Making Shakespeare Fun in Five Acts

Shakespeare’s plays are full of unique words and colorful language, with complex plots, dramatic twists, and hysterical (and often funny) dialogue. Written in an iambic pentameter, his works tend to have a rhythmic quality, with long monologues punctuated by bursts of passion and fury.

People tend to think of Shakespeare as being high-brow and obscure, but the truth is, his plays were the pop culture of his day. If you can help students get over this perceived language barrier, they can become better readers and develop a more robust vocabulary by reading Shakespeare’s works.  

Here are five acts you can take to make reading Shakespeare fun in your classroom:

Act One: Assign Roles

Reading Shakespeare in the classroom is a great way to bring this classic literature to life. Assign different roles to students each day to keep them engaged. Encourage students to get into their roles and inject some drama. If space allows, you could have students stand to read their parts or even take the play outside or into a larger space to give your “actors” more space.  

Act Two: Create a Safe Learning Environment

For some students, reading aloud is a frightening experience. Studying classic literature puts everybody on the same playing field, with language that is unfamiliar even for many adults. Use this collective bewilderment to your advantage and create an environment where not knowing a word or how to pronounce a word is not embarrassing at all – instead it is an opportunity to learn.

Act Three: Check for Understanding

Now that you have created a safe learning environment, you can frequently check in with students to see if they understand what a particular phrase or moment in the play means. When you discuss the reading each day, remember that there are no wrong answers, really. Over the centuries there have been many interpretations and adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, so discussions about his plays should welcome all perspectives and ideas. This is an opportunity to model critical thinking and reading skills. Encourage students to ask questions freely.

Act Four: Mix Your Media

From TV to radio shows to major motion pictures, Shakespeare’s work has been adapted and remixed in countless ways. Supplement your reading with some of these other works to make the unfamiliar feel more familiar. Modern retellings with popular actors can make Shakespeare’s work feel more accessible, reducing barriers to entry for students of all abilities. If a student feels like they “get” Shakespeare, it can reduce their fear of reading Shakespeare.

Act Five: Shakespeare’s Lighter Side

Shakespeare’s works are dramatic, tragic, hilarious, exciting, and maybe a little obscure. When you introduce your students to Shakespeare’s world of unfamiliar language and traditions, you may encounter some resistance. Some students don’t understand why they should care about this old stuff.

Students may be surprised to learn that Shakespeare can be very funny, even a bit inappropriately so, and that his plays are full of creative insults that are still hilarious today. Maybe your students could come up with some of their Shakespearean insults. (Proceed with caution of course.)  

Readlee Tracks Learner Growth

Readlee is an excellent tool to enrich the experience of studying Shakespeare in your classroom because it makes it easy for students to see how their reading has improved over time. In fact, your students may be surprised to hear how their fluency and pace improves as they become more comfortable with Shakespeare’s distinctive writing style.

Did you know that Readlee tracks unique words as your child learns them? The language in Shakespeare’s plays may sound unfamiliar, but most of the words he used are still in common use today. Studying Shakespeare in the classroom is a great way to help students expand their vocabulary and Readlee helps you track their progress in real-time.

As William Shakespeare[1] said, “To climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first.” With Readlee, you can see how reading skills evolve over time, no matter how long it takes.


[1] William Shakespeare (1833). “The plays and poems of William Shakspeare”, p.549

More Articles