~ Avram Kline, New Design High School
The Shakespeare Society's Educational Programs
The Shakespeare Society’s educational outreach program is based on the belief that through our work students not only come to a better understanding and appreciation of Shakespeare, they also learn more about themselves and their relationships with others. Reading, acting, and discovering Shakespeare’s plays can be a profoundly personal journey for students and their teachers.
The Shakespeare Society views each educational program as a laboratory not only to develop literary and performance-based skills, but also to nurture skills that serve students throughout their lives. These include listening and responding, public speaking, self-presentation, diction and enunciation, relaxation techniques, physical and emotional self-assessment, self-discipline, and teamwork. Importantly, The Shakespeare Society’s educational programs integrate current academic goals and the New York State Board of Education learning standards. For more information about our Educational Programming contact Sarah Abrams at 212-967-6804.
Our program consists of four initiatives: Shakespeare In Schools, Shakespeare After School, Teaching Teachers and The Hunts Point Children’s Shakespeare Ensemble, as well as collaboration with a blog called "Shakespeare in the City," all detailed below:
Shakespeare In Schools
Our Shakespeare In Schools initiative reaches thousands of ethnically diverse students in numerous schools in all five boroughs of New York City. These students have had little or no exposure to arts in education, and some of the teachers who are expected to teach them Shakespeare have barely studied him themselves. In New York City schools, most young people only read Shakespeare, and, especially if English is not their first language, Shakespeare's vast vocabulary is often beyond the initial grasp of most children the Shakespeare Society serves. Bringing Shakespeare into the body presents the right amount of challenge for young people, and helps to bring the plays and poetry to life in their hearts. Recognizing that research has proven that exposure to and participation in the arts has a powerful and positive effect on educational achievement and self-esteem, the Shakespeare Society sends classically-trained professional actors and teaching artists into public school classrooms.
Our actors draw young people into the world of Shakespeare through movement, speech and performance. Teaching through performance helps students to internalize the language and meaning of the plays and to have fun! This program also helps the wonderful teachers with whom we work to deepen their own understanding of Shakespeare, to develop a repertory of methods for helping their students to connect with Shakespeare substantively, and to increase the confidence with which they teach Shakespeare when our actors are not there. Residencies range from one to ten sessions, and each one is the result of a customized, hands-on process of development and collaboration with teachers.
In addition, the teachers with whom we collaborate may submit a written proposal at any time during the school year to request funds for specific classroom needs relating to Shakespeare. In the past, these grants have provided textbooks, DVDs, and tickets to Shakespeare productions.
Shakespeare After School
Shakespeare After School is a new initiative designed to reach students during out of school time. Teaching artists offer six-week to seventeen-week residencies to students enrolled in several of the city’s after-school programs, starting with second grade. Partners have included Union Settlement, Harlem RBI, the YMCA of Greater New York, Hunter College Elementary School and The Hunts Point Alliance for Children. Students reap the benefits of playing with Shakespeare's verse, speaking the language, performing sonnets and scenes from the plays and, we hope, eliminating the fear factor associated with the Bard before they have to tackle his works in school.
Combining academic rigor with the fun of acting out Shakespeare’s plays, this program is a unique way to introduce Shakespeare to young people outside school time and to integrate appreciation of his works into everyday life. Students explore themes that come up in current events and relate such themes to specific Shakespearean texts. Residencies often culminate in small performances or community events.
In addition to providing teachers with the invaluable experience of working and collaborating with a teaching artist in the classroom, the Shakespeare Society's education department provides professional development workshops for teachers. Drawing on the skills of well known educators, critics and actors, teachers learn innovative ways to teach Shakespeare, and share ideas and classroom experience with one another. School administrators are also invited to attend these sessions in order to encourage them to champion the expansion of arts education in their schools.
Last year the Society organized three full day professional development seminars led by Wendy Halm-Violette. Over 100 teachers from city public schools attended, and, by coordinating with the Department of Education, the Shakespeare Society was able to provide such teachers with essential professional development credits.
Workshops scheduled for this year include:
The Hunts Point Children's Shakespeare Ensemble, a collaboration with the Hunts Point Alliance for Children
On May 16th, 17th and 18th, 2014, in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx, the second poorest Congressional district east of the Mississippi, 50 fourth, fifth, and sixth graders from four Hunts Point schools starred in a production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Twice a week, from the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, Ensemble members rehearsed with The Shakespeare Society’s dedicated team of Teaching Artists. This season's performances featured the Hunts Point Children's Shakespeare Chorus, who sang originally composed music for Hamlet in front of a four-piece professional band. In addition, this year included a third ensemble, "The Hamlet Posse," which shared in full all of Hamlet's soliloquies through choral speech and devised theatre techniques. Inspired by the success of the Ensemble's previous six productions, 2008's A Midsummer Night's Dream, 2009's Tempest, 2010’s As You Like It, 2011's Twelfth Night, 2012's A Midsummer Night's Dream and 2013's Romeo and Juliet (each seen by an audience of more than 600), The Hunts Point Children's Shakespeare Ensemble's performance of Hamlet was a huge success and a testament to the transformative power of Shakespeare’s words.
In collaboration with our wonderful partner, the Hunts Point Alliance for Children, the Shakespeare Society works intensively with these children for an entire academic year on one Shakespeare play. Total immersion in the play, memorizing hundreds of lines and, after nine months of rehearsal and study, performing the play, is, we believe, the only way for these children to experience Shakespeare profoundly enough that he and they can together transform the landscape of their minds. Our students form an ensemble where teamwork, the creative process, commitment and rigor all come together in a performance that is fully produced, complete with sets, costumes and live musicians.
Shakespeare in the City
As artists and educators we believe that exploring the work of Shakespeare is a physical, intellectual and artistic process. We look forward to creating a blog that supports fellow educators in similar pursuits. Our goal is to highlight the varied ways students, educators and artists can engage in Shakespeare by highlighting the diverse ways different arts organizations in New York City address the Bard: public performance by professional actors, in-school workshops to support student’s understanding of the texts, professional development to support teachers develop their own tool box to address Shakespeare in their classroom.
On the 23rd of each month, members of the New York City Educators Roundtable will be submitting entries to the blog that explore a particular interest, concern or question they have as it relates to the teaching and performing of Shakespeare. Between these “major” posts, there will be other posts that will include links to local performances, workshops, lectures and discussions.
Find out more at http://shakespeareinthecity.wordpress.com/.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2011