Why Study Shakespeare?

Why Study Shakespeare?

February is the month of love, romance, and all things pink, red, rosey, and chocolatey. Love songs, classical poetry and cheesy greeting card rhymes abound even after Valentine’s Day is over. Here’s one you’ve probably heard of:

‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.’

Those are the opening lines to William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.

There are usually two responses when you ask school students if they like Shakespeare: the majority groan at the sound of his name and tell you how boring or confusing his plays are, and a minority, usually drama students, will express delight at your question, tell you their favourite play and ask for yours.

Did you know that Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ was inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet? Or that ’10 Things I Hate About You’ is a modern adaption of The Taming of the Shrew? Or that ‘She’s The Man’ is a re-telling of Twelfth Night? Most primary students have never heard of Shakespeare, though they could probably tell you that Romeo and Juliet is a love story. This tells us that Shakespeare’s stories are an integral part of our society and culture, whether or not we know or like his work.

The point of studying Shakespeare, like all literature studied at school, is to teach wisdom and knowledge though experience. Fiction is experiential knowledge as opposed to theoretical textbook knowledge. You might call fiction ‘heart knowledge’ compared to a textbook’s ‘head knowledge’. That’s not to say that textbooks aren’t helpful, but their purpose is informative compared to immersive.

Fiction, whether that be novels, plays, or films, develops our sense of empathy and our understanding of times, cultures and experiences which are not our own. As young adult novelist John Green said, ‘reading is always an act of empathy. It’s always an imagining of what it’s like to be someone else.’ To follow a plot, we necessarily have to imagine how character’s feel and understand why they do what they do. We learn to like or dislike characters by trying to empathise with them.

Fiction forces us to experience the lives of others, to encounter people and situations that we might never experience. When we read, we bring our own experiences to these new encounters and gain wisdom for how to deal with, or how not to deal with situations and people. Shakespeare’s tragic heroes and villains are a great example of what happens when we let pride or jealousy get the better of us or when we don’t surround ourselves with wise counsel.

Sure, Elizabethan verse can be hard to decode without Sparknotes, but once you become more familiar with the language, you’ll quickly understand how funny, compelling and thought-provoking his plays were and why they have come to be part of school syllabi around the world. To start, you might find it helpful to search a Royal Shakespeare Company production on YouTube or watch a movie adaptation to get your head around the story before diving into the original text. For younger students, Andrew Matthews’ A Shakespeare Story books are great chapter-book style summaries of Shakespeare’s more well-known dramas.
It takes practice to understand literary texts and often a guide can be helpful. Nepean Tutoring boasts a host of experienced English tutors who have worked with students of all ages, and across HSC and IB programmes.

To build your child’s confidence and literary analysis skills, look no further than the enthusiastic tutors at Nepean Tutoring. If you have any questions, simply Contact Us and we’ll take care of the rest.

(Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

Found! A Remedy for the Literacy Crisis…

Found! A Remedy for the Literacy Crisis…

“Don’t worry about spelling and grammar.

The future will be digital!”According to Prof. Pamela Snow, 1 in 7 fifteen-year-olds do not meet OECD reading standards. The OECD is an international organisation focused on facilitating a global economy. Part of this includes researching and determining international education norms and sharing successful teaching practices from other countries.

The minimum national reading standard for Year 9 students is roughly equivalent to the average Year 5 reading level. According to prevent NAPLAN statistics, 20% of Year 9 students are at or below this level. That Australia’s literacy and numeracy averages rank below several developing countries is concerning for many politicians, educators, and parents because many of the jobs which were once termed “low-skilled” (jobs where workers were not required to have above average literacy or numeracy levels) now have minimum literacy requirements. This means that now more than ever, preparing our children for future employment necessitates giving deliberate attention to developing sound literacy skills.

Have you ever considered the power of words? Words can be used to rally supporters, inspire nations, change opinions, sell products, and guide emotions, all though the use of vocabulary and tone. Literacy, quite literally, can empower your child to change the world! And the good news is, reading is a skill that can be taught, practiced and learned.
Teachers play a fundamental role in introducing students to subjects, words, and ways of sounding out and recognising words. However, in the classroom, a teacher can have up to 30 students to teach, mark homework for, and write reports for. It’s impossible for them to give struggling students all of the time they need to learn how to read, write, and handwrite.
Whether your child can read well or struggles, transforming your home into a word-friendly environment is a key step you can take to foster an enthusiasm for learning to read and write, and to extend vocabulary and writing skills. Here are a few successful habits you could consider adopting in your home:

  • Read aloud together regularly. This could be one page a day over breakfast, or reading a chapter together before bed. Children copy what they do, so if you are enthused about reading and spending time with them, they will be too.
  • If your child is able to read independently, continue this habit by spending time reading silently in the same room and then discussing what you are reading.
  • Engage children in reading activities as part of everyday life. Ask them to read the recipe while you’re cooking, street signs in the car, grocery store catalogues before you recycle them, or the instructions for your new IKEA furniture. Pictures and illustrations prompt children to make an educated guess about words by looking at their context.
  • Encourage children to write regularly. Ask them to write the shopping list (even if you dictate the items so you don’t end up with 5 boxes of Coco Pops!), write on birthday cards or postcards, or write reminders for themselves to remember their PE gear on Tuesdays.
  • Make regular family excursions to your local library. Allow your children to feel empowered by pick and choose what they would like to read. Most library memberships are FREE if your child goes to school in the local government area.
  • For extra support, consider private tutoring for your child in the comfort of your own home. Tutoring is an investment in your child’s learning, giving them personal, one-to-one support to address their struggles and help them to develop confidence in their ability to learn and see improvement.

It has never been more important to learn how to read and write, and the good news is it’s never too late to start! Contact Us today to see how we can help to inspire your child’s passion for literacy and learning.

To watch the Four Corners “Digi Kids” episode, head to: https://www.abc.net.au/4corners/digi-kids/11693706