It's 2016: How is Shakespeare relevant?
Shakespeare remains one of the most influential playwrights throughout history. His plays have been performed across the globe, and serve to illuminate the human condition. Studying his works not only allows insights into topics that continue to ring true today, but also invites a broader perspective of cultural and historical factors. Tracing productions of a specific play over time and in different cultural contexts can be a lens for better understanding cultural climates, historical moments, and societal influences. For example, Othello has been done countless times, but for a brief while the ending was changed to be more socially palatable. Other productions have flipped the casting, changed the gender of characters, or adapted the story to better fit the culture in which it is produced. Studying one text enables a broad spectrum of possibility, from examining the rhetoric closely, to the production history, to modern iterations. Although Shakespeare's works are centuries old, they continue to resonate today.
What is the best strategy to address issues of censorship in Literature, particularly when a book is banned or restricted due to difficult, inappropriate, or sensitive material?
Censorship remains a deeply difficult topic for a number of reasons, but it is an issue that consistently needs to be addressed, and often challenged. When it comes to the issue of censoring or banning a book, the first question to ask is 'why?' Is it the language, the content, an issue deemed inappropriate, or otherwise sensitive material? If so, the offending content could be contextualized in a lesson, or perhaps an entire unit. Rather than prohibiting students from reading "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn*" the lesson(s) could contextualize the moment in history in which the story takes place, and for further examination the student(s) could study the life of Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens). This enables a broader perspective of the material rather than eliminating it from the curriculum altogether. *I do realize quotes are not the proper marker for a book title, but it is my only option.
What is an effective way to instruct learners of varying levels in an ESL (English as a Second Language) classroom, and to address the needs of every student?
When teaching English as a Second Language to any demographic of students, the priority should always be the needs of the person learning. What does s/he need to accomplish? Where are his/her strengths, and what areas can be improved? Once this is established, the next step is forming a strategy to address these needs, creating lesson plans tailored to the student(s), and retaining the ability to adapt at any point if necessary. In a classroom, one topic can be made more challenging for students who have advanced, or modified for students who need a different version. The key is focusing on the learners' needs, remaining flexible, and having fun.