The Bard Isn’t Hard: 10 Resources For Teaching Shakespeare

My students are all studying Romeo and Juliet in their English class. In my history class, I see the papers, monologues, and notes everywhere–their deadline must be soon. “Miss, can you read this for me? Do you know Shakespeare?” The implication is that because I teach history, I must not know how to read literature. Truth be told, I’d like to abolish history and literature as separate entities, and teach them together. How can we know about King Henry Vth if the life and times remain a mystery? But I digress. Teaching Shakespeare’s intrigues are not on the serving platter for today, there will be no Titus Andronicus’ baking boys into meat pies. We’re discussing love. Love is hard enough for a fifteen-year old to swallow.

“Have you ever been in love?” I ask.

“No.” So, understanding true heartbreak is off the table. Still, Romeo and Juliet have intrigue, betrayal, jealousy, and anger. Any teenager can understand those emotions. I ask about those instead. “Oh, that makes sense.” We talk about plots, twists and turns, how one “what if” would have changed the world for these two people in love. And so it is for us–one little thing could change our own lives for the better or worse–what is that one thing? That’s a heavy question.

“Well, if my mom wouldn’t let me date someone because she didn’t like the family, I wouldn’t listen.” Times have changed, my student-friend. Travel with me in the history time machine… This story has been told over and over again, from the Jets and the Sharks to Leonardo DiCaprio. There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to love. It’s guaranteed to get tangled up every time, from your high school romance to the deepest of loves. It’s a complex human emotion. That’s what Shakespeare reveals–the deepest layers of emotion–the ones we hide within our soul.

The bard isn’t hard, but students need proper instruction to see the universality behind Shakespeare and all the great classics. I had a classics teacher in high school who started off with the insults. Today, they have Shakespearean insult generators that work better than “Mama” jokes. Putting Shakespeare in the context of the time, and showing a mirror image of the themes in today’s society–the emotions, social class, politics, drama, and day-to-day interactions of people–that’s Shakespeare. Today’s Learnist feature is called “The Bard Isn’t Hard,” because not only is Shakespeare great for students, I find myself brushing up as well.

Best Shakespeare Sites

This board has many sites about Shakespeare, including the Shakespeare Search Engine. If you can’t remember a one-liner and need to tweet or quote it, that’s no problem. You can use this resource and sound like old Will himself.

Shakespeare’s Insults

Shakespearean insults are the best. This board discusses the history behind the best insults, and includes a Shakespearean insult generator.

World Literature: MacBeth

Knowmia brings experts together to make videos that are a couple of minutes, interesting, and really help students understand the fundamentals behind the course material. In this case, Knowmia demystifies a complex Shakespearian tragedy full of history, drama, tragedy and intrigue.

Introducing Younger Students to Shakespeare

Think you can’t introduce The Bard to babes? Guess again. This board brings the themes of Shakespeare’s more appropriate pieces down to the younger levels.

Shakespeare’s Poems

You most likely know some of Shakespeare’s sonnets. His poetry has been embedded into our popular culture. This board is dedicated to Shakespeare’s poetry.

10 Unique Shakespeare Adaptations

Directors often try to come up with clever and original spins on Shakespearean themes. They are timeless and as such, the time, place, and characters can be superimposed on so many other backstories. These are some clever originals based on Shakespeare. There are more out there–this is a great board on which to collaborate using the “+add to this board” feature.

The Shakespeare Prison Project

One of the things about prison projects is that they give the incarcerated incentive to think about the path of their lives. So many prison programs bring respect to the men and women who need it most. Maggie Messitt discusses this in “The Shakespeare Prison Project.”

Shakespeare for Teens

How many teens tell you they’d like to study Elizabethan literature? Probably not many, but properly taught, many report interest in the works. This board has graphic novels, comics, and videos.

In Search of Shakespeare

PBS created this documentary on the life and times of Shakespeare. In my opinion, it’s a must-watch when teaching about this literature. The politics, intrigue, upheaval and danger are interesting at a minimum, but essential to real Shakespeare scholarship.

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