Focus on the Bard

24th November 2006 at 00:00
Who went? Chris Knott, an English teacher at Norlington Boys' School in Leytonstone, London.

What was it? An RSC workshop in Stratford, aimed at giving teachers practical strategies for making Shakespeare memorable and meaningful to young people.

Why go? Getting teenage boys interested in Shakespeare isn't easy and I felt my teaching strategies were becoming stale.

Message, motto or mantra Plays aren't something you just read - you have to experience them physically and emotionally.

Handouts or hands-on? The day was spent doing exercises and improvisations that we could use with our pupils. It might have been daunting but the course leaders were excellent and not too "luvvy".

Something I liked? It was held in a rehearsal room at the RSC using the same techniques as actors when they're exploring a text.

Something I learned? A great exercise called conscience alley. Someone assumes the role of a character and the class tries to influence their decisions. If you allow children to improvise scenes in modern English, they forget it's Shakespeare and focus on feelings.

Has it made a difference?

It has transformed my teaching. In the past, I'd stick on the video and make sure everyone understood the story. Now I have people up on their feet, speaking and improvising. Year 9s are really into it.

The verdict? A brilliant course. We used Richard III, but the techniques could be applied to any play

Coming soon

There are January workshops on The Tempest and Much Ado About Nothing, as well as a range of other courses. pound;125.

Interview by Steven Hastings

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