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Shakespeare is taught all over the world, both in English-speaking and non-English speaking countries. Suzanne Worthington, RSC Education has created the World Shakespeare Classroom Wiki for the 2012 World Shakespeare Festival in London that looks at how Shakespeare is taught around the world.   Here are a few highlights:

  • Algeria: Some students  from Ahmed Lamarchi High School discuss Shakespeare  and do a short choral reading.
  • Azerbaijan: 100% of pupils following the national curriculum will study Shakespeare at least once in their school career, generally in grade 8. They study a general biography and short introduction to his works.
  • Brazil: Shakespeare is usually studied in translation to Portuguese and mostly at the University level.
  • China: Pupils aged 15/16 study Act 1 Scene 4 from The Merchant of Venice in translation into Mandarin Chinese.
  • Denmark:  Shakespeare is studied both in original English and in translation to Danish. Because it is set in Denmark, Hamlet is a favorite play of the Danes.  Shakespeare’s Elsinore is widely acknowledged to be Kronborg Castle near Helsingor in the North-East of Denmark.
  • Georgia: Less than 15% of pupils following the core curriculum will study Shakespeare, and when they do, they are translated into Georgian.
  • Germany: 15 – 50% of pupils following the German curricula are likely to study Shakespeare in English at least once in their school career.
  • Greece: Shakespeare is not a named author on the curriculum, although there are options for teachers to use him. When they are taught, they are read in translation to Greek or modern English.
  • Hungary:  Shakespeare is usually studied in translation to Hungarian. Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet,  King Lear, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest are the most popular plays and 85 – 100% of pupils following the national curriculum will study Shakespeare at least once in their school career, mostly between the ages of 14 and 16.
  • India: Shakespeare is a compulsory or suggested author for pupils aged 14 to 16, depending on the state. Shakespeare is predominantly studied in English-medium schools. Popular studied plays include Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, and Othello.
  • Iraq: Less than 15% of pupils will study Shakespeare in their school career, usually the most academically able, between the ages of 16 and 18. The rest will probably leave school without knowing who Shakespeare is.
  • ItalyRomeo and Juliet is the most popular play for Italian students. Guess why? The plays are read in English.
  • Kuwait: An abridged version of Henry V, in a modern English translation, is taught at Year 12 (16 – 17 year olds)  because Henry V helps pupils reflect on history, politics and universal human values.
  • Mexico: All pupils follow the core national curriculum. Compulsory schooling ends at aged 16. Shakespeare is named on the curriculum.
  • Nigeria: Students in Nigeria are unlikely to study Shakespeare unless they are taking literature courses in private education or at university.
  • Pakistan: Less than 15% of pupils will study Shakespeare in their school career.
    Shakespeare is taught in elite private schools and occasionally at some middle-ranged private schools.
  • Poland: 85 – 100% of pupils following the core curriculum will study Shakespeare in Polish at least once in their school career, and most will study him more than once. Hamlet and Macbeth are the most-commonly taught plays.
  • Russia: Many of pupils following the national curriculum will study Shakespeare at least once. He is mentioned as a suggested author for 14 – 16 year olds. Shakespeare is read in the original English or in a modern English translation.
  • Serbia: Shakespeare is mentioned on the curriculum in Serbia and most children will learn about him before they are 16.
  • Slovakia:  Shakespeare is taught in either in English or Slovak  and is listed as a suggested author on the national curriculum for the 14 – 16 age group.

If you have anything to add to this excellent site, the Wiki directions are pretty clear.

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It all started with a Blog entry I posted here last week called Shakespeare in Other Words.  Suddenly,  Howard Sherman @HESherman and Peter Marks @petermarksdrama took that post to a new direction and began a heated  session on Twitter about the use of modern translations in Shakespeare productions. Before I knew it, Sherman organized a Tweet Convocation:“Soul of Shakespeare: Plot vs Language” #pmdhes for today at 2:30 with w/guest tweep Michael Kahn from DC’s Shakespeare Theater.

The confab lasted well over an hour and lots of folks joined in. Here are just a random few of the Tweets:

“Soul of Shakespeare” twitter convo arises from unplanned debate over whether it’s still Shakespeare when language is altered.

Above all, let’s have fun. After all, how many opportunities r there for live national multi-participant discussions of Shakespeare?

Doing our finger stretches, getting ready for today’s  Twitter conversation at 2:30.

@mikelomo was writing abt Shax in classrooms, not on stage, but it’s led to fascinating convo.

I am not bothered by some language changes. Murder, instead of murther, for example.

You don’t call Shakes ‘Ovid & Holinshead altered’ so why would you call very-much altered Shakes ‘Shakes’

But, if you change Mamet’s words is it still Mamet? No one argues he’s a poet not a playwright.

The depth of character in Shakes comes from what they SAY about what they feel & do

Aren’t we talking ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ of Shakespeare? Yes, language was distinct, but so was his vision, scope, style collusion etc

Have all the conceptual productions and severe cutting of text made it too ok to change language?

Greatest approach to teaching #Shakespeare at any age and especially in high school – GET THEM ON THEIR FEET AS THEY READ!!

But I don’t think ppl go to Shakespeare to see the same production that they had seen at another time. At least I hope not.

In schools, are students given free rein to imagine different settings, concepts? Would that help them “relate” better?

That’s what we do in schools. They produce their own scenes in any style they want, using the words.

“Where would you put this scene?” “What situation does this sound like to you?” imagination/relatability is key

Yes, good teachers allow that sort of higher-level thinking.

