Teachers in Singapore are being supported to change their approach to teaching Shakespeare by adopting techniques used by actors and directors as part of a pioneering new project from the UK’s Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and the University of Warwick that aims to transform classroom experiences of Shakespeare. According to research undertaken by the RSC and the British Council up to 64 million children across the world learn about Shakespeare’s plays, but for some it is not the life enriching experience it could be.
The RSC, based in Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, UK, has teamed up with Warwick Business School, which is part of the University of Warwick, UK, to change that. Together, they have produced a one-stop shop online professional development programme, called Teaching Shakespeare, that holds a treasure trove of materials including over 100 films featuring modelled lessons and interviews, with leading RSC directors and practitioners along with academics from the University of Warwick. This ground-breaking programme provides teachers with the essential skills and knowledge to develop active, drama-based approaches to teaching Shakespeare in their classrooms.
Encouraging students to get up on their feet and actively explore Shakespeare’s plays has already brought the text to life for thousands of youngsters in Britain through the work of the RSC’s Education department. This new online learning platform, created by the RSC and Warwick Business School will be able to reach millions more globally.
Now Warwick Business School Professor Jonothan Neelands is travelling to Singapore to show at first-hand how these teaching methods can not only improve children’s understanding of Shakespeare, but boost their self-confidence and communication skills as well. Professor Neelands will be holding a workshop from Saturday March 16 to March 20 at the Singapore Repertory Theatre.
“Our humble ambition is to transform how Shakespeare is taught across the world,” said Professor Neelands, who is a National Teaching Fellow and Chair of Creative Education at Warwick Business School. “We find that the best way to encourage young people to develop a joy in reading Shakespeare is through getting them up on their feet, moving around, speaking the words and making the choices that actors do. The RSC’s research has shown that this approach is more likely to lead to a lifelong love of Shakespeare rather than sitting around in class and reading dusty books.”
Jacqui O’Hanlon, RSC director of education, said: “We know there is a global community of teachers that are passionate about teaching Shakespeare and who want to explore new ways of teaching in order to unlock language, inspire learning and release imagination in students of all ages. “We hope to reach thousands of teachers through our new online programme and in doing so transform classroom experiences of Shakespeare for all kinds of learners. We hope that Teaching Shakespeare enables both teachers and their students to enjoy and achieve more together in their Shakespeare work.”
English eight year-old Ben now ranks Shakespeare alongside the most exciting things in the world after taking part in one of the RSC’s classes. The Stokeinteignhead Primary School pupil said: “My dad said Shakespeare was boring, but he’s got it wrong! I’m gonna tell him about Hamlet. It’s got murders and ghosts and castles and stuff and that’s not boring.”
At Honley High School in Holmfirth in West Yorkshire, UK, teachers said: “Over 93 per cent of students were ambivalent or vehement in their belief that Shakespeare was not fun. After using theatre-based teaching over 79 per cent of students saw the study of Shakespeare as fun.”
And Lillian, a London primary school teacher in the UK, said: “After using practical approaches to Shakespeare we found the writing levels of pupils in a highly disadvantaged class had improved considerably: 86 per cent were now on target to achieve level four in their SATs. Before the Shakespeare teaching unit, only 53 per cent were on target.”
Australian teacher Kate Walsh, of Toowoomba in Queensland, said: “I teach at Harristown State High School. Studying with both the University of Warwick and the Royal Shakespeare Company has been a fantastic experience. Working within a global online classroom with great resources and supportive staff has developed my pedagogy, helping bring Shakespeare to life in a number of ways.”
Professor Neelands has given Teaching Shakespeare workshops at The Singapore Repertory Theatre from March 16 to 20.
To visit the Teaching Shakespeare website go to http://www.teachingshakespeare.ac.uk/