Introducing the new Teaching Shakespeare collection

11 Feb 2016 BY Jim Knight

4 mins
Still from The Tempest
Still from The Tempest

Recently I was at an event hosted by the filmmaker and Into Film trustee Beeban Kidron. She told us that Professor Brian Cox had recently said to her, "Physics has taught us that there is a beginning and that there is an end, but it is art that will help us understand how to spend the vast time in between." I loved that expression of the importance of the arts, in part because it points to its relationship with education.

The arts give expression to concepts, to our collective cultural wisdom, as well as an emotional outlet. They connect with us in a sensory and engaging way, and thereby unlock understanding. They are a precious tool for teachers.

In education we are seeing a move away from rote learning, and a shift towards learning concepts and then creating new knowledge by combining with the ubiquitous information at our fingertips. This raises the bar for teachers.

There is no future in standing and lecturing in front of a class. I rarely see teachers working from cover to cover through a textbook and then testing pupils on its content at the end.

Similarly I rarely see teachers going through a Shakespeare play by asking the class to take it in turns to read out the text line by line.

More than ever, teaching needs relevance, discovery and engagement. But teachers are time poor. They need all the help they can get to combine those three factors in every lesson of a full timetable..

Which is why I am excited by Teaching Shakespeare - a wonderful new site created by TES as part of an exciting partnership with Into Film, the BFI, the V&A, the British Museum, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Arts Council of England.

The site already has hundreds of thousands of teacher generated resources. Lesson sharing prevents them having to re-invent the wheel for every lesson. Now, by linking with England's leading cultural organisations TES can add rocket fuel to some of that content.

Teachers can link Shakespeare to other parts of the curriculum, can find new themes to explore in the typical plays, or get the confidence to explore less commonly studied parts of the canon. Content is arranged by plays, themes, context, genre and cultural context. Each is a new way into wonderful content that teachers can then mix with their own lesson plans and what they know works.

This year will be a lot about Shakespeare, as we celebrate the anniversary of his death. My first experience of Shakespeare was a boring didactic English lesson studying Julius Caesar. Happily I recovered, thanks to some great drama teachers, and a world of learning was opened up for me.

Shakespeare's genius is the perennial truth in his work that still resonates today. Professor Brian Cox must be a fan of this line from As You Like It:

"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves"

Discover more Shakespeare film titles with our Into Film Recommends podcast below, or login to SoundCloud to download the podcast and listen on the go.

The Into Film Recommends Podcast Series is also available on iTunes.

Jim Knight

Jim Knight, Chief Education Adviser, TES Global Ltd.

Jim Knight is a member of the House of Lords and a visiting Professor at the London Knowledge Lab of the Institute of Education. As a UK government minister his portfolios included rural affairs, schools, digital and employment

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