Home' Teacher : March 2011 Contents FEATURE -- INCURSIONS AND EXCURSIONS 35
The word 'incursion,' as we define it in a classroom setting, is unique
to Australia. If you were to say 'school incursion' to a teacher any-
where else in the English-speaking world, they would picture either a
hostile armed invasion or a rapid influx of virulent disease. But in our
innovative Aussie way -- and our desire to create language shortcuts
-- we've taken the word 'excursion' and simply replaced the prefix,
disregarding the connotations of the pre-existing word, 'incursion.'
In exploring what makes a good incursion, however, it may be
useful to return to some of those original connotations. An incur-
sion really shakes things up, transforms an environment and leaves
a swathe of destruction in its path. For our purposes, let's imagine
that it is student apathy being destroyed, rather than your
new multipurpose centre.
Is it worthwhile?
If your next incursion involves an expert turning
up and lecturing your students, you've wasted
your activity's budget. The best incursions bring
a fresh energy and perspective into the class-
room, support and reinvigorate your teaching
and engage the students in active learning.
A focus on these goals has led to the con-
tinuing success of Bell Shakespeare's in-
school learning program, now in its 21st
year. Each year, Actors At Work scripts and
masterclass activities undergo an extensive
process of refinement in order to connect with
young people in new and exciting ways.
According to teachers, it's working. Julie
Ayers, a teacher at Mentone Girls Second-
ary College in Melbourne, said the Actors
At Work performance at her school had a
positive impact on those who took part.
'Students who had not previously
enjoyed the classroom experience of
Macbeth found the actors engaging; the
live theatre energised their interest in
learning more,' she said.
'Students thoroughly enjoyed the
performance and developed a more
thoughtful response to Shakespeare's
It is crucial for provid-
ers like Bell Shakespeare to
learn from their audience, gauge their reactions, obtain detailed feed-
back and continue to evolve. This is why, in 2011, Bell Shakespeare
has launched a completely new model for delivering school incursions.
An ensemble of eight professional actors, known as The Players, will,
for the first time, run Bell Shakespeare's entire range of learning
programs. As well as performing in a season of Romeo and Juliet at
Sydney's Seymour Centre in March, this very busy troupe will deliver
Actors At Work, student masterclasses, teacher professional learning
and residencies in every state and territory in Australia.
A new direction
The rationale behind this change was twofold:
1. to deliver a more comprehensive program that better meets
the needs of teachers, and
2. to build the capacity of actors to use their craft not only as
performers but as educators.
The actors were put through their paces at the beginning of the
year, with intensive voice, movement and acting classes. This was
complemented by a rigorous program of Shakespeare studies, cur-
riculum studies and facilitator education. Bell Shakespeare's focus
is always on practical learning, and this was no different for The
Players. Actors are used to physical engagement, and from day one
they were up on their feet, learning how to run masterclasses by
actually doing the exercises, rather than noting them dow n in a
The advantage of this kind of training is that it sticks very quickly.
Our brains were not meant to be receptacles into which information
is tipped. We need to process, interpret, connect and apply. This
works not just for students, but for teacher professional learning
as well. How many staff trainings have you attended which, upon
reflection, were slightly less enjoyable than supervising detention?
Probably more than one. Do you remember any important informa-
tion from those sessions? Unlikely.
If I get my students to sit around the classroom reading Romeo
and Juliet from beginning to end, I will be met with serious resist-
ance and engender a lifelong fear and hatred of Shakespeare. If I
stand up in front of the class and tell the story of the play, I might
spark interest in a handful of students. But if I get the class involved
physically, allowing them to play with the roles and discover the
story in their ow n way (with my guidance), I've hooked them for the
rest of the unit, the rest of their schooling and the rest of their lives.
The journey from 'Shakespeare is boring' to 'Shakespeare is fun'
takes less than half an hour. I have seen it happen again and again,
in city schools, in rural schools, in remote com munities, among
BELL SHAKESPEARE'S LEARNING PROGRAM HAS JUST LAUNCHED A NEW ENSEMBLE OF ACTORS/EDUCATORS,
KNOWN AS THE PLAYERS. JAMES EVANS EXPLAINS HOW THESE EIGHT PROFESSIONAL ARTISTS SEEK TO
REINVIGORATE TEACHERS AND STUDENTS WITH SCHOOL INCURSIONS ACROSS AUSTRALIA.
Links Archive Jan-Feb 2011 April 2011 Navigation Previous Page Next Page