The energy which pulsates when a group of teachers get together to discuss and enact something they feel passionately about is infectious.This past weekend saw 50 English teachers, students, academics, activists and curriculum advisers gather at the Baxter Theatre for a workshop entitled ‘My Shakespeare’. Organised by WITS university English professor, Chris Thurman, the event was aimed at generating debate and engagement around teaching methodologies for the Shakespeare curriculum in school classrooms.
Questions were posed such as: Why Shakespeare? Who’s Shakespeare? Whose Shakespeare? Should Shakespeare be assessed at school? These questions led us into engagements around language in schooling more broadly. Teachers shared the activities they use to engage their learners multilingually and multimodally despite working within constraining language ideologies and the time pressures of the CAPS curriculum.Here’s one idea which stood out for me: a bilingual teacher recorded a particularly recalcitrant essay writer speaking about the play Othello in isiZulu, and then played the recording back to him, working with him to transform his oral ideas into writing in English.Something my co-facilitator, Amanda Mkehle, and I are working on inspired by the workshop is a multilingual glossary for typical essay topic vocabulary such as ‘identify’, ‘discuss’ and ‘compare’.
Watch this space! For further information about the ‘My Shakespeare’ workshop and wider projects, contact Christopher.Thurman@wits.ac.za
Robyn Tyler, for the bua-lit collective