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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Importance of Shakespeare in the UK's English Curriculum

There is one unit at Beechen Cliff that spans all years and all academic levels:

Shakespeare. Every year, the students can be sure that they will be learning at least

one Shakespeare play. In Year 7, the emphasis is on A Midsummer Night’s Dream,

Year 8 is an adapted version of Othello, Year 9 is Romeo and Juliet, and Year 10 is

Macbeth. I have not really observed many Year 11 classes, but I would be shocked if

they did not study Hamlet. These plays are often the subject of a unit of work.

Of all of the ways the teachers handle how they deliver this unit in its

entirety, I thought the Midsummer Night’s Dream unit was most effective. Each class

in Year 7 individually studied the play, pairing it with scaffolds and videos so that

the students, who are still pretty young, would understand. Then, each class was

assigned a scene from the play. Within the classes, the students would be grouped

with five or six other students. Each would choose a character from that scene to act

out. Then students were given the opportunity to rehearse this scene as if they were

performing it to a wide audience. Students were encouraged to bring their own

creativity into the play, acting out the scenes in whatever way they saw fit. Each

group would then perform their scenes to the rest of their individual classes. The

teacher would decide which group performed the scene best, taking into account

how well they understood their lines and how enthusiastic they were in the way

they presented their characters. Once the teachers decided which group was best,

those groups would perform their scene in front of the entire Year 7 on a stage. The

scenes would go in order, so that each class is represented and each students gets to

witness what watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be like.

I thought this unit was an effective one because the classes I observed were

always very engaged in rehearsing their scenes. The other Shakespeare units do not

interest the students very much. In the Year 9 class I participate in on Tuesdays,

many students have told me that they do not understand the language in Romeo and

Juliet, and that the plot is too confusing to grasp. They have only studied the play by

looking at the lines and analyzing them. Perhaps if the students were given the

opportunity to engage with the play in a more creative and personal way, they

would like it more.

With this in mind, I planned my lesson for next Tuesday to engage the

students creatively. My CT was extremely helpful in providing me with the materials

I would need to deliver this lesson effectively. It is situated at a point in the unit

where students should understand Treasure Island’s characters and be prepared to

create characters that model the ones imagined by R. L. Stevenson. I am looking

forward to teaching this lesson and I hope the students find it engaging and


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