Over the course of my four years in high school, I read and watched Romeo and Juliet, Julius Ceasar, King Lear, and Hamlet. Not counting my world history teacher that spent a full lecture on how William Shakespeare was a fraud, that was my only exposure to the works of Shakespeare in school…including college.* One of my goals as a homeschooling parent is to introduce my children to as many beautiful passages from literature as I can. An added benefit to reading Shakespeare with my own children is that I’m learning the plays right along with them. Are you interested in incorporating Shakespeare into your classroom or home? Here’s what works for us:
Start with the story. I find the kids (and I) are a lot more patient with unfamiliar language or cadence if they know what to expect. One of our favorite resources for short play summaries is Short Stories from the BBC. If audiobooks are more your style, LibriVox has a free recording of the Charles & Mary Lamb Tales from Shakespeare here.
It’s okay to only read part. Even with story summaries and kid-friendly versions of Shakespeare, I still want to read the original text with my kids. That said, it’s a lot more successful when we read just a little bit at a time. I usually start with the famous passages or parts where the most action happens to keep everyone (myself included) interested.
Read it out loud. Trust me on this one. Even if your students or children are old enough to read Shakespeare on their own, it is so much easier to understand (and so much more enjoyable) out loud. Or better yet, act it out!
So far, we’ve loved making the works of William Shakespeare part of our little homeschool. It might be partly selfish on my part, but we’ve started with the plays I never read. Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play that we need to read next?
*Yes. Somehow, I graduated from college with a degree in Literature and still managed never to take a class where any Shakespeare was assigned reading. It’s a serious gap in my knowledge, I know.