Friday, May 21, 2010

Homebaked Shakespeare

How to Teach Shakespeare to Kindergarteners

Full disclosure: I am very nervous teaching anything to small children. College students are much easier because they are polite in the classroom, even if they are bored or unimpressed.

That said, I agreed to “talk about what I do at work” and ventured into my son’s Kindergarten class to explain that I mostly talk to “big kids” about a bald man who lived almost 450 years ago.

Let me stress that the following homebaked lesson plan can be used by anyone. You don’t need to be a Shakespeare professor, an English major, or a theater person. You don’t even have to like books.

1) Shakespeare Action Figure
2) Shakespeare plush doll
3) sheet of Shakespeare facts (Wikipedia)
4) some lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
5) The Magic Treehouse #25: Stage Fright on a Summer Night

1) introduce kids to Mr. William Shakespeare (encourage hugs for the plushy)
2) share interesting facts (i.e., people didn’t bathe much in Shakespeare’s time!)
3) assign the following roles:

Fairy Queen and her Protector Fairies

Thorny Hedgehogs, Newts, and Blindworms that try to menace the Fairy Queen

Bad Guy Fairy King who puts love potion in the Fairy Queen’s eyes while she is sleeping

Then, have them act out the parts. They will go nuts.

You may choose to have the Protector Fairies yell out these lines:

You spotted snakes with double tongue,
Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen,
Newts and blindworms, do no wrong,
Come not near our fairy queen!

Then, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can ask the kids to pretend that a fairy has turned them into donkeys.

4) Finally, after the kids have stopped hee-hawing, you can read them exciting selections from The Magic Treehouse about how Shakespeare’s London was a very smelly place where people paid to watch bears and dogs attack one another.

I had pretty good sucess with this lesson plan. I think my son was worried that they would just want to talk about "that weird black thing" on my foot.


  1. I cannot WAIT to do this lesson plan at my son's kindergarten!! Seriously. I've been an "art mom" all year, teaching lessons on famous artists and getting them to do art projects. I really want to start a writing club instead. But this? Is genius. I can imagine versions of it for soooo many famous authors. What a fantastic procrastination to grading papers to come up with more of these lessons. Thanks, my friend.

  2. Someone sent me your essay on "Ratted Out", which I LOVE and completely relate to. I have always admired those put together moms with shiny hair that I will never have, and makeup that never smears. Not to mention the fact that our bedroom floor is 90% of the time covered in "clean clothes" I just can't stand to put away, when I'd rather be reading a book, or doing just about anything else. Thank you for such a great article, and letting us less than cleanly moms know there's more of us out there than appear...I sent an email once to my friends describing the state of our bedroom and several said they broke out in hives just reading it...

    Lastly, love this post too. Being an ex-literature major, I very much appreciate your valiant attempts at Shakespeare and the kindergarten set.

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  4. Nicole! Thank you so much for the sweet note!!

    Needless to say, I love hearing about other moms of the "ratted out" variety . . . .

    xoxoxo Michelle