Let me make it clear from the start that this is a blatant advert for the “playing with plays” series that I stumbled across on twitter.
I’ll set the scene, I teach in a French speaking secondary school in Switzerland and give an extra class for English speakers. These kids were often born here, have never been in English speaking education but obviously have a very good level thanks to imput from family, friends, etc. It’s interesting to see that, although it might be their maternal language, English is not necessarily their first language.
The objective of this class is to improve spelling, increase vocabulary, and learn more than they would in a class for non-native speakers.
The fact the class is at the end of the day and is not taken into account in the end of term results (needed to pass into the next class) means that it’s important and challenging to keep the kids motivated. However this also means no traditional testing, and especially, that I can do more or less what I want.
For me, it’s pretty much a dream class, freedom in choice of materials (I usually make my own as there’s very little that suits) and a group of kids that only come to class because they want to be there.
Despite all that, you can imagine their reaction when I told them that this term we would be studying Shakespeare!
After warming them to the idea using the insult generator to fling some Shakepearean insults around the classroom, we studied Shakespeare’s language using the equally wonderful William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, which enabled me to indulge in my Star Wars obsession in class (again!)
Although they enjoyed all of that they were still a little reticent when I said they would be performing a play in class. I chose “Hamlet” as I felt it was the best known (and would get more kudos with the parents!!). When I produced the book they all flinched, a few minutes later they were in heaven!
The plays took longer than ten minutes to perform, in fact we spent a couple of lessons on them. That also included time to discuss plot development and for costume (paper crown, ruler for sword…!) changes.
When we finished “Hamlet” they begged for more, so as a special treat we did “Much ado about nothing” at the end of term.
At the end of the school year I always ask for a feedback sheet which includes “what I learnt”, “what I liked” and “what I”d change”. All the students remembered the Shakespeare work…
One of my best teaching moments this year was overhearing an 11 year old explaining to his mum about how Hamlet felt having to decide to kill Claudius or not.