Get them on their feet to learn

30th January 2004 at 00:00
Pushing the classroom desks out of the way is the key to teaching Shakespeare, according to the Royal Shakespeare Company.

"We encourage teachers and students to get the work on its feet as quickly as possible," said Trevelyan Wright, head of learning programmes at the RSC in Stratford.

"Shakespeare was a dramatist; he was writing for performance. If you put Juliet on a chair and have Romeo looking up to her balcony, you understand why they are saying what they are saying." He says curriculum time is vital to teach Shakespeare properly, and would be worried if the cut in the key stage 3 Shakespeare paper led to a corresponding cut in classroom time.

"If teachers are spending less time teaching Shakespeare as a result of the changes in KS3 English, then we would have some concern," he said.

Making Shakespeare relevant to a contemporary audience is vital, he said.

A paying audience has chosen to watch a play, but children in a classroom are there because they have to be and so it is even more important to show how Shakespeare is relevant to their lives.

"The core of our work on stage has always been about reinventing the meaning of Shakespeare for each successive generation," he said.

"We are looking for ways in which young people can take ownership of the text, the characters and the stories so they can see there's something connecting with their own experience."

Fiona Banks, head of learning and teaching practice at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on London's South Bank, says the stories bring the Bard alive in the classroom. "The stories are wonderful - they connect with people because they are about humanity at any period of time," she said.

She says youngsters can enjoy mastering the "difficult" Shakespearean language if it is broken down into bite-size chunks when they first encounter it.

She praised the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority for listening to teachers and scrapping the writing test that required no knowledge of Shakespeare.

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