Shakespeare for Children
Introducing the Bard to Young Learners
When should students first be exposed to the world famous works of William Shakespeare? Should it be during high school or college years? Isn't it true that Shakespeare is inaccessible for most modern readers and certainly for all children?
No, not at all. The nuances of language may be out of the reach of elementary students, but the stories of Shakespeare's plays are well within their grasp.
Although your ultimate goal is for your children to read and enjoy Shakespeare's original works, don't wait until they can before offering them a taste of these classic works. Child-appropriate chunks of the Bard's works will lay a foundation for reading his original works later. At that time, they can focus their attention on the beautiful turns of phrase and poetic descriptions rather than the complicated plot lines which they already understand.
Tales From Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
Charles Lamb and his sister Mary together wrote these prose adaptations of Shakespeare's plays intended for young readers. This book is in the public domain and can be found online for free.
Visit Tales from Shakespeare at Main Lesson.
Or for a free PDF download (or many other ebook formats), go to Manybooks.net.
Homeschool Mate has nicely matched the text of the stories (including the original illustrations) with MP3 files from Librivox so you can follow along as you listen. This site is very convenient if you want the text and the audio in one spot.
In this volume, a selection of Charles and Mary Lamb’s classic prose retellings of Shakespeare’s plays are beautifully illustrated by acclaimed artist Joille Jolivet. (Note that not all 20 plays are included in this book.)
Free Shakespeare Texts
Since Shakespeare's works are available so widely, there is no excuse not to have some plays and poetry in your home library. Used book stores, garage sales, and thrift stores always have paperback dramas. You can also find complete texts online for free!
- Shakespeare Online
Here you can find original texts of Shakespeare's plays --histories, tragedies, and comedies.
- The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
Every known work of the Bard, in one large volume and in a multitude of formats suitable for printing or reading on a Kindle or other ebook reader.
- Shakespeare in Modern English
These eight plays are placed alongside a modern translation: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice,and The Tempest. This site is especially helpful for a parent preparing to teach
- No Fear Shakespeare
Like the above link, at No Fear Shakespeare the original plays are set alongside a modern translation. But there are eighteen plays (and a selection of sonnets) offered in this format: As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors,Henry IV,Henry V, Hamlet, Ju
- Gutenberg Shakespeare
Individual plays in various languages and various formats.
Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by Edith Nesbit
Edith Nesbit was a prolific children's author of the late 1800s and early 1900s. You may be familiar with her novels Five Children and It or The Railway Children. She also rewrote twenty of Shakespeare's plays to make them accessible to younger readers.
These stories are in the public domain.
Find Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare at Main Lesson.
Or for a free PDF download (or many other ebook formats), go to Manybooks.net.
Edith Nesbit's retellings are wonderfully engaging! These are the ones I have used to introduce my daughter to Shakespeare.
Plantagenet Plots: Shakespeare's Stories of the Middle Ages
The histories of Shakespeare are often neglected when it comes to renditions for children. No longer! Kelly Green has written the history of the Plantagenet kings in her novel Plantagenet Plots. This book is not only a great introduction to Shakespeare but also to the history of the Middle Ages, specifically the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses.
Plantagenet Plots: Shakespeare's Stories of the Middle Ages includes retellings of four of William Shakespeare's Plantagenet history plays: Richard II, both parts of Henry IV, and Henry V. These stories focus on the needs of modern readers and audiences. They preserve the best of Shakespeare's beautiful language, but incorporate the historical details and context we don't necessarily know today. Loaded with illustrations from the Middle Ages through the nineteenth century, each story concludes with a chapter considering Shakespeare as historian--what did he change, make up or get wrong? Appendices include suggestions for further reading, recommendations on how to experience the plays through film and audio, maps, and a geneology of the Plantagenet family. Recommended for ages 10 and up.
What About You?
What is Your Favorite Way to Learn About Shakespeare?
Free Shakespeare Audio
- Tales From Shakespeare
The text of Tales from Shakespeare, written by the Lambs, is recorded here in audio format, available for free download.
Many of Shakespeare's plays have been recorded by volunteers at LibriVox.org. These are all available for free download!
- Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare
Edith Nesbit's Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare can be downloaded in MP3 format from this website.
- Speak the Speech
Another site with free audio files of some of Shakespeare's plays.
- A Child's Introduction to Shakespeare at Children's Records
This old vinyl record, narrated by Mary Douglas Dirks, has been converted into mp3s which you can download for free. It includes a few famous scenes from selected Shakespearean plays.
Shakespeare Audio to Buy
I love Jim Weiss storytelling CDs. This one includes The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night's Dream. The stories are retold in a very winsome style that remains true to the original.
Other options are the Naxos versions part 1 and part 2.
Articles about Teaching Shakespeare
My assumption is that if you're landing on this page, you already believe that Shakespeare is worthy of being studied. But if you'd like some well thought reasoning as to exactly why or some ideas about exactly how to do it, read some of the articles below.
- Quick Tips for Teaching Shakespeare
This is a fantastic list of tips for teachers and parents who want to teach Shakespeare to elementary students. More helps from this same source can be found at PBS's In Search of Shakespeare Elementary page.
- Why Shakespeare For Christian Students?
A Christian defense of the study of Shakespeare's works.
- What's So Great About Shakespeare?
A great explanation of WHY and HOW to study Shakespeare's works, written by a homeschool mother.
- A Charlotte Mason Minute: Shakespeare
This is a wonderfully practical blog entry where Laura Lee shares how her daughter's love affair with Shakespeare has progressed since age 6. She started with Nesbit, graduated to the Lambs, and is now studying the original works with the help on aud
- To Shakespeare or Not to Shakespeare
Another must read article for those wishing to incorporate Shakespeare into the homeschool curriculum.
