Every university prides itself on key factors that allow it to stand out such as academics and athletics. One of the main aspects of Murray State University is emphasizing the importance of creating partnerships between MSU faculty and K-12 regional teachers.
Recently, MSU faculty members have brought their expertise and knowledge of Shakespeare to K-12 classrooms, in hopes of developing students’ abilities to read, write, speak and listen to complex texts. One goal is to prepare students for Murray State’s core curriculum since all of MSU’s programs require proficiency in reading and understanding complex materials and effectively communicating intricate ideas.
One program that has been specifically customized to accomplish this goal is the Shakespeare in the Schools Partnership Initiative. The program began in 2007 and was created by Dr. Barbara Cobb, an associate professor of English at Murray State University and the associate chair and education coordinator for the Murray Shakespeare Festival. The program follows the Common Core Standards and Senate Bill 1, both of which stress the importance of college and career readiness through engagement with complex texts.
Cobb explains the reasoning for bringing Shakespeare to the K-12 schools by stating, “Cognitive science shows us that young minds are much more versatile with language acquisition and with dialectal differences such as the difference between Shakespeare’s early modern English and our own. By having our younger students play with Shakespeare, we are helping them to exercise that versatility and give them familiarity with Shakespeare’s complex language. Additionally, students are more prepared to engage with great books and great ideas in any context by playing parts from Shakespeare’s comedies and using Shakespeare’s language.”
The Shakespeare in the Schools program has been incorporated in schools in both the Murray Independent School District and the Calloway County District, as well as in Carlisle, Crittenden, Graves, Hopkins, Livingston, Marshall, McCracken and Webster counties. Teachers from these counties have been trained by attending Shakespeare in the Schools workshops.
Cobb presented her Shakespeare in the Schools program at the National Council of Teachers of English convention in Las Vegas, Nev. on Nov. 15-18. Her presentation was part of a session sponsored by the Folger Shakespeare Library. Cobb discussed her research and methods in using Shakespeare in grades 3-8 to increase students’ willingness to engage with Shakespeare materials and read other complex texts. Cobb’s presentation highlighted units that have been incorporated through her partnership with teachers in the Murray Independent School District.
Go online at www.murraystate.edu/ shakespeareresources for more information about Shakespeare in the Schools.
Dr. Barbara Cobb, associate professor of English at Murray State University and the associate chair and education coordinator for the Murray Shakespeare Festival, is shown with students from Mrs. Hayman’s fourth-grade class at Murray Middle School following their completion of the unit on Shakespeare’s poetry.
— Photo provided