English - Playing Shakespeare

2nd December 2011 at 00:00
A visit to the Globe will prove that words can be actions

As an English teacher at a central London academy, I am regularly faced with the challenge of inducting pupils to their heritage with lessons on the greatest writer who ever lived. "The language is too hard" and "I don't understand what it means" are regular calls for help - even from sixth-formers.

At Shakespeare's Globe theatre the words are actions. They are alive in the stillness of a soliloquy or a raging battle scene. Actors actively involve us, playing with sounds and shapes to touch our own sense of interpretation.

I was first introduced to Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank in 2009. In March each year, this project gives 15,000 free tickets to schools across London to a production running for two weeks at Shakespeare's Globe. I was hooked by two things: the tickets were free and I could take all my pupils. This was in keeping with my view of Shakespeare - his work is for everyone and when his language commands your attention, and delights you in surprise, you want the experience to be a collective one.

Attending Playing Shakespeare has become a hallmark in our pupils' education. Each year, the whole department takes Year 9 to see a Shakespeare play at the Globe. Good teachers want their pupils to interact with the play; to read it on many levels. All my pupils have great memories from the performances, which they can go on to use in their assessments at key stage 3 and again for their Shakespeare reading at GCSE.

The dedicated website alongside the production is an excellent resource to access new insights about the text. After the show, pupils can independently log on and continue learning at their own pace.

For teachers seeking to enhance their practice with a closer look at Shakespeare on the page or in role-play, Globe Education provides free continuing professional development days. These workshops, also linked to the production, take place three to four months in advance of the staging. They are fun and energetic; and full of ideas to implement in the classroom.

Three years later and more than 600 of our pupils have met Shakespeare on the stage, have understood his language and are keen to recount their interpretations back in school. Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank teaches pupils there is no "right" way to read Shakespeare. Instead, everyone has an investment in the play and together this will lead us to a global education.

Mark Beyer-Kay teaches English at Pimlico Academy in Westminster, London



Try a new approach to the Bard with teen Shakespeare resources about Macbeth from pmorrison.

There is also comprehensive material from TES English for studying Macbeth, which is getting positive feedback.

More Macbeth resources are available on TES Resources.

In the forums

Ideas for activities based around the Globe Theatre from the English forum.

Find all links and forums at www.tes.co.ukresources012.


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