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Fostering Inclusion of Multilingual Students with Shakespeare

After support from ICOM UK, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is about to finish its first international collaboration project. In autumn 2016 the Learning and Participation team from Stratford-upon-Avon teamed up with educators from Germany, Sweden and Slovenia in an Erasmus+ project to support teachers in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms.

Heterogeneous classrooms are a reality now but there isn’t a lot of educational material available that pays attention to this diversification. The CultureShake project set out to bridge this gap between current research and classroom practices in schools around Europe. In addition, one of the project’s aims was to highlight the advantages of multilingualism in a globalised world: including the students’ home languages into the classroom is not only a great way to boost their confidence and deepen their sense of belonging, but it is also of crucial importance in a Europe of many languages and cultures.

The worldwide appeal and continued popularity of Shakespeare makes it possible to approach his writings from many languages and cultures, as particularly the plays often highlight our common humanity. In addition, choosing a writer whose plays were not seen as belonging to any of the two main national groups in the project, i.e. German or Swedish, helped to reinforce the multilingual nature of the project. The Trust’s educational expertise was central to this project setup, particularly with their experience of making Shakespeare accessible for language learners. In addition to providing workshops around the two focus plays chosen, the CultureShake students were able to use Shakespeare translations from the Trust’s extensive library collection for their research, and the Shakespeare Centre in Stratford-upon-Avon as well as in the Birthplace and Shakespeare’s New Place offered the setting for some truly experiential learning experience. If you would like to know more about the project results, there are all available for free on the project website

Participating in an international project like CultureShake would have been so much harder without the valuable information and advice we received at a number of workshops organised by ICOM UK through the Working Internationally for Regional Museums (WIRP) programme. The sharing of insights into international networking as well as EU support for funding has enabled the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to reach students beyond the borders of the UK and to reposition itself in the European museum and education sector.  After CultureShake finishes this autumn the Trust hopes to continue forging new international relationships.

Lisa Peter, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust