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Education Commissioner praises Murray Ind. Sch.

NEWS RELEASE Feb. 13, 2012 Written by: Kelly Sturgeon

Kentucky education commissioner applauds Shakespeare in the schools program for Murray Independent School District

MURRAY, Ky. — Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Terry Holliday visited the Murray Independent School District to engage with the students and teachers and to become acquainted with the “Shakespeare in the Schools” program.

His visit came as an “Extra Holliday” item in a silent auction sponsored by the Kentucky School Public Relations Association. During the day, he was involved in numerous activities including helping with bus and car duty, serving lunch to students and assisting the Murray High School band practice. The main reason for his visit was to participate in multiple classrooms and to become familiar with the new programs being applied in the Murray school system.

One of the new programs being incorporated in the curriculum are the “Shakespeare in the Schools” units. Dr. Barbara Cobb, an associate professor of English at Murray State University and the associate chair and education coordinator for the Murray Shakespeare Festival, initiated the “Shakespeare in the Schools” units in 2007. The program is designed to implement two-week Shakespeare units into the curriculum for third through eighth grade. Each grade focuses on a particular play to help improve students’ reading and writing, expand their vocabulary and enhance their reciting ability. The units currently in place are a third grade unit that is studying “The Tempest,” a fourth grade unit on various selected Shakespeare sonnets, a sixth grade unit on “As You Like It” and a seventh grade unit on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Two more units, a fifth grade unit on “Twelfth Night” and an eighth grade unit on “The Winter’s Tale,” will be piloted over the next two years.

The “Shakespeare in the Schools” initiative follows the Common Core State Standards and Senate Bill 1. The Common Core State Standards and Senate Bill 1 both promote college and career readiness and aim to improve students’ ability to perform at a consistently high level. The “Shakespeare in the Schools” units will cover four areas critical to the Common Core State Standards in English and Language Arts including reading and literature, writing and research, speaking and listening, and language development.

“When students are introduced to Shakespeare’s plays at a young age, they gobble them up and revel in the richness of his art because it’s fun. They master Shakespeare very quickly and that familiarity lasts straight through high school. Senate Bill 1 encourages teachers to find innovative ways to be sure that our students are able to approach challenging texts like Shakespeare’s plays. The students are able to engage in exciting plots and interactions while achieving the goals set forth in the Common Core State Standards,” Cobb said, focusing on the importance of Shakespeare’s lasting effects on students.

Dr. William “Rusty” Jones and Dr. Debbie Bell, both Murray State University department of English faculty members, assisted Cobb by co-leading in teacher workshops for the “Shakespeare in the Schools” units. The workshops consisted of hands-on opportunities including reading and writing poems from Shakespeare’s sonnets and defining various characters from multiple plays. By attending the workshops, teachers earned up to 100 free tickets for their students to the Murray Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and a t-shirt, book and teacher materials.

“The ‘Shakespeare in the Schools’ program and workshops, along with the Murray Shakespeare Festival, address the Common Core Standards under each area by leading teachers to develop new methods to engage students in the text while increasing overall comprehension skills. Even though the workshops immerse teachers in developing new strategies for addressing the standards, they also prepare students for the culture of performing arts through their attendance at the play,” Bell said.

For more information about the “Shakespeare in the Schools” program, contact Cobb at bcobb@murraystate.edu. For additional information on the Common Core State Standards, visit www.corestandards.org.

 

Photo:  Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Terry Holliday visited the Murray Independent School District to engage with the students and teachers and to become acquainted with the “Shakespeare in the Schools” program. Dr. Barbara Cobb, an associate professor of English at Murray State University and the associate chair and education coordinator for the university’s Murray Shakespeare Festival, is shown with Holliday. Cobb initiated the “Shakespeare in the Schools” units in 2007, and has received national recognition for her work.

 


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