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Working with Shakespeare

shakespeareWilliam Shakespeare’s birthday is celebrated on April 23. While there are many ways to approach Shakespeare in the classroom, the Council Chronicle article “The Play’s the Thing: Getting the Most Out of Shakespeare” shares effective methods for teaching Shakespeare. These approaches develop reading and interpretation skills, providing benefits that outlast a particular unit. The following from NCTE and provide more resources on Shakespeare.

The Voices from the Middle article “Where There’s a Will, There’s a Play” describes a yearly activity at one middle school in which a production of a Shakespearean comedy becomes the centerpiece of an interdisciplinary unit on the Elizabethan period with The Tempest as one of the model texts. In this lesson plan, after reading The Tempest or any other play, students work in small groups to plan, compose, and perform a choral reading based on a character or theme. View the video of students performing their choral reading.

The author of Reading Shakespeare with Young Adults and Reading Shakespeare Film First has created the website Reading Shakespeare in the Twenty-First Century. Here visitors can connect, extend, update, and animate the ideas and materials in both books. Two resources to note are “The Shakespeare Conspiracy” and “The Shakespeare Schoolwide Festival.”

The authors of Teaching Romeo and Juliet: A Differentiated Approach offer an approach to teaching Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that works with students of all ability levels, including lesson plans focused on key scenes, close reader handouts geared toward different levels of readiness, and scaffolded reading activities. Teaching Julius Caesar: A Differentiated Approach takes a similar approach to that play.

The Classroom Notes Plus article “Character Connections: A Multigenre Approach to Studying Shakespeare” shares a multigenre character study project for high school students as a way for them to engage closely in the study of Hamlet. In the lesson plan Analyzing Character in Hamlet through Epitaphs, students compose epitaphs for deceased characters in Hamlet, paying particular attention to how their words appeal to the senses, create imagery, suggest mood, and set tone.

The English Journal article “Stop Reading Shakespeare!” shares the idea that to be fully appreciated, Shakespeare’s plays must be experienced as they were intended—produced by actors on a stage and watched by an audience. In the lesson plan All’s Well that Sells Well: A Creative Introduction to Shakespeare, students compare attending a performance at the Globe Theatre with attending a modern theater production or movie. They then create a commercial for an Elizabethan audience promoting a modern product. Learn more in the Shakespeare-themed issue of English Journal.

In Performance Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare, the author explores how performance enriches students’ understanding of Shakespeare’s plays, with a focus on Taming of the Shrew, Richard III, and Hamlet. The lesson plan Book Report Alternative: Characters for Hire! Studying Character in Drama provides additional ideas tied to those texts.

Using Shakespeare’s Plays to Teach Critical Thinking and Writing Skills” from Teaching English in the Two-Year College describes classroom exercises and writing assignments through which students can use Shakespeare’s plays to develop their own thoughts about various social and personal norms, develop an empathetic yet critical understanding of others’ positions, and learn to express their own ideas more fully.

Many times, short introductions are all that are given before studying Shakespeare’s plays. The article “Introducing Shakespeare” describes the use and creation over time of these introductions to many different plays by Shakespeare.

Still want more? Visit here to see a collection of resources on Shakespeare from NCTE.