An English trip to Shakespeare's birthplace

Cazzypot

A teacher for 19 years, ‘cazzypot’ has taught in key stages 2-4 in mainstream schools, special schools and, more recently, in the role of Subject Leader for English in a Pupil Referral Unit. She also worked for some time in an LEA funded advisory capacity, providing strategies for dealing with pupil behaviour issues. She’s also offered teachers advice, resources and guidance on the National Literacy Strategy.

Follow @cazzypot

Website: www.cazzypotsblog.wordpress.com/ Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For the last fourteen years I have taught English to secondary-aged pupils at a Pupil Referral Unit in the Midlands. Many of these students are vulnerable and complex, some are in care, and a large number have severe behavioural difficulties. All of this means that we must be especially cautious when choosing a location for school trip. Notwithstanding the risks, last summer I made the decision to take a KS3 group to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, in Stratford-upon-Avon.

This was as part of an English topic we were doing on the theme of ‘Performance’. We'd already studied The Globe Theatre, in context, and learned about some of its fascinating history. More importantly, perhaps, we’d looked at extracts from some of Shakespeare's plays and also studied plot synopses and analysed a selection of quotes.


Now, I must confess that I was dreading this trip. As the day approached, I began to question what on earth I thought I was doing, arranging to take a group of potential delinquents to such a precious, historic place. I even made a special visit to the house, prior to our trip, to forewarn them and discuss the risk-assessment aspect with the staff. En route to work on the M5 on the morning of the trip, I honestly considered continuing my journey south for hot dogs on the beach in Devon. At least I’d have been spared the shame of becoming headline news for allowing a bunch of highly unpredictable kids to wreak havoc at Shakespeare’s treasured childhood home!


Thankfully (and to my great relief!) my fears turned out to be totally unfounded. To my surprise and absolute delight, the pupils were completely and utterly transfixed for the entire day.


Paired-up and armed with clipboards and cameras, they took some wonderful photographs and made intelligent notes. They asked pertinent questions of the excellent staff, and joined in enthusiastically with the brilliant performances and songs in the yard outside. Here, they were encouraged to sing traditional Elizabethan songs 'in the round'. Soon after this, several of them were given lines to say, and wooden swords to join in with a fight scene. A substantial crowd gathered to watch their performances, and the delight of the kids was palpable.


Inside the house, they seemed to particularly enjoy hearing about Shakespeare's father's glove-making business, and visiting the room where the goods were actually made and sold. They were agog on visiting the bedroom area and learning that the female offspring generally slept on the floor! They were also very impressed with the kitchen and seemed fascinated to learn how the food was prepared - particularly the tiny bread rolls being cooked on a flat plate above the open fire. For all of us, I think, the sun literally shone on every single aspect of the day.


But the moments that resonate, perhaps even more so - especially in light of the new curriculum and its fairly hefty Shakespearean requirement, occurred in the preliminary exhibition, before we’d even entered the main house. Here, there is more of a focus on Shakespeare's works, rather than the minutiae of Elizabethan life. Amongst many other things, the pupils were able to study a scale model of The Globe - which also detailed the surrounding area. They were delighted to see an early original volume of the complete works of Shakespeare, carefully preserved in a glass case.


They were also very impressed with a life-size model of the man himself, seated at a small wooden desk, with a quill pen in hand. Meanwhile, screens were showing scenes from renowned adaptations of some of the plays and speakers played other well-known excerpts. At one point, a booming voice was reciting ‘The Seven Ages of Man’. “Miss, Miss!” shouted a year 7 girl. “It’s ‘All The World’s a Stage!’” A few minutes later a cackling female voice began, “When shall we three meet again…” “Oh, Miss! I know that!” one of my most damaged and disaffected boys exclaimed immediately “…It’s the witches from Macbeth!"


It seems to me that the earlier pupils are given access to Shakespeare’s works, the better. The extraordinary timelessness of Shakespeare’s writing is already obvious: the perennial human conditions of love, war, money, rivalry, parenting, jealousy and death never change. Couple this with Shakespeare's wonderful storylines and the children's own youthful, creative imagination, and the texts come alive. Indeed, as the popularity of Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’, and JK Rowling's 'Harry Potter' series have more recently proven, fantasy, fairy tales, the eternal battle between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are no barrier to young minds - quite the contrary. Indeed, as the youngster noted, the man said: "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players...".


Given the propensity that some educationalists have to suggest that Shakespeare is 'boring', 'not relevant' to their lives, or simply 'too difficult´ for certain young people to master, I think accounts of experiences such as this should at least go some way towards demonstrating how flawed such thinking is. The pupils clearly loved being there. There is no doubt that our trip enhanced and added an extra dimension to the work we were doing in class and hopefully breathed extra energy and life into their fledgling Shakespeare studies. This particular group were clearly delighted to have gained further (tangible) knowledge and understanding about the man and his works. As for their future studies, I can only hope that experiences like this will make them feel excited about, rather than daunted by, any future encounters with Shakespeare's work.


Image Credit: Flickr


What amazing school trips have you enjoyed? Let us know below!

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now
Login

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"