- Ambleside Online's Shakespeare Schedule
Ambleside is a well respected, free CM curriculum plan. Here is the Shakespeare Rotation page.
- Shakespeare for Christians?
Harmony Art Mom tackles the question of "Should Christians read Shakespeare?"
Here is a reference book for the teacher --how-tos and whys for teaching Shakespeare.
I was not aware of this book until the author sent me a preview copy. (Thanks, Martha!)
I was very impressed with the concise way she explained how Shakespeare's plays were originally performed and how modern theater has drastically changed them often to the detriment of enjoyment or even comprehension.
This book will guide your own philosophy of teaching Shakespeare and also provide a few acting activities that gets children engaged with the plays. Highly recommended.
Shakespeare Printables - Notebooking Pages, Minibooks, Timelines, and Copywork
Some of these printables are my own creation; others are links I've discovered online.
Be sure to click over to this Flickr set of Mad House Academy's Shakespeare Study photos. You're sure to be inspired by how she used many of the printables available here. Have Fun- Live Life blog also shows some great Shakespeare lapbook photos.
- The Tie That Binds Us Shakespeare Unit
This is a "must-click." Not only will you see a wonderful Shakespeare study, but you can get a free printable Shakespearean quotes poster to hang in your home.
- Shakespeare & Globe Theater Notebooking Page (PDF)
Peakmore Academy offers this lovely, landscape notebooking page.
- Shakespeare Printables (PDF)
a set of 4 notebooking pages and one cover sheet, a drawing page, a minibook, and a timeline
- Words & Expressions Coined by Shakespeare Notebooking Pages
Free printable pages from The Notebooking Fairy.
- RETAIL --William Shakespeare Lapbook with Study Guide @ CurrClick
CurrClick has several Shakespeare related resources for purchase and immediate download.
- Mini Posters of Shakespeare Quotes
Look for the lesson called "Shakespeare posters - a quotation for every location." The PDF has 65 one page posters with quotes from Shakespeare's plays. There's even a table of contents with suggested places to hang the posters. For example, hang thi
- Activity Village Shakespeare Printables
A notebooking page, a booklet, and a couple of coloring pages.
- Shakespeare Notebook Pages at Homeschool Share
Pages specific to six plays: 1. A Midsummer Night's Dream 2. Hamlet 3. King Lear 4. The Tempest 5. Macbeth 6. Romeo and Juliet
- RETAIL -- Copywork: Shakespeare Quotes
Quotes from Shakespeare's plays to serve as copywork practice.
- Shakespeare Notebooking Pages
This two page document has room for listing the cast of characters and for summarizing the plot
- Shakespearean Sonnets Free Notebooking Pages
These free printable notebooking pages from The Notebooking Fairy are especially designed for copying and writing about English sonnets, the form that Shakespeare used.
Shakespeare Coloring Pages
These pages are great for the little learners or for a notebook or lapbook cover.
- Poetry Month Coloring Page: William Shakespeare
A cutesy caricature of Shakespeare holding a quill and paper. (Pictured to the right.)
- Shakespeare is Writing a Play Coloring Page
A realistic profile of Shakespeare sitting with quill and paper in hand. A candle burns on the table.
- Wiiliam Shakespeare Coloring Page
A more traditional image of the bust of the bard.
- Grandma's Graphics
These are black and white images scanned from old books. With a little work on your part, you could print these full page and create lovely coloring pages. Scenes are from The Taming of the Shrew, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and King L
- William Shakespeare Coloring Page
A simple coloring page with brief facts at the bottom. This would make a great cover page for a Shakespeare notebook.
Kid Friendly Facts about William Shakespeare
For a quiz about Shakespeare, see this link.
- Shakespeare was the oldest child in his family. He had seven siblings!
- He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, in the country of England on April 23, 1564.
- He married a woman named Anne Hathaway, and together they had three children -- Susanna and twins Hamnet and Judith.
- Shakespeare wrote his first play when he was about 25 years old.
- Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets during his career.
- Shakespeare actually performed in some of his plays as an actor!
- Shakespeare wrote his own epitaph -- the words on his tombstone. In it, he cursed anyone who would dare to move his bones. And it worked! Although it was commonplace to move previously buried bones to make room for new bodies, Shakespeare's bones were never moved!
The Globe Theater
In 1599, once Shakespeare had become an established playwright, he and some others bought the Globe Theater.
Your Favorite Plays
What is your favorite type of drama?
Shakespeare -- Master of Coining New Words and Inventing Phrases
Shakespeare was a master of the English language. He coined or made up hundreds of new words that are still used today! For more information and examples, visit this link.
The Notebooking Fairy offers free printable notebooking pages especially for listing Shakespeare's coined words and expressions.
Here is a sampling of words and phrases which Shakespeare introduced to our language:
- as dead as a doornail
- at one fell swoop
- in a pickle
- there's method in my madness
Tales from Shakespeare - Picture Book Shakespeare
For a highly visual learner or for the youngest children, these picture books written and illustrated by Marcia Williams are a great choice. They cover a wide sampling of Shakespeare's plays using a combination of comic book style retellings and actual quotes.
The second book in the set is More Tales from Shakespeare.
Includes versions of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, The Winter's Tale, Julius Caesar, Midsummer Night's Dream, and The Tempest, The stories are portrayed on a stage, with cartoon panels carrying the actions and direct quotations from the play. The author's narration appears below the panels.
William Shakespeare & the Globe - An Excellent Picture Book
I have this book in our Shakespeare collection. I think it's fabulous. This oversized picture book is full of adorable illustrations, quotations, and facts about both Shakespeare and his Globe Theater. The story brings The Globe into the modern day with current reconstruction efforts.