Magazine article NATE Classroom

Teaching Richard for SATs: An NQT's Personal Reflections and Regrets

Magazine article NATE Classroom

Teaching Richard for SATs: An NQT's Personal Reflections and Regrets

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

I was as surprised as anyone when, as a student, I saw Richard III performed by the RSC in 2003 and absolutely loved it. Instead of the obscure and rather esoteric performance I expected from a history play, I was spell-bound by the dark but hilarious master of words who dressed his hunchback variously in leather and ermine and was labelled everything from a spider to a hedgehog. I found myself unwillingly yet unmistakably drawn to him from the first moment to the last. As a result, when I discovered in February 2008 (as an NQT) that I was going to teach Richard III to a class of Y9 boys, I was genuinely excited; surely they couldn't fail to be fascinated by this most evil of tragic heroes.

However, it didn't take long for me to realise that teaching this text in a manner that was at once enjoyable, exciting, productive and SATS-ready was actually a very tall order. From the outset, I was clearly going to be serving two masters: on the one hand, the pressing need to bring Richard to life as a truly dramatic experience (as the RSC's 'Stand up for Shakespeare' campaign so persuasively argues for) and on the other, the duty to get the students writing high-scoring SATs papers (as the headmaster is understandably keen for them to do). Adding to my sense of trepidation was the pressure that I find always comes with teaching a text you really love: what if the students end up hating it? I also worried that the fact I teach in a small and often very hot classroom, would not exactly help me create a truly dramatic study of the text.

Nonetheless, I was determined to try and I set out with a showing of Richard III, if not in the theatre then at least on the screen. The class definitely enjoyed Ian McKellen's performance and started with a good sense of the events of the play, even if a few students persisted in thinking that it was originally written about Nazi Germany. I also experimented with a choral reading of Richard's opening speech which the boys thoroughly enjoyed and, a lesson or two later, had a crack at 'theatre in the round'. This was based on the idea of nominating students to intervene and make comments on the acting of a piece of drama as it unfolds (the audience sit around in a circle). It was every bit as memorable and exuberant experience as I had hoped, though I was slightly disappointed, if not entirely surprised, when the students' subsequent writing about the scene remained limited in its awareness of its dramatic dimensions.

Meanwhile, I was increasingly aware that my other goal, getting the students to write high scoring SATs essays, was not any closer to being reached. Alarmed at how quickly the weeks had slipped by, I turned my attention to the dreaded set scenes. As a former SATs marker, I am unfortunately burdened with the knowledge of what is needed for high marks in SATs papers and it doesn't have much to do with having enjoyed the play or indeed having reached an understanding of it as a text in performance. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.