One of the hardest challenges in teaching Shakespeare to modern school children can be to make them see past the playwright’s legendary status and to understand that he was an ordinary man writing about the world around him. On a school trip to Stratford, your pupils will have a chance to see the domestic life the young Shakespeare would have lived, with all its similarities and differences to their own.
Bringing Shakespeare off the page and into the real world can be a fantastic way to break down the perceived barrier of time and language and to help pupils see his plays and sonnets in a completely new light. No matter the age of your pupils, a school trip to the world in which he lived (his birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s cottage, the home of his daughter, and the farm on which his mother was born) is an eye-opening experience.
Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust has a series of visiting experiences that enable you to tailor your trip to the needs of your class.
Organised by the Trust, Shakespeare Week in Stratford runs from 12-18 March and includes a range of activities for all ages across each of the historic houses. From mask and ruff making in his house, to interactive poetry recitals in the Trust’s new exhibition space, to live performances in Hall’s Croft, there will be loads of fun and educational activities to enjoy.
Key Stage 1
For the younger pupils, a school trip to Stratford’s historic buildings is about recreating the Tudor world through actors and educators, all of whom are in costume. Led by educational experts at his birthplace, your students will see what it was like for the playwright to grow up in the sixteenth century. On a trip to Mary Arden’s Farm they will also discover how a Tudor farm worked as part of an interactive farm experience.
Key Stage 3
For older children a visit to the Trust will include a talk by experts in their field, about the life and times of Shakespeare: from the world he grew up in to the important role theatre played in society in those times. There is also a fun quiz about Tudor insults, the winner of which is awarded a ‘Shakespeare Insult Badge’.
Students studying a specific text can also attend a talk on the subject which will shine a spotlight on its historical context, language and themes, as well as exploring possible stagecraft and staging. The young visitors will see scenes from the play the are studying brought to life by a team of actors.
Whether your pupils are studying language, literature or drama they will find a session relevant to them as part of the Trust’s A Level Talks & Seminars programme. Talks are specially created to match your needs as a teacher, with emphases on:
· Set texts
· Theatre text in context
· Theatre text in action
· Taking a play from page to stage
With so much on offer, students of English, drama and history will all benefit from a school trip to the birthplace of Shakespeare, where they can see his world brought off the page and into their experience.
John Gardiner is the Managing Director of The School Travel Company, a tour operator specialising in school trip itineraries for school and youth groups to the UK, Europe and beyond. As a father and avid traveller, John is very passionate about providing students with valuable and engaging learning experiences outside of the classroom. By sharing his expert advice with teachers, he allows them to inspire their students and bring their studies to life.