I don't think I'd ever want to tackle teaching a secondary school class Shakespeare without having a school video handy. Or even two! Many classroom subjects can benefit from using video as a teaching tool, but nowhere is this truer than when you're trying to study Shakespeare.
Why? Well, the simple reason is that when your students actually see the play on screen, they can understand it a lot better. It's not just words (some of them ancient and obscure) on a page: they're words spoken by characters doing things. Sure, if there's a stage production or film version on at a local theater, you could take your class to see this, but these opportunities don't crop up very often. So any library of school videos should include the Shakespeare plays you study.
How? Here are a few ideas that work for Shakespeare videos - and sometimes for other works of literature, too.
* The first time you watch the video, just show a freeze-frame of one scene with as many characters in it as possible (e.g. the scene in King Lear where the kingdom is divided among the daughters). Then get your students to try and guess which character is which.
* Choose a key scene and play it without the sound. Then see if your students can pick which scene it is.
* Similar to the above, play a scene backwards, or in fast forward, or in slow motion.
* One real advantage of studying Shakespeare on video is that you can have multiple school videos of the same play. Showing multiple versions of a key scene can be a great discussion starter regarding interpretation. If you're not sure where to start here, then try contrasting one of Zefirelli's productions (but not Otello if you're new at using this method - a version in another language and in opera might be a bit difficult, although it has certain possibilities, if you're creative) with a BBC version. The more versions you can lay your hands on, the better. Try foreign language versions (with subtitles) as well if you're ambitious.
* Preview the video before you share it with the class. Some productions aren't really suitable as "school videos" as they can have graphic content that isn't age-appropriate.
* Don't forget to put the subtitles on. This way, you can see if certain lines have been left out of the script. This also can make a good discussion starter.
* "Show" a key scene with the screen hidden but the sound on. The students then have to guess what actions are going on while the lines are being spoken. Then show it again with the visuals - who was right and who wasn't?
* Another tip for showing the video with the sound off: get the students to provide the soundtrack themselves by reading the lines out (assign character roles as you would for a reading of the play without using a video). This is harder than you think it might be.
However, the last thing you want to do when using school videos to study Shakespeare - or any other topic, for that matter - is to just mindlessly plug in and switch on. Teachers can often make mistakes when using videos in the classroom. If you're ready to stop making "The 7 Biggest Mistakes Teachers Make Using Video in the Classroom" and start experiencing the benefits of using video effectively in your classroom, then your next step is to download a free copy of "The 7 Biggest Mistakes" right now.