I wanted to share with everyone my experience reading Macbeth using the Shakespeare in Bits app. For the past two years I have struggled to teach Macbeth to my A-level 9th graders. They could not understand the language on their own and could not understand some of the older productions of play. Until now I have not found much use for the iPads in my literature class, but this app changed everything.
The app contains an animated version of the entire play, with professional actors doing the voices. While watching the animation, the sidebar has the text, highlighting the passages as they are being performed. In addition to the text and the animation, the app has notes and comments about those passages. The app allows the reader to click on specific difficult words and explains those words. This app allowed the students to read and experience Shakespeare on their own. They were assigned one or two scenes a night, which we discussed in class the next day. I had the students keep a reading log; they had to choose key passages and explain the importance of the passage to the plot, theme, or character development. We finished reading the play about a week ago. I got positive feedback from all of the students. All of them agreed that they would not have been able to understand the play without the app. In addition, they all felt that this was the most useful app they have used on their iPads.
Instead of having the students write another essay, I wanted to try something different. I wanted an assignment that would show me that they understood the play, but also allow them to be creative and “active learners.” Right now my students are finishing their own modern day version of Macbeth. I explained to the students that many of Shakespeare’s plays have been modified, adapted, and modernized. We discussed how many romances are based off of the premise from Romeo and Juliet. I even pointed out to them that The Lion King was really an adaptation of Hamlet. In groups of two, the students are developing a modernized Macbeth. They must explain the premise of their adaptation, rewrite portions of the script, create a wardrobe, compile a soundtrack, and choose their dream cast. The students have come up with some really creative ideas. One group has chosen to rewrite Macbeth as a Western. Another group has chosen Macbeth a police drama (instead of the witches, Macbeth receives the “prophecy” from fortune cookies). I am really impressed with the students’ engagement and excitement.
While I’m aware that this particular project could be done without an iPad, my students would not have had the foundation they now have without the app. I think this particular app allows the A-level type student to do more creative and higher order thinking assignments.
I am excited to use the app again next year with my 9th grade.
By Mrs. Meryl Feldblum