Reading Shakespeare with Kids
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It’s Shakespeare month for our homeschool literature group. We’ve been reading Hamlet and learning more about Shakespeare’s use of language. Many of our teen members have younger siblings who are listening in and learning about Hamlet along with the ‘big kids.’
In my opinion, exposure to Shakespeare should start at a young age. Elementary students enjoy many of Shakespeare’s plays because of the fun language and the action.
Don’t be intimidated by Shakespeare! With a few ideas and some kid-friendly resources, your younger kids will begin to form an appreciation for Shakespeare’s works, and this appreciation will continue to grow as they experience his plays over and over again through adulthood.
Some ways to share Hamlet with younger kids:
Read a condensed version of the play just for younger readers. This will expose them to the storyline and characters without overwhelming them with the language and some of the graphic elements of the action. Graphic novels are also a great way to introduce the plays to younger kids or reluctant readers.
Some versions we like are:
- Shakespeare Stories by Leon Garfield,
- Hamlet (No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels)
- Hamlet For Kids (Shakespeare Can Be Fun!).
Even if you read aloud the play in the original language, young kids will absorb more than you think.
Watch the play. If possible, attend a live performance with your kids. Many theater companies offer discounted education performances, and some Shakespeare companies even offer free public performances. Check with your city’s arts council, local theaters, and local college fine arts departments.
Seeing the play acted out (as it is intended to be enjoyed) helps not only kids, but teens and adults as well, understand what is going on as they become immersed in the story. If you cannot find a live performance in your area, your library probably had a movie version you can borrow.
Memorize lines. Younger kids especially have fun with memorization, and it seems to come easier the younger they are. How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare is a step-by-step guide to teaching children specific lines from Shakespeare’s plays, including a big section on Hamlet.
Act it out. Pull out some dress up clothes, and stage a scene from the play, giving everyone a part. If kids haven’t memorized lines, print out a few sheets of the “script,” and set kids free to be creative. My boys love the sword fighting scenes the best, and light sabers often stand in for props.
Do hands-on crafts related to the play and the time period of Shakespeare. We have done several projects from Shakespeare for Kids: His Life and Times, 21 Activities (For Kids series).
Tie the Shakespeare theme in with your other curriculum. Learn about the Elizabethan period in history, play with Shakespeare’s vocabulary in language arts, and do some copywork and narration activities related to the play. See below for a free copywork printable!
When the whole family learns together, it saves time for the homeschool teacher, and kids will benefit from shared learning.