Shakespeare for students as young as five is the new mantra for Gove and his government. What a brilliant idea – Shakespeare is accessible and fascinating. His stories are extraordinary and relevant today. However, many teachers find him scary. They are not equipped to teach Shakespeare to youngsters – his language can be intimidating, the subjects he writes about can be pretty hard to explain ‘ what does ripped from his mother’s womb mean’ asked a 7 year old recently. So do we go into a discussion about natural birth? And what happens when a child pipes up ‘ so was I not born or woman then because my mum had a c-section?
How do we tell the story of Macbeth to 9 year old children? Do we read a précis in plain English? Do we teach them a speech without helping the children to understand the meaning? Do they learn by rote like times tables? What is important about Shakespeare to a 5 year old, 9 year old, or GCSE student?
Can all children get the opportunity to perform a play on a professional stage? – something the Shakespeare School’s Festival (SSF) is striving for? Performing one of the SSF’s cut down versions of Shakespeare’s plays is a fabulous introduction to Shakespeare.
Another way is to encourage companies like mine - Theatresaurus to go into schools and run workshops with young people. To give teachers CPD, to give them resources to continue the work after we leave. The cost is negligible and we can reach about 150 students in one day.
Recent feedback from John Bow school in Blackheath was glowing –
‘All of it was excellent; I think the fact that every child was included and had a part to play made it very exciting. They focused and understood the story because of this’
‘I was really pleased; it was professional, fun, engaging and a lovely interactive way to introduce children to Shakespeare.
So please, if we are to introduce students to Shakespeare let it be in a fun and exciting way – performing it with the Shakespeare School’s festival or having workshops by companies such as Theatresaurus. Make it fun and exciting – and the children will develop a life time love of Shakespeare.