While Shakespeare might seem like an ancient writer to some, his writings are still studied today because of their impact on modern culture. You’d be amazed to see how much of our vocabulary and quirky sayings stem from the Bard’s word-smithing. The challenge is that studying Shakespeare isn’t for the faint of heart. The words, ideas, and situations aren’t simple to follow, and that can discourage a student of any age.
Here are five easy ways to energize your homeschool Shakespeare studies and make your kids hungry for anything Shakespearean.
1. Engage with Shakespeare’s Era
Context is a great tool for cultivating understanding. By understanding the times in which Shakespeare wrote, you can better understand his writings. Our family has loved working through (affiliate) Shakespeare for Kids: His Life and Times, 21 Activities. Some of the activities include:
- Learning to juggle
- Discovering your family tree
- Staging a sword fight
- Playing Elizabethan games
- Coining new words
Another great way to experience the time period in which Shakespeare wrote is to attend a Renaissance Fair. If you find one in your area, check and see if they have a homeschool day, which gives you better pricing and a different crowd.
2. Memorize Inspiring Passages
I use the word “inspiring” loosely because different people are inspired by different types of passages. Some enjoy the humor of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, others enjoy the romance of Romeo and Juliet. You can also inspire history lovers with passages from Henry VIII, or the madness and mystery of Hamlet.
When you enrich your family time with Shakespeare, you might just find reluctant learners engaging with you as their confidence and enjoyment increases. We memorized the first passage from Ken Ludwig’s book (affiliate) How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare, and my most skeptical student can still recite the whole passage with a smile on his face six months later. Memorization goes a long way towards energizing your studies.
3. Read and Watch Adaptations
Any classic work that has been adapted for children becomes a controversial topic among educators. Whether you should incorporate them or not has been debated for years. Adaptations can be great tools for helping bring a story to life for a child. There are so many great tools out there that can help a student of Shakespeare become familiar with a story so that they can enjoy the full version in all of its glory. Here are some of our family favorites:
Shakespeare 16 Books Children’s Story Collection Set By Tony Ross – I love this little set of books for their simplicity and readability.
Shakespeare: The Animated Tales – These short animated videos do a great job of introducing characters and plot to young learners. (Warning: Romeo and Juliet has a love scene…you might want to preview that one first!)
- Brick Shakespeare: Four Tragedies and Four Comedies – If you have Lego lovers in your home, this book series will be sure to inspire further Lego adaptations.
Adaptations should not replace the real works, but they can help make the original works accessible to novices.
4. Act It Out
There is nothing like becoming part of a story to truly energize interest in the subject. Quality trumps quantity in this scenario. If you take an entire year to read adaptations, start memorizing passages, and engaging with Shakespeare’s time, you can bring that one play to life at the end of your year.
If you don’t feel like you could pull this off on your own, find a local children’s theater that puts on Shakespeare plays for your kids to join. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or word for word to the original. When students immerse themselves in the work, they’ll have a greater appreciation for it.
5. Experience It Live
By far, the best way to energize your studies of Shakespeare’s plays is to experience a live performance. Seeing how people express the ideas from the plays in real life offers opportunities for deeper understanding. Often the humor gets lost when you’re reading a play to yourself, however a live performance will draw out those subtleties for their audience.
Don’t think of studying Shakespeare as a dry and boring pursuit. With a few simple tricks, you can energize your studies and increase your enjoyment of the Bard’s classic works.