Last year we decided to study American History with all four of our elementary grade
kids. We chose to study this because my daughter, Brooke, was in the 8th grade and
she hadn't really learned as much as I wanted her to before she left elementary
grades and headed toward high school. So, we started with Columbus with Pilgrims
next (Pilgrims was an especially exciting study for Brooke since she and I had been
able to go to Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts when we were in New England that
summer doing some unit study workshops!). After Pilgrims we went into Colonial Times.
Now, we don't usually study one history topic right after another like that because
the kids get tired of the "same type of thing." But because I wanted to try to cover
a good deal in one year, we did it this way and had a great time. However, after
the holidays in JANUARY, I always have a hard time getting started and usually I
feel like I wish the school year were over...but I have to get back on track and
get busy so I changed my plans and looked for something else to study that would
revive our enthuriasm. We decided to do a mini study on Clothing & Textiles (see
FREE unit studies for ideas for this unit!) We had a great study and enjoyed that
unit but when we were done I still didn't feel like going back to American History
YET! So, I went to my shelves and found a stack of books on Shakespeare. That was
it! I got inspired and made a trip to the library to start planning this study.
Now, after we have finished we all agreed it was one of our most favorite studies
of all time!
At some point I might get around to writing a Study of....guide for Shakespeare
- but for now we are offering the ideas for a Shakespeare Unit Study FREE here on
this site so please enjoy! One word of caution before you get started is that we
found the content of many plays to be too adult for young children. Our children
were 8th, 6th, 3rd and 2nd grades and though they all enjoyed the study, I felt
like I needed to edit and leave out some parts especailly in videos. We watched
quite a few videos/ movies / plays and there were parts where someone died by suffocation
or stabbing...so be careful!
How to get started:
Become familiar with Shakespeares' life, times and plays. Books on Shakespeare can
be found at the library in the dewey decimal number 822.33 Here are some BOOKS we
Stories from Shakespeare retold by Nicola Baxter - this is a good source for reading
plays (edited) for young children
The World of Shakespeare by Usborne Publishers (Nonfiction source of information)
William Shakespeare and the Globe by Aliki
Shakespeare coloring book by Bellerophon publishers - allows children to color pictures
from their favorite play
Hear,Hear, Mr. Shakespeare by Bruce Koscielniak (this book has short lines from
different plays and our kids had fun guessing and recalling which play the line
* Poetry for Young People edited by David Scott Kastan and Marina Kastan - my children
used this book to each memorize a piece from their favorite play
Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare by Diane Stanley
* Shakespeare - His Work and His World by Michael Rosen and Robert Ingpen
* Shakespeare by Anita Ganeri
Shakespeare's Stories and Shakepeare's Stories II by Leon Garfield - my 8th grade
daughter read both of these books. These two books are short stories of Shakepeare's
plays offering the basic plot and concept. You are reading a play but the text is
easier to understand than the original.
Make a list of spelling and vocabulary words including terms to know. Read aloud
from edited versions of plays and have students read at their level too. Create
a unit study notebook with sections. You can accomplish much of your academics like
history, geography, spelling / vocab., writing, handwriting etc.
PLAYS - divided into catagories:
Romantic - Comedies - Tragedies - History - Roman
Plays we read or watched on video:
Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, * Macbeth, Othello, * Taming of the Shrew
Henry V, Richard the Third, * Julius Caesar, King Lear
Antony and Cleopatra, Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing
Twelfth Night, Merchant of Venice
Shakespeare in Love - CAUTION!!! This video is really good for showing costume and
Elizabethan times, theaters etc. but it is not acceptable for anyone but adults
unless you are able to edit it. There are sex scenes that are inappropriate and
adult comments that sneak up and before you can fast forward, you are shocked and
Comedy of Errors, Love's Labour's Lost, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Henry 6th (part
Titus and Andronicus, Merry Wive's of Windsor, As You Like It
Richard the 2nd, Henry the 4th (part 1,2), King John
All's Well that Ends Well, Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida
Timon of Athens, Coriolanus, Pericles, Cymbeline
The Winter's Tale, Tempest, Two Noblemen, Kinsmen, Henry the 8th
Once we had a list of plays we called video rental stores and libraries to try to
obtain plays to watch. We preferred plays that had been made into VHS movies to
actual plays. Plays that have an "*" should be viewed and edited for younger students.
Things to Learn:
Learn about Shakespeare's life, family, London, Queen Elizabeth.
Learn the meanings of terms like: sonnet, soliloquy
Become familiar with the "English Tongue" It is hard at first to understand what
Shakespeare was saying in his plays, but after you get used to it and listen and
read more (the videos are really good for this) it gets easier!
Learn and list the theaters of Shakespeare's day which were in London: The Theatre,
The Globe, The Curtain, The Rose, and The Swan. Obtain pictures if possible. Which
ones were Shakespeare connected with? Also learn about theater companies
Learn the different types of plays - categorize and list plays
Make a list of terms we use today that Shakespeare created: bandit, worm hole, manager,
for goodness sake, long-legged, birth-place, shudder etc.
Make a timeline of Shakespeare's life and plays
Sketch a picture of William Shakespeare. There is a great black and white drawing
on the back of the Usborne book to use as your example.
Draw a gravestone and write Shakepeare's epitaph on it:
"Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear
To dig the dust enclosed here
Blest be the man that spares these stones
And cursed be he that moves my bones"
At the beginning of the study brainstorm a list together "What We Know About Shakespeare"
and then at the end do it again and you will see how much more you've learned. Have
students copy this from the wipe clean board and write it down.
Practice talking Elizabethan: "Brooke, wouldst thou do the dishes?" "No, mother!
I would not!"
Have students write a summary after watching each play. Who were the main characters,
was it a tragedy, comedy etc. and what was the plot and story about.
Color pictures from Bellerophon's Shakespeare colorbook. Have students design and
notebook cover and section dividers too. Pictures colored from specific plays can
accompany their description of the play.
Have students choose a piece from their favorite play and memorize and then perform
for the family.
Make renaissance masks. If you watch Much Ado About Nothing, you will see the use
of masks at a party. We used poster board and cut out shapes like bird or cat faces
or just typical eye mask shapes then we decorated them with glitter, ribbon, colored
markers and feathers. We glued them to paint stir sticks and they were so beautiful