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5 ways to introduce Shakespeare in your classroom

Teachers

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Introducing William Shakespeare to your KS2 students may seem like a daunting prospect, but it doesn’t have to be.

We’ve put together five top tips to ‘break the ice’ between the Bard and your students (yes, he introduced this phrase!):

1. Tell a story

You don’t need to know Shakespeare well to tell a good Shakesperean story.

There are many plot summaries and character breakdowns readily available to give you a comprehensive understanding of whichever story you wish to tell.

Why not try the magical A Midsummer Night’s Dream or a favourite among primary educators, Macbeth? Create character voices, leave suspenseful pauses, and shout those iconic Shakespearean insults from the rafters to engage your pupils with the world's greatest dramatist.

2. Try Iambic Pentameter

This may seem hard in truth it’s really not.

Iambic Pentameter may not be the first thing on the KS2 curriculum but using Shakespeare is a lovely way to introduce a complex literary device that will be explored in later learning.

Take a line such as Romeo and Juliet’s ‘two households, both alike in dignity’, let your students explore the 10-beat pattern (de-dum, de-dum, de-dum, de-dum, de dum) and see if they can replicate with phrases around the classroom, canteen or playground:

The sharpener is over by the desk.

My lunch contains a yoghurt and a wrap.

I’m catching you, ha tag and now you’re it.

3. Shakespearean statues

It might be difficult to act out an entire Shakespearean play with students.

Instead, read a short excerpt and ask your students, in small groups, to create freeze frames of different passages within an act.

This constructs a real-life storyboard where students can comment on fellow groups and interpret the Bard’s work through their own actions.

4. Reset the scene

Take Shakespeare out of the Elizabethan and Jacobean ages.

Bring a fresh perspective to Much Ado About Nothing or The Merchant of Venice by pulling out the main themes and character traits and rewriting with a modern twist. Take Macbeth as an example:

A student, Macbeth, is controlled by a bully, Lady Macbeth, with the title character being forced into things that he knows to be naughty.

As Macbeth is unable to right all of his wrongs, he continues to do bad things until he is caught and punished by the Head Teacher (Macduff). From then on the good pupils take charge and there is a friendly atmosphere in the school once again!

5. Explore Shakespeare in the everyday

William Shakespeare may not have come up with the phrase ‘Hakuna Matata’ but he certainly did his fair share for the English language, with the introduction of over 3,000 words and phrases to our modern parlance.

We’ve come up with a blog that highlights 6 everyday phrases invented by Shakespeare where you can discover how you’ve been using Shakespeare’s creations on a day-to-day basis.

Regarding Hakuna Matata, this may not have been part of Shakespeare’s body of work, but did you know there are some striking similarities between The Lion King and Hamlet?

Explore modern-day adaptations of Shakespeare’s work and revel in the amazement of your students when they realise that The Bard of Avon is all around!

As you’ve got this far we thought we’d offer you a Shakespearean treat. Complete our very own true or false Shakespeare quiz. Find out how well you know the man himself and discover whether one of his children had an oddly familiar name…

Shakespeare Quiz Banner.svg

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