Teaching Shakespeare: Pre-Teen and Teen Level


Some of William Shakespeare’s most famous works, such as Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet, are also some of the more difficult works for teens and pre-teens to understand. The difficulty of understanding Shakespeare does not usually lie within the plot of these literary works, but it lies more so within the dialect used to write them. Shakespeare is credited with using an Elizabethan English dialect. However, the reality is that Shakespeare’s language is widely considered to be only one generation away from the modern form of English that most people speak today. Amazingly, his vocabulary is said to number over 17,000 words! This is amazing because he had no formal schooling to help him to learn and use these words.

One of the best strategies for helping teens and pre-teens to better prepare for shakespeare’s written language, is to help them to construct a vocabulary list. However, it is important that if you are a teacher or parent who wishes to help your teen to master Elizabethan vocabulary, that you employ more than mere memorization. Teens must learn to recognize certain Shakespearean words in context. This helps them to figure out the meanings of unfamiliar words as well. Teens should be shown how to use context clues within the sentence or surrounding sentences to help them to determine a word’s meaning. Once they master this art, comprehension increases dramatically.

Teachers who wish to explore Shakespeare should devote an entire unit of study to this endeavor. There are countless works which are timeless. This means that the central ideas behind Shakespeare’s works apply to today’s world. A prime example is his most famous work, Romeo and Juliet, which pits two rival families, the Montague’s and the Capulets, against one another. It is a story about forbidden love between two teens who reside with each of the rival families. Teens can certainly relate to this situation, as their own parents might not approve of their own love interests.

Another great way to help teens to understand the works of Shakespeare is to allow them to view a play. A play provides a visual representation of what they will read. This is an activity which works well after, or before the reading of a work. Some teachers prefer to allow students to watch a play before they read the work. This gives the students an idea of how the Elizabethan language matches up to actual actions within the story.

Many teachers and parents help teens and pre-teens to understand Elizabethan language by encouraging them to converse in the language. They can use study notes and practice with a partner. Conversations do not have to be centered strictly around the text itself. Teens should practice speaking and writing the language about subjects that interest them. This allows them to understand the language much more quickly. Applying it to something that they enjoy enables them to remember what specific words represent, and it engages the reader during future activities.