How to Teach Shakespeare so Teens Will Like it!

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: How to Teach Shakespeare so Teens Will Like it! This post is running concurrently on the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

How to Teach Shakespeare so Teens Will Like it!

How to Teach Shakespeare so Teens Will Like it!

Sabrina and Vicki are so excited we got to be together (on Zoom, anyway). The pandemic has sure made it a challenge to all be together. In this episode, we talked about one of our favorite Literature topics: Shakespeare.

Don’t gasp! Studying Shakespeare can seem intimidating. However, Sabrina has experience teaching our local homeschool high schoolers the works of the Bard that inspires teens to enjoy it. Join us for some of Sabrina’s top tips on how to teach Shakespeare so teens will like it.

Why study Shakespeare in homeschool high school? (Share these ideas to help motivate your teens!)

  • Because it makes you look smart (especially seeing it on the homeschool transcript)!
    • Teens feel smart when they study Shakespeare. It sounds so intellectual to say, “I’m studying Shakespeare this year!”
    • Moms feel smart just typing it on the homeschool transcript!
  • Because it helps teens understand the human experience.
    • Many of Shakespeare’s characters have feelings and thoughts that teens have felt or thought. It is eye-opening for them to discover that people for eons of time have had the same human experiences.
  • Because it is an opportunity to experience masterful storytelling.
    • Homeschool trivia: Did you know that Shakespeare’s great storytelling followed the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle’s storytelling guidelines:
      • Tragedies require that things do not turn out how the reader thinks they should. In fact, the good people are punished for their goodness and the bad guys are rewarded. It causes the reader to say, “That’s not right!”
        • Vicki points out that tragedies can be used to change people’s behavior. For instance, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a tragedy. People read the book and felt that the world could not go on in that tragic way. A response was generated. As Abraham Lincoln reportedly said when he met the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, “So this is the little lady who made the great war.”
      • Comedies require that things turn out as the reader thinks they should. The good people are rewarded for their goodness and the bad people’s evildoing is revealed and punished.
  • Because when homeschool high schoolers read great books and plays, like the works of Shakespeare, they bring to the reading their own personalities, ideas and motivations.
    • Shakespeare himself wrote with his own personality, ideas and motivations.
    • So when teens read his works (as in all good reading experiences), there is a genuine meeting of the minds.
    • This brings about a challenge to action or growth in thinking.
  • Because Shakespeare’s plays are entertainment
    • In his day, as in our day, there was great production value that gave audiences a wonderful experience.
    • In our day, it is easy to go on YouTube and find excellent productions of his plays for teens to watch. (Check out Bob Jones University’s and Rice University’s productions of Shakespeare’s plays.)

How to teach Shakespeare so teens will like it: Use a fun, no-busywork curriculum

This summer 7SistersHomeschool will be releasing literature study guides for our favorite Shakespeare plays:

  • King Lear
  • Hamlet
  • Much Ado about Nothing
  • Midsummer Night’s Dream

As always, our literature study guides don’t kill the play, are user friendly and adaptable to different levels of interest and ability!

Before you even start teaching particular plays, increase your homeschool high schoolers’ buy-in with a fun discussion about Expressions Shakespeare Gave Us (download the freebie).

How do 7Sisters Shakespeare Study Guides work?

In 7Sisters Shakespeare study guides, Sabrina encourages teens to watch a performance. Sabrina actually uses “a sort of backwards format” from many other Shakespeare guides.

  • First, she gives a background to the story.
  • Then, she tells them what happens in the story (total spoiler alert). This way teens have in their minds when they watch the production the plotline, the characters (and how to expect them to behave).
  • Next, they watch the performance. (Sabrina points out that students will not be able to follow the entire story, but they will have the basic idea and in watching the performers’ expressions and behavior, they will catch the basic ideas.)
  • Finally, they read the play. They discuss the plot, characters, wordy passages and difficult to understand material, the rhythm (iambic pentameter) and rhyme schemes, etc.
  • Vicki points out how much our teens have enjoyed learning Shakespeare’s plays.

BTW- As a freebie on 7SistersHomeschool.com, there will be a list of phrases the Shakespeare invented. It is a fun discussion tool to start a Shakespeare unit.

Why did Shakespeare write in iambic pentameter?

  • The Globe Theatre had its troupe of actors. They had many plays to memorize quickly. Iambic pentameter helped them quickly memorize their plays.
  • Iambic pentameter also closely mimics our natural speech patterns. (Ever think about that?) Therefore, it is easier to listen to.
  • When teens know trivia like this, it sometimes makes Shakespeare feel more enjoyable.

Why did Sabrina choose those particular plays?

Both of the tragedies have main characters who are similar: The main character thinks he knows who he is and what he is doing in the world but finds out the opposite. But each of the characters is opposite in age (King Lear is in his 80s and Hamlet is late teens). This shows the universality of existential crises.

Both of the comedies have a look a “love” and all the social implications and silliness of finding true love. There is also a wonderful character type who uses words wrong all the time (malapropisms): remember Dogberry the constable in Much Ado about Nothing or Dick Bottom in Midsummer Night’s Dream? They just can’t get their words right (to hilarious ends).

Want more Shakespeare resources? Check out this interview with our friend, Kat Patrick, on teaching Shakespeare, a freebie from her, and her wonderful courses at Dreaming Spires Home Learning.

Join Sabrina and Vicki for a fun chat about teaching Shakespeare’s plays.

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Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at 7SistersHomeschool.com, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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