I find any Shakespeare production I see to be educational, but here at the “O, What Learning Is!” column we look at educational aspects of Shakespeare. Today I will focus on some interesting new tidbits from around the world that show that Shakespeare education is going strong–and the plays still have meaning to people no matter where they live.
As someone who used to be involved in a Student Shakespeare Festival in San Diego, I am always pleased to hear of school programs for kids being funded. So you can imagine I smiled at the news that Australia has the Bell Shakespeare acting company bringing Shakespeare’s plays to the students. They are not the first to notice students”demonstrated increased innovation, higher levels of self-expression and creativity, improved behaviour and better attitudes towards studying English.”
I was also particularly pleased to learn that the 2012 London Globe international productions of Shakespeare have continued with a tour in Africa of Hamlet. What makes this particularly interesting, and educational, is they are doing research into how people respond to the themes of the play in different areas. For the audience: “They immediately relate the play, its emotions, its ideas to their situations, the politics of their country, the structures of their society, their personal lives,” he says. “The actors are often surprised by how little in control of the meaning they are.” Anyone who has taught the play in a classroom will know that people often react differently to the themes of the play but this research shows how cultural differences and current events may impacting people’s reactions to the plays. This is important for teachers to consider, especially as the classrooms are filled with diverse students whose backgrounds may make them respond differently to the themes of the play than a teacher expects. This study should be useful to teachers in putting together lesson plans.
The English Speaking Union’s annual Shakespeare competition culminated a few months ago with the national finals, but if you missed the results or haven’t considered running the program in your classroom next fall, you can check out the info on their site. I’ve known some regional winners and even tried out for it myself in high school years ago. It is a fun program.
Some cute pictures of a student production of Henry IV at Mauro-Sheridan Interdistrict Magnet School in Connecticut, even while I wish they had not changed lines to make the production easier for kids (Falstaff likes wine, not french fries!). Still, I’m glad to hear that enthusiasm for a history play can happen in the K-8 range.
What we see here is just a small sampling of the way that the plays are being used to educate people around the world.