4 Ways English Teachers Can Make Shakespeare Fun

close up of Shakespeare book

English class wouldn’t be the same without a lesson on Shakespeare. And in fact, the new Common Core standards require students to study the Bard. There’s no question that Shakespeare was a genius who deserves to be studied, but it’s definitely challenging to teach such inaccessible writing to students who may not even like to read at all. But never fear—as an aspiring English teacher, you can put modern curriculum ideas to work for you. Try these effective strategies to liven up Shakespeare for your students.

1. Integrate graphic novels into the lesson plan.

Visit any busy public library and you’re likely to see adolescents gathering by the graphic novel collection. Take advantage of the trend by introducing the versions of Shakespeare’s plays that have been adapted as graphic novels. The graphic novels can serve as a companion text to the plays. This can help make the dense text more accessible and user-friendly for reluctant teen readers.

2. Turn your class into a cast.

Shakespeare’s works were designed to be acted out, not merely read. Choose the most dynamic scenes and silliest dialogue for your students to act out. Don’t be afraid to assign yourself a role. In fact, it may be necessary in order to break the ice and show your students that they should feel free to get goofy.

3. Turn your classroom into the Elizabethan Era

Just as students learn a foreign language best when they are immersed in the culture, so will students learning Shakespearean language. In fact, many words and phrases were first printed in Shakespeare’s plays that we still use today. Introduce new vocabulary and phrases each day and challenge your students to use them in place of common language we use today. For instance, on day one, introduce these simple words and phrases:

art = are

dost = do

doth = does

‘ere = before

hast = have

’tis = it is

’twas = it was

wast = were

whence = from where

wherefore = why

hence = from here

oft = often

yea = even

ay = yes

aught = anything

yon, yonder = that one there

nay = no

hie = hurry

Have your students slowly start to use the Shakespearean words on the left, to that of their counterpart on the right. Each day add more and see how their Shakespearean lexicon will grow, as well as their understanding of Shakespeare’s work as you progress in class. You could even set up teams and keep track of the use of words to make it a little more fun and competitive!

4. Find analogies in real life.

Another way to make Shakespeare more accessible for your students is to find ways of comparing the content to modern life. “Romeo and Juliet” is ripe for modern analogies, with issues like bad break-ups and frustration with parents. After making modern-day analogies, give your students a writing assignment. Have them write a question that a character might send in to an advice columnist. Then, have the students answer the question while posing as the columnist. For instance, Othello might ask Ann Landers if he should trust the devious Iago or his true love, Desdemona.

Grand Canyon University is the school of choice for teacher candidates who are interested in a modern curriculum that emphasizes critical thinking and research-based practices. Our College of Humanities and Social Sciences offers a Bachelor of Arts in English for Secondary Education degree program. Look for the Request More Information button at the top of your screen to get started.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.