Steward Ship
Developing A Love for Learning

Shakespeare Unit Study
Globe Theatre
(More Theatre Pictures!)

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 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 be careful!
Tragedy, Comedy

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 enjoyed:

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 was from)

* 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 disgusted!

Other plays:

Comedy of Errors, Love's Labour's Lost, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Henry 6th (part 1,2,3)

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 and fun!

Mask  See More Mask Pictures!

Write a "Did You Know" fact sheet about Shakespeare's life and times: Did you know....Shakespeare wrote 39 plays but two were lost?

Collect a list of word Shakespeare used in his plays: bootless = useless, sty = imprison, wherefore = why

NOTE: (You will come upon all theses terms, lists and information in your books)

I was amazed how even my seven year old daughter understood and enjoyed this study. She memorized a piece from the play "As You Like It" - All the world's a stage and all the men and women are merely actors. They have their exits and their entrances.

Make a map of England showing places where Shakespeare was born and where he lived etc. Get a close up map of London and map out where certain things were - theaters etc. You can find these in books or on the internet.

A few months after we had finished the study we were traveling through Oregon to do a unit study workshop and we got off the freeway in Ashland Oregon where the annual Shakepearean Festival takes place. We found the street which was decorated with flags and signs concerning the festival. Even though it was the off season we drove by the theater and to our surprise the doors were open and people were taking a tour. We stepped inside and listen for a bit and it was so exciting to us to see an actual theater! The study doesn't stop when you are done...rather you add this new learning and adventure to your life!
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