Intellectual Output 1: Method guide for teachers: Shakespeare in the 21st-century Classroom

(Lisa Peter)

One intellectual outcome of the CUSHA project will be a method guide for teachers who would like to include Shakespeare in their language teaching or in their multilingual classroom, but who do not quite know where to start with this. This method guide will make clear why ‘doing’ Shakespeare with language learners is a worthwhile undertaking and how all of their pupils can profit from it, including those from migrant backgrounds.

The University of Education Karlsruhe will co-author this method guide with an overview of and a short introduction to multilingual didactics in order to enable teachers to identify the advantages of the multilingualism in their classrooms and make the most of their pupils´ talents, improving inclusion and facilitating equity between pupils.

Connected to the plays dealt with in the CUSHA project, we will highlight suitable content and successful approaches for teaching Shakespeare to language learners: what are the topics and themes I can focus on in my teaching? Which are the key moments in the play that require more attention, how can I make my pupils understand and appreciate Shakespeare’s language as well as his characters and plots? How can I devise reading and speaking exercises that give my pupils the necessary confidence to engage with these texts? How do I stimulate background research and the presentation of findings that might emphasize the relevance of Shakespeare’s topics to the world of the 21st century (for example, the experience of exile and loss, anger and revenge in The Tempest)?

A third step will then combine these findings with the outcomes of the workshop phase and the preparatory work in the respective schools: how did the exploration of Shakespeare’s plays and language boost literacy and foster inclusion of migrant pupils in the multilingual classroom? What are the lessons learned, where is further research necessary?

A method guide of this kind that collects, evaluates and puts current theatre and Shakespeare pedagogy into contact with cutting-edge research on multilingualism in the classroom is not available at the moment, although teachers throughout Europe are faced with ever more culturally and linguistically heterogeneous teaching environments. Shakespeare as a world writer, whose stories ‘work’ in very different cultural settings, becomes a tool to engage pupils from different countries and cultures to explore together what they have in common and what it means to work in multilingual settings and how they can express themselves in verbal and non-verbal ways through drama.

This method guide is going to be freely available as a digital resource on the same website as the peer teaching resources developed in the course of this project, Teaching Shakespeare Around the World. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will take the lead on this intellectual output and combine its proven expertise in teaching Shakespeare to language learners with the project’s aims to use Shakespeare as a tool for integration and increased cultural understanding between pupils from different backgrounds. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust are the only Shakespeare organisation in the UK that offers educational products specially targeted at language learners, and is therefore in a prime position to use their experience in this field to oversee the production of this method guide.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust can look back on several years of teaching Shakespeare to language learners from all around the world, and the learning team are renowned for their persistently high quality of delivery in combination with an engaging way of sharing enthusiasm for Shakespeare’s works and life. In recent years, they have successfully collaborated with major players in the field of language teaching in the UK like the British Council and the BBC World Service to develop and deliver educational programmes for language learners. The library and archives house one of the world’s largest and most important Shakespeare collection, with over 1 million documents, 55,000 books and 12,000 museum objects. So rare and priceless is the collection, it has been designated as being of international importance, so the wealth and importance of information the pupils will draw on in the course of this project is unique.

In addition to the teaching resources that will be developed by the English School in Gothenburg and complementing them, this method guide will offer support to teachers internationally, who would like to introduce Shakespeare to their language learners and who are increasingly confronted with multilingual classroom environments.