Rhetoric

This is how Patsy Rodenburg explains her work and ideas

The work I do and the exercises I teach can be traced back 3000 years in our Western traditions and in fact were basic classes in schools until the Industrial Revolution. Shakespeare did voice and speech work, he learnt lines from the age of 6.

What is extremely exciting is science; neuro imagery and extensive studies on how we learn prove that embodied learning is the most efficient way of deep understanding of ideas, creativity and an engagement of what it is to be human and civilised.

My beliefs are echoed by Dr Iain McGilchrist who explains how it is critical that we engage both our right and left brain to be a fully rounded citizen. Speaking aloud great poetic text joins the brain. Speaking knowledge aloud means the speaker remembers knowledge more than when they only write out material.

The other crucial understanding that is known throughout history is that these skills are learnt only through repetition. Students need to practise regularly. This can be achieved through a session once or twice a week and the educational impact can be heightened through:

  • Speaking great literature

  • Debating

  • Discussion of learning experienced in other subjects.

  • Formal and informal language explored and forms of rhetoric tested.

All the above can be assessed. Every student should learn how to speak effectively and with confidence (this is not about accent) to develop a rich use of language and imagery.


Students should be able to conduct constructive dialogue and be able to debate complicated ideas. Any special interest can be explored in after school activities – theatre, music, writing etc.

It is important to work with teachers to enhance their abilities to communicate and enable their students to excel.   We should identify members of staff to fast track and mentor in these skills.

We should introduce students to some of the greatest minds and most creative people in the world. I am confident they will come! Actors, writers, composers, singers etc. I can facilitate regular visits from the RSC education team.

Voice programmes

Patsy Rodenburg in her role as Consultant, together with appointed staff, will design and deliver a bespoke LFET programme to raise individual student social and professional skills through practical engagement across the entire educational curriculum. It will be based upon the following core beliefs of Patsy that success is not based on just academic knowledge but on certain social and professional skills:

  • Body language

  • Voice

  • Speech

  • The ability to listen, to have dialogue and debate

  • To be present in all situations and centred

  • To make and maintain eye contact

  • To have an overview and be able to work in and lead teams

Connected to and aligned with these fundamental skills is the need for young people to be able to focus their imaginations and be creative. Language, plays, poetry and music – the humanities can be taught not only academically but through doing and enacting.

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