Its was a with some trepidation and a little fear when our head said to us about teaching Shakespeare as a topic. This was shaped by my own experience with Shakespeare at school, which basically amounted to reading from a book and having little to no understanding of his fantastic language. After a staff trip to the Globe in London for CPD and some inspiring ideas shared I was happier, even a little excited about the prospect of teaching Shakespeare to 7 and 8 year olds. My class were called The Tempest - this was primarily the play I concentrated on - but many of the ideas I used could be used and adapted with any Shakespeare play.
Teaching Shakespeare can be at once exhilarating and terrifying; inspirational and life-threateningly tedious. I like to think that the contradictions here echo, or at least nod, to the emotional rollercoaster that was early modern drama. When speaking to students – Secondary school and university – a common stumbling block is invariably language. Besides the archaic vocabulary – ‘hautboy’, ‘nonce’, ‘tun-dish’ and ‘fardel’ come to mind – there’s also the syntax, the distinctly Christian rhetoric, and seemingly endless concerns about marriage and death. For pupils in Secondary school these subject matters, compounded by unintuitive phrasing and words, can be a categorical turn-off.
There seems to be, at the moment, a glut of superheroes on our TVs and in our films. If it isn’t Batman fighting Superman, it is a group of different heroes getting together to fight an evil alien. It might seem that the works of one playwright hundreds of years ago bares no relations to our current obsession with people wearing Lycra, swishing about with their capes and saving the world. Most, if not all children, can tell you who Iron Man, Superman or Spider-Man is. But, little do they know, that the comic book heroes owe Shakespeare a huge nod, if not a cape. So when exploring or teaching a Shakespeare play to students it is helpful to have these ideas in mind.
What are the biggest obstacles that people face when it comes to studying Shakespeare? If you ask a group of students most of them are likely to come up with the same answer – the language. It’s old. Archaic, even. They don’t understand it. A group of teachers are likely to give a different response – teaching rhythm is no fun. They’re bored of teaching iambic pentameter. Students don’t see the point. However, neither of these problems needs to be a barrier and both can be approached using interesting and engaging techniques.
In order to celebrate Shakespeare 400 week, Cheshire-based company Printerland have created an infographic to share their 75 favourite Bard-coined terms. Including the likes of “mimic”, “arouse”, “puking” and “hob-nob”, the display illustrates the powerful impact Stratford’s finest had on the English language as we know it, while revealing where these words were first used.
Schools around the world are being invited to tune in to a unique digital broadcast this week, as part of global celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Digital content providers Discovery Education will host a virtual field trip from Stratford-upon-Avon on 22nd April from 14:30 to 15:00 (BST), giving students worldwide the chance to explore the Bard’s birthplace, school, and other historic locations without leaving their classrooms. Presented by Diane Louise Jordan and featuring Sir Ian McKellen, the Shakespeare 400 broadcast will provide a compelling insight into the life and legacy of the world’s most famous playwright.
“Thinker”, “Hero”, “Avenger”, “Pioneer”, “Lover”, “Gossip”, and “Fool” are all words that remind us of types of characters in movies, plays, books, and perhaps our own lives. These one-word character descriptions immediately paint vivid portraits in the reader’s mind and can be a useful way for pupils, age 8+, to bring characters to life.
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and Samsung Electronics UK and joined forces to develop and launch a new app which is set to inspire a whole new generation with Shakespeare’s work. RE:Shakespeare aims to transform the way pupils experience the work of Britain’s most prolific playwright, in and out of the classroom.
For the last fourteen years I have taught English to secondary-aged pupils at a Pupil Referral Unit in the Midlands. Many of these students are vulnerable and complex, some are in care, and a large number have severe behavioural difficulties. All of this means that we must be especially cautious when choosing a location for school trip. Notwithstanding the risks, last summer I made the decision to take a KS3 group to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, in Stratford-upon-Avon.
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