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Home schooling help: Stratford Lit Fest & the RSC

Stratford Literary Festival and the RSC have created FREE online home schooling content with top UK authors and actors including Michael Rosen.

Former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen, recently recovered from Covid, will be sharing his book Barking for Bagels.

Top authors including Michael Rosen have recorded special events for Stratford Lit Fest’s brilliant new Authors for Schools project; while the RSC has the likes of Michael Morpurgo, David Tennant, Niamh Cusack and Paapa Essiedu helping kids with their drama and English home learning – for free!

Stratford Literary Festival: Authors for Schools

Lockdown and school closures mean that many children have experienced a worrying gap in their education at a critical point in their lives, says Stratford Literary Festival Director Annie Ashworth.

Authors for Schools is aiming to help fill this important gap with a series of heart-warming events for primary and secondary schools throughout our region, particularly engage reluctant readers. Eight online events can be downloaded in school or at home for children and young people to enjoy.

Award-winning UK authors, including Michael Rosen, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Tanya Landman and Sita Brahmachari, have recorded events for Stratford Literary Festival’s Authors for Schools project designed to inspire children being home-schooled during lockdown.

Screenwriter and novelist Frank Cottrell-Boyce

Former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen, recently recovered from Covid, will share his book Barking for Bagels, and CILIP Carnegie Medal winner Tanya Landman will explore storytelling with her latest book, a traditional tale called The Song of the Nightingale. Emma Smith, Professor of Shakespeare Studies and author of This is Shakespeare will help GCSE and A Level students of English through themes in the Bard’s texts, and acclaimed writer Tony Bradman will bring the story of Macbeth to life for younger readers.

Chitra Soundar, the internationally published author of over 50 books for children, opens up the world of Indian folktales with her book Sona Sharma: Very Best Big Sister. Winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, Sita Brahmachari, will consider the themes of belonging, community, and migration addressed in When Secrets Set Sail.

Award-winning Derby-born YA and children’s author Sita Brahmachari, who now lives in London

Screenwriter and novelist, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, brings hilarity to the mix with Cosmic and the Runaway Robot, and Brilliant Book Award winner, Christopher Edge, who specialises in teaching children to write creatively, will talk about The Longest Night of Charlie Noon shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal.

These events, plus links to resources and activity ideas to help them stay engaged with the authors’ books have been made possible by donations through the LocalGiving Community Match Challenge. The Festival will also be providing local schools with copies of books by featured authors.

Stratford Literary Festival stages two festivals a year, and brings the benefits of books to schools, the community and prisons. Because of ongoing Covid restrictions, its Spring Festival will run a reduced programme online, or live if permitted, from May 8-16th in line with latest Covid guidelines. A longer festival is planned for Nov 9-14.

RSC: Online Drama & English home schooling help for 6 to 18-year-olds

Image RSC: Next-Generation ACT Rehearsals

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is offering a large number of fabulous free Shakespeare-related resources to students currently learning at home, and to teachers looking to create lesson plans to deliver online. All resources are accessible via the Education section of the RSC website here. They include:

Michael Morpurgo’s Tales from Shakespeare

Michael Morpurgo

Celebrated War Horse author Michael Morpurgo has relocated six of Shakespeare’s plays and their characters to contemporary settings in Tales from Shakespeare, aimed for young people aged 6 to 16. They are free for UK schools, with a new tale being available on demand at 10am every Friday ending this week (Feb 5). But each tale is available for three months from date of its initial release. To access the videos schools need to register here

The six stories – Twelfth NightMacbethRomeo and JulietA Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest – are told by both Michael himself and members of the RSC acting company. They will be supported by a series of new literacy resources for Key Stages 1-3, released in February 2021.

RSC Activity Toolkits

I May Destroy You actor Paapa Essiedu as the RSC’s critically-acclaimed Hamlet, 2018. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Focussing on six of Shakespeare’s most studied plays. The toolkits have been designed specifically for home learning, with short 15-minute tasks that can be completed by students at home, or set as part of a remote lesson.  With supporting videos from RSC actors, the toolkits will take students deeper into the world of each play.  Actors, including Niamh Cusack, Paapa Essiedu and David Tennant have also created video responses to questions sent in from students as part of Homework Help.

Homework help

Here’s RSCThe Comedy of Errors star Avita Jay (You may have also seen her in films The Rezort (2015), Bring on the Bollywood (2021) and Twenty8K, plus on stage in Birmingham Rep’s Lovely Bones and Billionaire Boy NST Theatre/UK tour)

In 2020 the RSC asked students to send the RSC their Shakespeare questions through the brilliantly entertaining #RSCHomeworkHelp. Hundreds of questions were received, and students can now access video responses from actors including David Bradley, Niamh Cusack, Paapa Essiedu, David Tennant and David Threlfall, along with the RSC’s Artistic Director Gregory Doran. Here’s the former Dr Who and Staged star in action.

‘Live’ Lessons

Image: RSC. Coventry actor Bally Gill and Karen Fishwick – the stars of 2019’s Romeo and Juliet.

In 2019 and 2020 the RSC broadcast live lessons into schools about Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth.  These lessons are now available for students to view at any time.  Each lesson features contributions from RSC directors and actors, including RSC Deputy Artistic Director, Erica Whyman, who directed Romeo and Juliet in 2019; Niamh Cusack, who played Lady Macbeth in 2019; and Karen Fishwick, who played Juliet in 2019.  The lessons explore the characters, themes and language of each play. You can read our interview with Karen here.


RSC playmaking festival workshop

Other resources available include Shakespeare Unlocked, where students can watch videos exploring key moments, relationships and speeches from MacbethRomeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Shakespeare Learning Zone contains an informative and interactive catalogue of games, videos and galleries, arranged by play title, giving students the chance to find more about each play or revise ones they know well.

Teachers can search the RSC’s Teacher Resources database, full of activities and inspiration to help them plan online lessons for 30 of Shakespeare plays.

All resources are accessible via the Education section of the RSC website here

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