Teaching Shakespeare as a Subject

Without any doubt, William Shakespeare is one of the most influential writers of all times. Throughout his lifetime, the English playwright produced almost 200 pieces of work, which included plays, sonnets, and narrative poems.

Almost four hundred years after his death, Shakespeare's work continues to be a cultural and linguistic legacy that transcends the boundaries of the English-speaking world. There are many reasons why learning about Shakespeare's work is important for students, regardless of where they live. First of all, we can learn much about human nature by becoming familiar with the characters created by Shakespeare. His plays deal with universal issues, such as loyalty, family ties, death, revenge, unrequited love, political struggles, and social conformity. These issues are as poignant today as they were during Shakespeare's times.

Secondly, Shakespeare's writings are an invaluable source of linguistic richness, as he was a master with words and much can be learnt from his works in terms of vocabulary and English expressions. Contrary to popular belief, studying Shakespeare is far from dull or monotonous, as his works are full of creative literary devices like ironies, metaphors, rhythm and rhyme, and imagery.

Due to the reasons mentioned above, it is clear that teaching Shakespeare as a subject can benefit students at all stages. In this article we list all the resources that you can use to teach Shakespeare to your students in a fun and entertaining way.

Teaching Shakespeare as a subject: where to find resources

The Teacher Network website (run by The Guardian) is an excellent starting point to find classroom resources on Shakespeare. One of the most popular downloads at this site is its Introduction to Shakespeare powerpoint presentation, which is suited to students aged 11 to 18.

The BBC website is another useful source of ideas. Check out the site's Shakespeare Unlocked teachers' pack at http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/teachers/shakespeare_unlocked/

More resources are available from the British Council website, which is packed with teaching ideas, lesson plans, quizzes, and activities to suit all age ranges.

You can also check out the Royal Shakespeare Company site. Its Education Department features a useful toolkit for teachers and educators, as well as a list of projects that can serve as inspiration for your classroom. Likewise, you can find lots of ideas at the Theatre Education Department run by Globe Education, which is particularly aimed at students in stage 3.

Textbooks on Shakespeare

Established publishing houses like Penguin offer a comprehensive range of books that can supplement your classroom materials and give you new ideas. You can also use Rex Gibson's Teaching Shakespeare: A Handbook for Teachers as a guide, especially if you teach students in higher education. Other recommendations include Joe Winston and Miles Tandy's Beginning Shakespeare (aimed at primary school students), John Doona's A Practical Guide to Shakespeare for the Primary School, or Lois Burdett's collection, which introduces young children to Shakespeare's main plays in a very appealing and engaging way.

Teach Shakespeare using multimedia resources

The Public Broadcasting Service is a not-for-profit media network that offers a wide range of multimedia classroom resources on Shakespeare. These include short videos, films, and presentations, which you can find at the site's multimedia database on http://www.pbs.org/shakespeare/educators/technology/

Other useful video and audio activities are available from the Think, Educate, Share network on http://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resources/

Another interesting way of teaching Shakespeare to students is to use podcasts. Some of the most well-known Shakespearian actors, like Paul Chahidi or Joseph Marcell, have taken part in podcasts in which they discuss their experience playing classic characters, such as King Lear or Macbeth. The University of Oxford has also produced a series of podcasts under their collection "Approaching Shakespeare". Each episode has the objective of getting students to think critically about plays like Othello, The Twelfth Night, The Comedy of Errors, Hamlet, As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Night's Dream, or The Merchant of Venice.

Another option is to use the BBC podcast series entitled Shakespeare's Restless World. The series has been created by the director of the British Museum with the aim of introducing learners to the historical and social conditions that the English playwright often wrote about. These podcasts are the ideal tool to help students put Shakespeare in context.

School days out and theatre visits

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, in Stratford-upon-Avon, organises educational visits to the houses where Shakespeare lived. The trust can also arrange for on-site workshops and lectures.

Another option is to visit the Shakespeare Globe Exhibition in London, which provides teachers with an activity book to help them make the most of their day out.

Alternatively, you could consider taking part as a school at the Shakespeare Schools Festival, which is one of the biggest and most acclaimed youth drama festivals in the UK.