Laura Turchi

Assistant Professor of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Houston

Laura Turchi teaches in the College of Education at University of Houston. A graduate of St. Olaf College, she received her Ed.D. from Appalachian State University. In 2016, she co-authored the book Teaching Shakespeare with Purpose: A Student-Centered Approach with Shakespeare scholar Ayanna Thompson. Their collaboration, which also has included several articles and book chapters, is now a foundation for further research in partnership with secondary English Language Arts teachers and their students led by Turchi. In 2017, she and Ann Christensen, associate professor in the University of Houston English Department, established the Teaching Shakespeare in Houston Project. With initial small faculty grants funding, they hosted secondary school teachers for the UH performance of Julius Caesar and teaching discussions related to that play. Along with the UH Shakespeare Club, they hosted a community screening of Romeo Is Bleeding, an award-winning documentary about an urban California spoken-word poetry group’s reimagining of Romeo and Juliet as a protest against gun violence.


Thursday, March 28

4:15-5:30: Innovations in Teaching Shakespeare and Race

“Learning to Teach English Language Arts: The Mandates for Literacy, the Desire for Cultural Responsiveness, and the Place of Shakespeare”

Paper Abstract: This paper reports on the preparation of secondary school English teachers, specifically their experiences constructing pedagogical approaches to Shakespeare plays. I describe the ways future teachers navigate a teacher education program that emphasizes cultural responsiveness and practice-teaching contexts that are often more concerned with literacy than literature.  Two aspects of ELA curriculum are especially relevant: the emphasis on providing reading choice to students, often built on Young Adult Literature collections; and the incorporation of active or multi-modal experiences in the classroom. I discuss select Young Adult Literature titles that are explicit adaptations of Shakespeare plays (e.g., Winters’ The Steep and Thorny Way), and others that teachers use to promote thematic connections (e.g., Reynolds’ Long Way Down). I also consider the empirical research on how performance opportunities impact student content knowledge and perhaps their “tolerance,” as defined as “understanding and acceptance of a broader world.” My purpose throughout is to wonder how racial constructs influence future English teachers as they begin to manage a bifurcated curriculum of literacy (measured) and literature (ideally, loved).

Recommended Reading: Schupak, Esther B. “Shakespeare and Performance Pedagogy: Overcoming the Challenges.” Changing English, 25.2 (2018): 163-179.

Article Abstract: This essay argues that theater-based classroom techniques are well-established Shakespeare pedagogy, but that insufficient discussion has attended to the complex barriers and limitations teachers face in adopting these approaches. Schupak’s intention is to alert practitioners (of all levels) to the practical and pedagogical complexities and to consider what is needed to overcome them. The continuum Schupak draws connecting actual performance and performance sensibility is useful in designing a Shakespeare curriculum.

Recommended Reading: Greene, Jay P., et al. “The Play’s the Thing: Experimentally Examining the Social and Cognitive Effects of School Field Trips to Live Theater Performances.” Educational Researcher, 47.4 (2018):  246–254.

Article Abstract: This is a compelling empirical study of the benefits of taking students to see live performances. The multiple scales are demonstrably valid and reliable, and the researchers make it clear that they are in search of rigorous measures while acknowledging the headaches of, for instance, a research design that accounts for bad weather.