyze and synthesize life and help us find meaning in things. Writing is key to learning. It helps us process, decode, and understand our complex thoughts or the complex thoughts of others. A main focus of the “Writing is…” video was the fact that writing is an outlet; not only for creativity, but also for expression of thought and knowledge. All classes in content areas require these skills to learn, and writing is used in each of them.

Check out this video about writing.

I Strike Thee Quickly with My Light Saber

Star-wars-book-luke-43

Don’t you love when two of your favorite things collide to make one super-awesome thing? Peanut butter and chocolate? Amazing. Rum and Coke? Delicious. Bacon and milkshakes? Well, that might be an acquired taste, but you get the idea. Last year I stumbled upon another exciting marriage of two seemingly opposite things: Shakespeare and Star Wars.

Ian Doescher, who in my opinion should be canonized as a saint, has rewritten the Star Wars films in beautiful iambic pentameter. It is truly a unique way to once again enjoy the saga from a galaxy far, far away.

And I haven’t even mentioned the best part. Doescher has provided an educator’s guide on his website. This is a wonderful way to introduce students to Shakespeare in a new and creative way. Of course you are mixing two nerdy things and that might not fly over so well at first, but the beauty of this lesson is how someone can find deeper meaning, compare themes across genres, and use poetic devices within the text. That covers a couple standards. Even students who are not fans of the holy Trilogy will be impressed at how Doescher transformed one medium by using another.

The Educator’s guide has mini lessons on iambic pentameter, themes, and comparisons between Star Wars and some of Shakespeare’s most famous works (including Henry V, Richard III, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar just to name a few). The guide also includes information on Shakespearean devices and how they are used in context. The educator’s guide legitimately turns a novelty quirky book into an awesome Shakespearean introduction for all students.

Poetry Slam (Dunk)

A couple of weeks ago the high school where I currently teach hosted a very special event. This is my first year at this school, so I had never heard of nor participated in what I found out was called “Get Lit.” This is an event where local students and young people from around Los Angeles stand on our stage and recite poetry to our students. My first reaction was one of sheer horror. I reached for my riot gear before heading for the auditorium. Surely this would be a disaster. Boy was I wrong.

As awesome as this sounded, I had predetermined that our students would not buy into this event. I have taught poetry for several years now, and I am always met with slight hesitation, and then the students are wowed because they end up “getting” what the poem is about. This, on the other hand, was a poetry slam.

As the slam started the MC, a man in charge of the GetLit program, welcomed the students and gave them a few rules and instructions on manners. His calm and jovial presence made everyone in the audience feel comfortable and excited. He told the students to be respectful, but to express their connection with the poets with snaps, claps, and by interjecting by saying “word” if you agreed. It felt as though we were waiting to see a rock show or a debut of a new movie.

Rants and Rambles of a Retired Grammar Nazi

I used to think that someone’s irregular dialect or their misuse of “standard” grammatical functions was a trait of their ignorance. Well…I’m here to say, “…my bad, yo.”

So, I’m taking this class (American English) and it’s similar to a linguistics or grammar course, except instead of telling you how to grammar, it tells you why we grammar. It’s some pretty gnarly-rad interesting stuff. As a result, I’ve come to the realization that there’s no such thing as “perfect” English (seems obvious), despite there being a “standard” English. There is no such thing as “correct” grammar or speech. There are no logical prescriptive rules…they just tell us what “looks” right. Everything is so arbitrary and vague; who am I to tell someone that their variety of language is inferior to The Standard?

It merely supplements it.
It adds another accent, another dialect.
Something more than just an acknowledgment of a hoop to jump through.

One day, I’m going to be an English professor, and I’m going to have to explain to students that learning Standard American English is damn-near required as a member of “Academic America”. However, I don’t want my students to lose their voice…their variation of English that demonstrates their culture and identity. The English that has it’s own funsies with idiolect, slang, and odd idioms.

How do I teach The Standard without stripping away their identity with my handy-dandy marker-pen: a Grammar Nazi’s favorite tool?