Shakespeare in Second Grade

If you’d told me as an 11th grade High School English teacher that I’d have a 2nd Grade daughter reading aloud the same play we were reading in that Junior Class, I don’t think I would have believed you!

But what a sweet dream come true for this English lit educator.

Today, my daughter Jadyn asked me if we could start reading our Shakespeare play together. I’d had other things planned for that time, but how could I let a golden opportunity like that pass by. I seized the moment, and it was grand. My oldest son and I have read about 3 plays together, and this was the first year that my 4th grade son, Isaac would join in with us. Well, Jadyn was not one to be left out of this and wanted to participate with us as well.

It’s not something that I pushed for at all, which is great because then I can’t take undo credit for it! 😉

But if I think back, there are a few things that we’ve chosen to do in our curriculum and as a family that could have contributed to her natural interest.

1. Watching Shakespeare Plays – We have really only seen a few, during summers at outside theatres and the like. But we did happen to see one this last summer, and it was a delightful experience overall. She was proud of herself for understanding what was going on and genuinely enjoyed the whole performance. I think this fueled her affinity towards Shakespeare when I recently mentioned a new play to the boys.

2. Reading Quality Literature/Being the 3rd Child – We have been reading well-written literature for so long. I read aloud most of the more challenging works to them until they are in fourth grade so they can hear the vocabulary well in context. Jadyn, by default, has probably heard the most great literature from the youngest age just because she was “around.” She might have been drawing, coloring, or working on a puzzle, but I don’t doubt the rich language she heard me read to the boys somehow made it into her little mind. And for my other boys, the curriculum we use carefully selects texts that utilize “Shakespearean language,” starting in earlier grades, reading in small chunks so they become familiar with the differences and flow. I think this helps her to hang in there when it might feel like she is reading a different language.

3. Using New Books – I really can’t qualify if this made an impact, but I have a high suspicion that it did. Having multiple children in different grades has usually allowed us to pass books down to the next in line. Well, for this particular play, I decided to purchase three brand new texts. Three of one kind in order for me and the boys to each have our own copy. When Jadyn mentioned that she wanted to have a part in the play, and that she could have my book, and I’d look on with her, I think that sealed the deal. She was sold. This morning, they each wrote their own names in their own books (Ya, something homeschoolers don’t often get to do on a regular basis!), and we made it through the intro of our first Shakespeare play together! Woop! Woop!

For you parents who love Shakespeare, but whose children might not get to read it aloud in class in elementary school, maybe it is something you can consider adding into your family read-aloud time. You can start reading just the narrative texts like Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by Edith Nesbit or Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb when they are young, watch several plays together, and then one day just purchase the entire plays and enjoy dividing up parts and reading aloud together!

Don’t worry if you don’t understand it all – that’s what the notes and footers are for. And don’t worry too much about the more “inappropriate” innuendos all throughout his plays. Most of those just go over their little heads, especially when you just read through them quickly and pretend not to have a clue. Good luck!


2 thoughts on “Shakespeare in Second Grade

  1. The great thing about introducing Shakespeare during the elementary years is that kids are still an open book; everything is new to them. Shakespeare’s language isn’t as intimidating or fearful because they’re constantly acquiring new words and meanings on a daily basis. Besides which, Shakespeare is first and foremost a storyteller – and kids love a good story! You can add our Company’s list of adaptations to a recommended start. We’ll have e-books on Amazon and film adaptations on YouTube soon. Keep an eye on the facebook page for updates!

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