Resources for Dealing Directly with Specialist Language Style

Resources for Dealing Directly with Specialist Language Style

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Resources for Dealing Directly with Specialist Language Style

As previously detailed, there are numerous problems for students
attempting to access the specialist language of English. One of the
most difficult problems for students to overcome is the language and
style of William Shakespeare’s plays. The three biggest problems that
students face when reading Shakespeare are the Elizabethan language,
the use of iambic pentameter and the use of themes. It is important
that teachers develop resources and strategies to assist students in
overcoming these language barriers.

To overcome the language barriers of Elizabethan English, teachers
must provide students with the greatest possible opportunities for
understanding. By using a Shakespearean glossary such as that featured
in the appendix, students are able to gain knowledge of the meaning of
frequently used words in Shakespearean texts such as anon and doth.
When students learn the meaning of these common words, much of the
ambiguity of the language and its overall meaning is taken away.

A number of teaching strategies could be used to introduce this
resource to students. One of the most effective ways is to turn the
resource into a trivia game. By putting students into groups of four,
calling out a word from the Elizabethan English list and asking
students to respond with the words meaning from modern English,
students are given the greatest opportunity to learn the words’
meanings. Students are also given a cooperative, motivated and
enjoyment focused learning environment.

The use of iambic pentameter, while adding much to the meaning of
Shakespeare’s texts, is extremely difficult for students to read. If
the beats and punctuation of writing are read incorrectly, it could
change the meaning and interpretation of much of the play. For this
reason, it is essential that teachers provide students with activities
and exercises that will increase their knowledge of how to read this
difficult rhyming pattern. Resources such as ‘rules for reading
Shakespeare’ and ‘how to read a poem’, found in the appendix, are
ideal for students to learn how to go about reading Shakespeare.

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MLA Citation:
"Resources for Dealing Directly with Specialist Language Style." 17 Jul 2019

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are also appropriate to allow students to realise that reading
Shakespeare is not unlike reading other types of poetry, meaning that
they may have a decrease in fear of reading unusual punctuation. For
teachers who want to ensure that students have a deep understanding of
how iambic pentameter is written, using resources such as ‘iambic
pentameter’ and ‘verse or prose?’ can be used to initially introduce
the concept to students and then to deepen their knowledge through

A teacher centered approach would be used for the delivery of these
resources as the content of each is difficult for students to master.
The first two resources would be used prior to beginning a text. The
‘rules for reading Shakespeare’ resource would be given to students
and read allowed by the teacher as students follow along. After an
initial reading of the resource it would be important for the teacher
to allow students to read a section of a play aloud in order to
practice and reinforce the rules for reading that they have just
learnt. The ‘how to read a poem’ resource would be given to students
and also read aloud by the class teacher. The resource would then be
re-read and the activities completed following the reading of the
first scene of a play, allowing students to gain a clearer
understanding of meaning and the way in which they should be reading
through practical experience and active participation. The ‘iambic
pentameter’ resource would not be given to students but would be used
as a guide for the teacher to explain to students how iambic
pentameter is written and should be read or performed. The ‘verse or
prose?’ resource would be given to students in groups to complete each
activity while being closely monitored by the teacher to ensure that
all activities are completed correctly and that every student gains a
deep understanding of the content. The answers to the activities would
also be given by students to their class mates in an open class forum
to ensure that different interpretations and ideas are heard by all
students giving a greater depth to their knowledge, creativity and
appreciation of the beliefs of others.

The final language barrier that students face when studying
Shakespeare is the understanding of themes. The resources used to
assist learning in this area are in relation to Romeo and Juliet,
however each activity could be adapted to any text. The ‘theme
dominoes’, ‘aspects of love’ and ‘violent scene in Romeo and Juliet’
resources are perfect for an in depth study of individual themes
within a play, specifically how to find them and how to use quotes and
examples from the text to demonstrate them.

A student centered approach would be taken to utilise these resources.
After discussing what themes are in the play students would complete
the activities in the three resources to focus upon individual themes.
The ‘theme dominoes’ resource can be played by students in groups.
This type of activity allows for cooperative learning, the achievement
of deep understanding and the opportunity for motivated learners as
students are completing activities that are hands on and social. The
resource allows for deep understanding in that students must match
each theme with an individual quote, meaning that they not only
understand how Shakespeare portrays his theme through the language of
his text but also the language itself. The ‘aspects of love’ and
‘violent scenes in Romeo and Juliet’ resources allow students to gain
a deep understanding of individual themes of love and violence in
relation to individual characters. Again, students having to use
quotes and examples from the text allows for an understanding of how
themes are portrayed through language and, in this case, the actions
and emotions of characters. After students have completed these tasks
individually, allowing for the whole class discussion of answers
results in students hearing different ideas and interpretations from
their peers.

By using resources and teaching strategies that are varied in their
approach and focus on specific problematic aspects of the language,
students are able to gain a deep understanding of previously difficult
parts of the text. The types of resources used in this demonstration
are ideal for years 7 to 10 to break down the literacy barriers
inherent in Shakespearean studies. Implementing them into the
classroom would begin to solve problems concerning the study and
understanding of Elizabethan language, iambic pentameter and textual

Resource List

· Teachit’s English teaching resources

· Shakespearean glossary from:

· Rules for reading Shakespeare from:

· Iambic pentameter from:

· How to read a poem from:

Hirsch, E. (2000) How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love With Poetry.

Harvest Books.

· Board of Studies. (1997) English Syllabus: Stages 4 & 5. Sydney.
Board of Studies NSW.
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