As we reach the final stages of our year-long residency at King’s College, we give an update on the progress made over the last two terms.
“The GSC workshops have been brilliant. Our hope, when we embarked on this project, was that our students would feel more confident with Shakespeare, and this hope has been fulfilled. During the workshops, students show a keen interest and engagement with the material, but more impressive is the impact noticed in lessons.” Matt Pinkett, Head of English
In 2018 we received grants from The Guildford Poyle Charities and The NatWest Skills and Opportunities Fund towards A Time for All Things, a year-long residency at King’s College in Guildford. This programme would provide 300 minutes of Shakespeare workshops for all 5 year-groups in their 2018-19 academic year.
THE PROJECT SO FAR
In the Autumn term of 2018, all students received a performance of their chosen Shakespeare text. Three actors and a facilitator presented the cut version of each play, assisted by student (and teacher) volunteers. Students engaged with the text as a performance piece and our professional staff highlighted important context, key themes, imagery and interpretations. This ensured that all students began their study with the same level of knowledge and established common reference points for further classroom study and workshop exploration.
“Year 8 have thoroughly enjoyed their visits from GSC. Their first visit really enhanced their understanding of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the complex storyline and the varying lovers. As teachers we could use the performance to encourage students to recall particular moments, when reaching those scenes in class, to develop their understanding of the varying interpretation of character, humour and emotion.” Maria Vogler, Year 8 Teacher
In the Spring Term of 2019, we returned with detailed follow-up workshops for each year-group. Two Actors and a facilitator delivered content, written in collaboration with the teachers, to target each year-group’s specific needs. The sessions were organised into two sections. The first allowed the actors to take the lead, demonstrating exercises and exploring scenes, before the students redirected the actors and engaged in discussion around the play’s poetry, characterisation and other dramatic elements. The second section gave the students a chance to follow the actors’ example and explore other practical exercises in smaller groups.
“Students commented that they particularly enjoyed directing key scenes of the play, and have since asked such questions as “can we include tone of voice in our answers?” or “can I include director’s choices in my responses?” which shows they are already considering ways to apply their newfound knowledge to writing.” Jasmine Mulligan, Year 10 Teacher
In the Summer term, 2 actors will work with each year-group, allowing us to tackle the plays in even greater detail. The teachers will instruct us on the content, based on the student’s work in the classroom, so we can explore new areas or re-visit parts of their curriculum which would benefit from further clarification. These workshops will be more student-led than the previous sessions, allowing us to build on their increased confidence and knowledge.
“Students speak about Shakespeare like experts. They no longer see Shakespeare as intimidating; instead, they see Shakespeare as something to be explored, because each exploration bears more fruit.” Matt Pinkett, Head of English
As Francesca McInally, our Education Officer, explains, “It has been a pleasure to witness a transformation in the King’s students over the past year. There has been a huge shift in their attitude from ‘I can’t do this’ to ‘I can’. The fear of getting ‘Shakespeare wrong’ or ‘I’m not smart enough’ has left the room and has been replaced with pride, increased self-esteem and passion for the language. The repeat visits allowed us to go into deeper detail with each workshop, build momentum and create an excellent channel of communication with the teachers, so that we can tailor the workshops to the students’ needs and that of the exam curriculum. They know what to expect from us and they now trust us and the results we can help them to achieve.”
We hope to continue the project year after year, building on the student’s increased knowledge and confidence, so that Year 7s have the chance to engage and grow with the programme throughout their entire secondary school life. King’s is placed in the top 10% most deprived boroughs in the country and only 22% of students at King’s will obtain 5 GCSEs (including Maths and English). After just one workshop with us, the students showed an average 62% increase in their capabilities, including greater engagement with Shakespeare’s text and wider classroom activities.
“I enjoyed watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well as reading it, it was fun to be able to interact with the actors while they were performing. I learnt how to use my voice and body as an acting skill which helped me to understand the characters more.” Year 8 Student