‘Bard’ education: Students learn art of improvisation

_CE13102 aBethlehem College Ashfield and St Michael’s Catholic Primary Stanmore students took a dramatic turn with a workshop to explore the themes and ideals present in Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The extension activity allowed gifted students from a Year 7 English class and gifted students in Years 5 and 6 from St Michael’s who are preparing for problem solving challenge Tournament of Minds to grow their improvisation skills and confidence.

We started by exploring the question ‘What does value mean?’

Bethlehem College English and Drama teacher Stacey Lindon said students explored themes such as parental authority, forbidden love, status and the concept of two worlds co-existing.

“We started by exploring the question ‘What does value mean?’ and discussed how it could be something that’s valuable in a material way or valuable in an immaterial way,” she said.

“The students did a short improvisation activity that had to do with the concept of magic which linked into A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They also did another improvisation activity on the links we could make between Lady Gaga, Captain Jack Sparrow and William Shakespeare. It’s quite open-ended because it is for gifted students, so from that they were able to come up with some really, really good ideas.

“Overall the idea of the program is to develop some drama skills and improvisation skills. On top of that they’ve been doing a lot of collaborative group work so they’ve really had to work on their communication skills to make sure that the ideas they are coming up with are articulated well to myself as a teacher, but also to their peers.”

Bethlehem College will hold a Shakespeare festival for Year 7 students on July 17, where each English class from the grade will act out a part of the play and take part in other research activities. The St Michael’s students will be guest performers of an original piece they came up with during the June 18 workshop. The activity was part of the Newman program, an initiative in some Sydney Catholic Schools that aims to extend the learning of gifted and talented students.

Year 6 student Luke Cussen said he found the day creative. “We had lots of fun doing drama games, we extended our minds to the limit,” he said.

Year 6 student Natasha Sheehy, 11, agreed.

“We did lots of work about Shakespeare and had a great time. It was a chance to learn and also make some new friends.”

Shakespeare was new to some including Isabel, a Year 5 student. “I learnt a whole lot,” she said.

“We were put into groups with the Bethlehem students and were faced with a range of questions. They helped us explore deeper into the world of Shakespeare. Some of these tasks involved drama and lots of creative thinking. For example, we were asked to think of quotes, book names, places and songs that all involved gold.”

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