Why is Shakespeare so Difficult?

Understanding Shakespeare

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Welcome!  My thought-provoking title brought you to my article and for that I am thankful.  When deciding upon the subject of our course prototype, my partner Nicole Brown and I decided that we wanted to do our part to make Shakespeare (Macbeth in particular) more accessible for students.

With the rising numbers of EAL Students in Saskatchewan, we both strongly believe that this is an important project to undertake.

Our plan is to create a blended course that will aid student understanding of Macbeth.  The decision to go the blended route, rather than strictly online was an easy one; despite the modules we will create and the supports we will curate, there remains a need for a face to face discussion to help students learn from Shakespeare, instead of just surviving it.

Embracing Technology

'well, Fred, I see you're finally embracing technology.'

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Fully embracing technology is something that I need to try when teaching Macbeth.  But simply adding technology does not solve the problem.  As Oblinger and Hawkins state, “adding technology without altering pedagogy is not a solution.”

I’ve taught Macbeth several times, with varying degrees of success.  This assignments forces me to think critically, what can I do differently? How can I improve my teaching to enhance student learning?

Blended Learning

Is this what Blended Learning looks like to you?
Is this what Blended Learning looks like to you?

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Another important reason for our choice of blended learning is explained by Tony Bates, “the main advantage [of blended learning] is for the 50% or more of students in North America, who are working more than 15 hours a week to help with the cost of their education.”  As mentioned earlier, the number of EAL students in my classes increase every year.

The unfortunate reality for many of these immigrant families is that they need their children to take jobs (in addition to school) in order to provide the necessary income for the family. 

Blended learning will allow these students to work at their own pace and work more manageable hours at their jobs.

Both Nicole and I are fully aware that this may be a difficult undertaking, but we look forward to the challenge and we believe that this is something that we can use in our classrooms.  Finally, if any of you have any thoughts or feedback on this particular idea, I would love to hear about it in the comments.






7 thoughts on “Why is Shakespeare so Difficult?

  1. I saw Nicole’s post about this as well. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with. I hope to steal a few ideas to make Romeo and Juliet more engaging for me EAL learners!


  2. I saw Nicole’s post first, as well, and was so happy to see someone else doing Shakespeare! Like I said on her blog, I’m going to do Shakespeare as well! Would be very happy to share resources with you both!


  3. I have just finished reading Nicole’s post, and like I mentioned in hers, I really feel as though you are in a great place to make this unit well-developed. Your knowledge of the content will help you change anything that would be appropriate to still meet curricular needs. As well, the fact that the educational landscape is changing and the rising number of EAL students, I think these courses are going to be essential and extremely valuable. I am looking forward to your results!


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