Visual Interpretations of Shakespeare
In ninth grade English, students are immersed in Shakespeare with some classes working on sonnets, while others are reading Macbeth, As You Like It, or Julius Caesar. English department chair Paul Abeln and English teacher Deb Smith recently asked their students to use Storyboard, a graphic panel program, to bring a speech by a major character to life as they visually recreate the scene from the perspective of a play or film director.
Paul’s classes are working on Julius Caesar, which bridges their ancient history knowledge from eighth grade with their literary studies. He assigned his students a speech given by Brutus in the apple orchard as he contemplates killing Caesar. Students were able to use Storyboard to not only depict a literal staging of the scene but they also incorporated images evoked by Brutus’ language and ideas.
Storyboard allows students to completely design a scene, including basic blocking and set decorations, facial expressions, text, and other details evoked by the imagery in Shakespeare’s language. Paul describes it as a form of “virtual annotation” that enables students to demonstrate their understanding of the subtleties in the language and the scenes. “We don’t want students to just summarize,” says Paul. “We want them to be looking at the lines and interpreting what’s happening in a much more nuanced way, as a director would.” Having just finished work on their Scull essays, working with Storyboard also gave students the opportunity to shift gears from an intensive writing assignment to a visually creative reflection of their understanding of a text.