Shakespeare and High Schoolers

…don’t always work well together. I’ve found that until you help kids make that connection with his language, themes, characterization, etc., many dread pulling out their books to read Shakespeare.

With this in mind, I’m always looking for new ideas to help liven up Shakespeare lessons. It is through these great teaching strategies and my passion for reading his work (and again, helping show kids the connections they can make with his work) that I have found teaching Shakespeare can be a LOT of fun for both me and the kids.

One resource that I have found VERY helpful is Mary Ellen Dakin’s book Reading Shakespeare with Young Adults. There are so many helpful topics in this book (ranging from understanding the language to reading strategies to acting out to hear [and see] the words) that my kids have really enjoyed participating in and that have truly helped bring Shakespeare’s work alive.

[note: a favorite activity is the “living pictures” (pg 158) assignment that I modified to fit in with our Othello reading. We record the groups “spins” and enjoy watching them together to add to our discussion (with some even taking it a step farther to create a video in which all of the spins are brought together to ultimately define the complexity of the characters, specifically Iago).

Also, as many of you probably already know, the Folger Shakespeare Library has TONS of resources, too!

If you’ve had success teaching Shakespeare to high schoolers (or if you are a high schooler who has found something that works for you or you have enjoyed doing!), feel free to share! 🙂


4 thoughts on “Shakespeare and High Schoolers

  1. I teach Shakespeare to 6th graders and they love it! A few weeks ago I gave my kids a bunch of action figures, chess pieces, Lego people (whatever I could find), a pad of mini sticky notes and a synopsis for a play. In small groups they were to find a way to use the action figures (with stickies for character labels) to tell the story of their play. It was hilarious, exciting and invigorating. Watching the figures be manipulated to tell the story of Romeo and Juliet or A Midsummer Night’s Dream was so much fun. I wandered from group to group admiring how every single students was fully engaged in correctly relating the plot using their “dolls”. They internalized the stories and had so much fun they actually complained when class ended. I think high school kids deserve a chance to get on the floor and turn a Darth Vader figure into Malvolio. What say you? I also created a rap containing all of Shakespeare’s plays in order of performance. Check it out under the title “Bard Rap”. Good luck with your students. I am excited for them and for you!

  2. Long ago – a high school class decided to put Macbeth on trial – formal trial with attorneys and witnesses for both sides. He got off, but Lady Macbeth was indicted.

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