Studying Shakespeare can be extremely rewarding, but students often have trouble feeling comfortable with the text, and teachers often struggle to make studying Shakespeare as interesting as it can be. But that doesn’t mean you should give up – instead, simply follow these useful tips for introducing younger students to the works of Shakespeare.
Focus on the Story
Even older students struggle to take in whole plays, so you’ll want to start by focusing on the story without concerning yourself too much with the language. Attempts to read through the play will only lead to confusion. Instead, focus on the overriding story. There are plenty of abridged versions of Shakespeare written to introduce younger students to his work, and they represent a fantastic gateway into the subject.
Zero in on Quotes
After your students develop a sound enough understanding of the story and the major characters, you should start looking at the writing itself. Shakespearean text contains complex language, and it is often filled with archaic terms and phrases, so you shouldn’t explore whole scenes. Instead, look at individual monologues – it often helps to choose ones that contain famous quotes. The class can go through each one and analyse what the character means. It’s a great way to start reading Shakespeare’s writing without too much pressure.
Even more obscure works of Shakespeare will have been adapted dozens of times, and the more well-known plays will have scores of performances on tape. Not all of these will be suitable for younger children, so make sure you pay attention to recommended viewing ages. However, there are plenty of productions aimed specifically at younger students. They tend to be abridged, using plenty of visual cues to make the story more interesting.
Teach the History
Finally, don’t forget to provide a little history. Your students don’t need to know all the ins and outs of Elizabethan and Jacobean politics and society, but you should ground their understanding of Shakespeare’s plays in a modest overview of Shakespeare’s England.