When productions modernize a play, etc., but keep the language – does the audience relate more?

My parents has Lambs’ TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE,. Suggested I always read before going to see when I was young.

When I was 5, my Russian immigrant mother read me the real Shakes. I fell in love w/it like you did with the Lambs.

I resisted the Lambs’ summaries completely. Stodgy, dull and I wanted to discover the stories for myself.

In my Shakespeare class in college I felt like we were discouraged from taking risks. Stick with the safe, they said.

I had BBC Shakespeare: Animated Tales after finding R&J at 8yo. Devotee ever since. All orig. lang.

In high school…only a handful of the plays are in most curriculums? Does that limit appeal?

I just don’t think Shakespeare is FOR everyone. And I think there are (a few) langauge barriers that cannot be overcome.

Any and all textual changes are GAME ON. As long as there’s transparency.

Make a good production & Shakespeare automatically is accessible. Concept should illuminate, not be used to “dumb down.”

many prods say they put lang center. alas, few really do

I knew director who watched all rehearsals from balcony w/ eyes closed to “listen to language. but it’s not a radio play

I love some plays, dislike others, avoid yet others entirely. But I don’t need to rewrite them.

I think it’s outrageous when Shakespeare is watered down. It’s outrageous when any author is paraphrased.

Why not go back to all male actors if we want to be extra faithful? (said w/ a wink)

Soliloquies are subtext made verbal.

I really have no problem with non-English additions. It’s the watered-down English I deplore.

Yay for us geeks!

Good god, was that an hour? Thanks @HESherman @petermarksdrama @ShakespeareinDC for the lovely confab!

You can go to Twitter and search #pmdhes to see the rest. But the discussion raised lots of questions. Feel free to answer some of them in the comments section below.

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This summer my nieces and nephews have been to dance, cheerleading , basketball, science, and EVEN computer animation camps!  They play acting too, singing/dancing playing pretend, etc (my nephew played the son in The Winter’s Tale at school through Shakespeare Steps Out!).

BUT AS A FAMILY spending a Saturday morning during the summer at the library was not something she thought would go over well until I told her about our family series, Shake Up Your Saturdays!

The girls anticipate learning an Elizabethan dance, the boys look forward to their First Folio scavenger hunt, and my sister is enthusiastic AND encouraged. It’s free! 🙂

Join us this Saturday, August 6, for a Folger family program on Shakespeare and the First Folio. It’s from 10am – 11am and geared towards kids ages 6 – 12. To reserve your spot, call 202.675.0395 or e-mail educate@folger.edu.

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Folger Education entered  new territory on Tuesday February 15 with the beginning of Macbeth Set Free, an online course for teachers. With the help of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and New York Institute of Technology, we are able to reach teachers across the country with some solid approaches for teaching Shakespeare.

When we planned the course, we were careful to keep it as interactive and lively as possible.  We are using Moodle as the course management system for discussions and posting handouts and lessons. The eight live sessions will use Elluminate and feature prepared video of students demonstrating some activities and video from the highly praised Folger Macbeth DVD. Those teachers who are participating will use their webcams and microphones to ask questions and participate in some of the activities.

When we announced the course in January, we had a flood of requests, but we had to halt the registration to 30 participants. Those who enrolled represent 23 states, and each teacher received a copy of the Folger Toolkit.

A different instructor will lead each class in the coming weeks. Here are the teachers who are presenting:

Week 1–Bob Young and Mike LoMonico, Folger Shakespeare Library

Week 2–Chris Renino, Scarsdale (NY) HS

Week 3–Kevin Costa, McDonough School, Owings Mills, MD

Week 4–Sue Biondo-Hench, Carlisle (PA) HS

Week 5–Jaime Wong, Lincoln-Sudbury Regional HS, Sudbury, MA

Week 6–Chris Shamburg, New Jersey City University

Week 7–Amy Ulen, Tumwater (WA) HS

Week 8–Bob Young and Carol Kelly, Folger Shakespeare Library

While the class is closed, here is a recording of the first session.

This is the first of what we trust will be many more Web-based professional development sessions. If you have any suggestions for future Webinars or courses, please add your comments below.

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Welcome to “Making a Scene: Shakespeare in the Classroom.” We’re extremely excited to launch into the blogosphere, and hope you’ll join us as we collaboratively share ideas and strategies about what’s working in your classrooms. 

Our founding Head of Education, Peggy O’Brien, has often said, “Teachers do the most important work in the world.” As your educational partner, we certainly believe that’s true. 

In addition to offering online resources from lesson plans to podcasts at www.folger.edu/education, we’ll be using this blog to let you know what’s new at Folger Education, give perspective on national trends, announce new resources, and have an ongoing conversation with you on how to make studying Shakespeare fun and successful for students of all ability levels.

In March of this year, we partnered with PBS to present a webinar on “Classroom 2.0” and ways that technology can be integrated with the study of Shakespeare. Hundreds of teachers from across the country participated and confirmed what we’ve already seen to be true: learning is a dynamic process. When technology is used in conjunction with our performance-based teaching philosophy (“learning by doing”), the results are often dramatic and very successful. Watch our “Remixing Shakespeare” video for just one example of this approach in action.

How are you planning on using technology in your classrooms this year? What obstacles do you face? For those of you who have already tried it, what results have you seen? Is it an effective hook for students who may think they dislike literature, but love making YouTube videos?

We look forward to hearing your responses. Learning is all about discovery, and we hope that you’ll share yours and your students’ throughout the year ahead.

– Robert Young
Director, Folger Education

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