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Quick Tips

Shakespeare's Language

Remember: Shakespeare wrote plays.

Always include some oral reading and/or performance when working with

Have fun with allusions.

Contemporary culture and advertising are rife with allusions to Shakespeare. Examples include titles of Star Trek movies ("the Undiscovered Country") and print advertisements for cleaning solutions ("Out, damn spot!"). Have your students identify allusions to Shakespeare and bring them to class to share. Comic strips are a great place to start.

Keep students on their feet.

Include movement to help kinesthetic learners master the material. Try marching to the iambic pentameter of a line or verse.

Mix it up.

Try different techniques to de-mystify complicated speeches. Play with movement, volume, and rhythm. After each task, ask students to reflect on what they've learned about the speech.

Visualize the language.

Encourage students to create tableaux (or pictures) of image-rich text to help them understand the possible meanings of the lines.

Listen to the words.

When reading, have students emphasize alliteration or other repeated sounds. Ask them what this tells us about the character's mood or purpose. Are the sounds heavy, foreboding, bright, or soothing?

Shakespeare wrote the book on poetry.

Use examples from Shakespeare in teaching students about poetic devices and figures of speech. His soliloquies are packed with imagery and figures of speech in action.

Make it easier to understand.

Use the largest type size available when preparing an overhead or hand-out. It's not only easier to read this way; it's less intimidating.

Take it piece-by-piece.

Have your approach build from investigating individual words to thinking about images, sentences, and, finally, complete passages. And, remember, students need not define every single word to have a rich, rewarding experience with Shakespeare.

Use props.

A few props kept in the classroom can do wonders to help students understand both the dramatic action and the language in Shakespeare's plays. Wooden swords, a crown, a skull, bandannas, a black cloak or two, hats of all sorts help students to understand what's going on.
Shakespeare's Language

Professional Development

Quick Tips

Rare Words vs. the Facts
A case study by Judith Elstein

Soliloquies Buster
A case study by Janet Field-Pickering

Juliet Trumps Laura: Shakespeare and the Petrarchan Sonnet
A case study by Louisa Newlin

Taking Chances in the Classroom, Taking Shakespeare at his Word
An in-depth article by D. Kay Johnston and Margaret Maurer

Lesson Plans

Language Arts: Shakespeare's Sonnets
A lesson plan by Joan Snyder

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Shakespeare for elementary students
Shakespeare on film
Teaching Shakespeare with technology
Shakespeare's language
Teaching Shakespeare with primary sources
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