The British Council 'Shakespeare in China' Project
by Mr Simpson.
'Would you be interested in taking part in a project to link to the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare? Oh, it involves going to China...'
It's not the kind of question that you often get asked on a Monday morning, but I have ejoyed teaching pupils to perform Shakespeare at Branston Junior before and found that it is a great way to introduce children to the great stories that he wrote, and the weird and wonderful characters. It was inspiring to gain contact with 'Sunny', the link teacher at Tangshan No1. Experimental School and to make plans: her headteacher was to visit our school in June 2016 and I was to visit China in October 2016. We decided to focus on 'A MIdsummer Night's Dream' as it contained themes which all chiuldren could enjoy exploring.
Pupils swapped photographs of our schools and examples of artwork, and photographs of Autumn events such as Halloween and Christmas (neither are celebrated in China.) We researched Chinese New Year and looked at the geography of China. It was a real opportunity to share ideas. In Spring, rehearsals began on my shortened version of 'A MIdsummer Night's Dream' and the script was shared with our Chinese collegues for their children to read and discuss. It was hard work, but the performance was lots of fun and won the 'Junior Drama' prize at The Lincoln Music & Drama Festival. Pupils went on to perform to several membes of our community.
It was great to welcome the Headteachers from our partner schools, and show them the dance, drama and music at Branton Junior School. It must have been quite a shock - they run huge schools containing over 1500 pupils in a city school and ours has 150 pupils and has farmland nearby. We received some beautiful artwork and gifted them a special 'Branston' Lincoln Knight figure and a USB contining films of the play and what a day is like at BJA.
In October, I had the opportunity to visit China with a party of Lincolnsire primary teachers. We were accompanied by a group of secondary school pupils from Christ's Hospital School who were going to stay with chinese families and experience their lives first-hand. The flight alone proved a challenge: spending mos of a day in the air and travelling east in terms of timezones was very disorientating even though we'd worked it out in class the week before.
Our first surprise was that the expressway was closed because of smog and we had to make slow progress along the dual carriageway instead. Chinese drivers honk their horn when overtaking so it was not a restful transfer.
Over te next few days, we visited schools from nursery through to secondary. The numbers of pupils were huge, and explained the formal way that pupils learnt and moved around the schools. Clases were up to 50 in a room.
We discussed with the Chinese teachers their approach to taching and learning, and how we could learn from each other. I was impressed by the focus of the children and how they were prepared to practise their key skills until they had mastered them. They also took part in an hour of physical activity each day and learnt weekly about healthy eating. Their sense of community was impressive wanting everyone to succeed and work together.
The most memorable moments were walking along the Great Wall (and slipping off it!) and watching the fantstic pupils at No1. Experimental School perform my version of 'A MIdsummer Night's Dream' and hearing the English audience laugh along. They also performed 'Jingle Bells' which is part of our shared international version (view on Youtube: Blue Jelly Studios)
We look forward to keeping in touch with our partner school and welcoming teachers back across in the future.