Barbara Kider, Learning Specialist at Gaynor, recently made a list of the most common books read as part of curricula in New York City schools. She discovered that nearly every school in New York City (public or private) taught Shakespeare, except for Gaynor – until this year, that is. According to Kider, for the first time in Gaynor’s history, students in the Middle School read a work by Shakespeare, as well as Homer’s Odyssey.
Instead of finding a book to fit students based on their level, the goal was to take higher levels of text and differentiate them in order to make them accessible to every student, allowing the students to be able to read and understand the literature regardless of their decoding skills.
Green Cluster students read The Odyssey, and Blue Cluster students read Midsummer Night’s Dream. Blue Cluster students used No Fear Shakespeare, a book that includes the original Shakespeare text side-by-side with a facing-page translation into modern English.
In addition to No Fear Shakespeare, every class was given a character chart that illustrated all of the interrelationships in the text and used Learning Ally, an audiobook app that allows students to listen to a book while reading it to increase comprehension. Learning in each class across the cluster was tailored to students’ needs using a combination of the No Fear Shakespeare book, Learning Ally, and the character chart. Some teachers did summaries before the reading while others did not. Some classes read both Shakespeare’s original work and the modern English translation while others only read one side.
“The curriculum worked like a charm,” said Kider. “It was magical. Some students have even asked to watch the movie at home. There is a sense of pride in being able to say, ‘I read Shakespeare.’ We want to prepare our students with the skills and common experiences they will need after they transition from Gaynor. Seeing what was previously thought of as inaccessible literature, being made accessible to our students was incredible. Teachers did a spectacular job of differentiating for our students. It was amazing to not only watch the different approaches teachers took but how much the students liked learning it and reading it.”
By reading Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Odyssey, differentiated to fit each student’s specific needs, it was just another reminder of this year’s community values theme, “Be together, not the same.” Even though students were on different levels, they were able to read and enjoy the same literary classics.