Magazine article NATE Classroom

Culture Change: Globe Education Welcomes New Opportunities

Magazine article NATE Classroom

Culture Change: Globe Education Welcomes New Opportunities

Article excerpt

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In July, the DCSF launched a new booklet for teachers: Shakespeare for all ages and stages. Globe Education at Shakespeare's Globe welcomes this mandate: a 'framework of opportunities' has at last been provided through which teachers can develop further the ways in which students engage with Shakespeare's plays--as plays--to be experienced practically and through performance. The government has made it very clear that it is firmly opening the door To--indeed, to some extent requiring--teachers to use active, creative, participatory approaches in the classroom.

Their commitment goes deeper than a solitary booklet. The new curriculum, for instance, mentions creativity on almost every page, and says that it is 'key' to successful learning. The Children's Plan calls it 'key' to the success of the education system. The Making Good Progress scheme offers a live Shakespeare experience for all Key Stage 3 students in the pilot schools. Perhaps more radically, the reading assessment on Shakespeare which takes place at the end of KS3--and which has been seen as a millstone around many aspiring necks--is currently being reviewed. Globe Education, along with the RSC, is currently working with QCA to devise assessment tasks which will work with, and build from, our creative practice. These will be piloted--alongside existing tests--in this academic year.

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Also of significance in terms of assessment, exam boards--such as OCR and EdExcel--are working with us to further the use of best practice on new syllabi. Creative, active work of the kind which historically has sometimes been relegated to the 'good-fun-if-you-have-time-for-it' space in schools is now becoming central, not only to effective provision for students, but also to effective preparation for assessment and to assessment itself.

The importance of working creatively

When we physicalise words and actions, the power they contain is suddenly within us. A level of ownership is present which otherwise cannot be attained, and with that ownership comes not only those things required by national tests, but an empowerment and a joy which goes--as all of the finest educational experiences do--way beyond the classroom.

But why is practical work especially important when studying Shakespeare? Mostly originally written to be performed in open air theatres, where actors and audience share the light, his plays demand to step out of the black and white casing of a book and into the physical world for which they were written. Shakespeare can be studied in written form, just as Mozart can: but both are only fully themselves when permitted to operate as they were intended. In Shakespeare's case, this means language that is necessary and visceral; characters who move in physical space and time; performances shaped by the immediate audience. 'Shakespeare for all ages and stages' rightly emphasises the necessity of 'a range of dramatic approaches'; it is effective to study Shakespeare practically because Shakespeare is practical.

Bringing the rehearsal room into the classroom

For anyone who has spent any time rehearsing for a performance, or discussing that rehearsal process with actors, this will come as no surprise. There is a vasty gulf between an academic's and an actor's depth of understanding of how and why Lady Macbeth says and does what she does: it is the gulf between a fictional persona and a breathing being. All of the work delivered by Globe Education emerges out of processes which take place in the rehearsal room. All intend to enable students to physically experience the characters, language and ideas which they study.

These activities range widely and, crucially, can be adapted to the audience and text. Most start with a physical experience, the students discovering something about how a particular movement--such as stamping out a rhythm or embodying a character type--makes them feel. …

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