How to Handle Shakespeare for Homeschool Co-ops

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This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: How to Handle Shakespeare for Homeschool Co-ops.

Teaching Shakespeare in Homeschool Co-op


How to Handle Shakespeare for Homeschool Co-ops

Sabrina and Vicki love Shakespeare and they love teaching Shakespeare for their homeschool co-ops. They have had so many fun experiences with their high schoolers as the teens learned about Shakespeare and a few of his most famous plays.

So what are some ways to handle Shakespeare for your homeschool co-op?

Keep it fun! Don’t scare the teens off by taking his works too seriously!

Remember, there’s not ONE right way to homeschool high school and there’s not ONE right way to teach Shakespeare.

Show the teens the timelessness of some of his characters. (Some of the character types are folks you can run into today. Look for Sabrina’s Literature Study Guides for Shakespeare to help with this.) You can start with this FREEBIE on timeless expressions that Shakespeare gave us.

Also, check out this episode with Sabrina that has more ideas on teaching Shakespeare.

Traditional Academic Co-op (Let’s call it Sylvester)

The Sylvester co-op feels comfortable with textbooks, scope and sequences, syllabi, and grading assignments with rubrics. When approaching teaching Shakespeare, Sylvester co-op teachers will plan for a formal atmosphere. They will spend a lot of time translating Elizabethan English into modern English. They will teach iambic pentameter with counting syllables and finding accents in lines of words. They will discuss rhyming couplets. They might even do some copywork with this FREEIE from our friend, Kat Patrick.

This is all fine and dandy! (Remember, there’s not ONE right way to teach Shakespeare!) But Sylvester co-op, here’s word of advice: You might be tempted to ONLY do those things. Sabrina recommends that Sylvester gets a little loose and have fun. How to do that?

Ask yourselves: Why has Shakespeare remained so popular all these years? Now you can answer yourselves: Because it’s good storytelling with good characters.

While there is strange language, important form and structure, there is lots of interesting stuff to discuss in co-op. Take for instance: Discuss Much Ado About Nothing. It is a Shakespearian rom-com! Anyone who has seen a modern romance-comedy can find points of connection back to Much Ado About Nothing!

Organic, Bordering on Unschooling Co-op (Let’s call it Beatrice)

The Beatrice co-op might be a bit all over the place. They might be allowing a go-with-the-flow, find-a-passage-to-read co-op. They will probably be acting out favorite scenes in a light-hearted manner.

That is all groovy! (Remember, there’s not ONE right way to teach Shakespeare!) But Beatrice co-op, here’s a word of advice: You might be tempted to just have fun with interacting with favorite scenes. However, Sabrina recommends spending a little time explaining why Shakespeare wrote in iambic pentameter.

You know why? Because Shakespeare’s plays were produced by a company (SO many plays for one company to remember, line after line after line). But what Shakespeare knew (like many of his playwright peers) was that the rhythm patters of Shakespeare’s plays made heavy memorization of lines possible (and quicker). That’s because the rhythm of iambic pentameter is similar to English speech patterns and the musicality of the rhythm aids the memorization.

A fun activity for a co-op like Beatrice is to take a conversation the students just had over lunch, write it down, and then change it to iambic pentameter!

The Somewhere-in-between Co-op (Let’s call it Bob)

The Bob co-op is so moderate, a bit of fun, bit of strenuous academics. You have a lot going on at your co-op. You could choose a couple of scenes for creating a readers theater production.

Readers theater is a bit more than just a reading around the room- that’s fun, though, try it sometime. Rather, you will cast students as specific characters. They will read over and study them ahead of time, they read the script as part of the performance.

Usually characters wear black with one special piece that helps identify the character- like the “fool” character wearing a jester’s hat. This piece can be anachronistic, too- like a sea captain wearing a modern sailor hat.

Readers theater works great on Zoom, btw!

I guess our co-ops were a bit Sylvester-sh, Bob-ish AND Beatrice-ish because our homeschool high schoolers did all these activities with their favorite teacher, Sabrina!

SO, how do you handle Shakespeare for homeschool c0-ops?

One way is to use 7SistersHomeschool’s soon-to-be-released Literature Study Guides for Shakespeare! Sabrina has created these guides based on the activities she did with our teens. The guides will include:

  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Mid-Summer Night’s Dream
  • Hamlet
  • King Lear

Like all 7Sisters study guides, they will be no-busywork, don’t-kill-the-play. They will focus on the timelessness of the plays and characters, a little bit on form and structure, and links to good productions of Shakespeare’s plays for the teens to watch.

Join Vicki and Sabrina (and the Bard) for an inspirational discussion! For more on teaching Shakespeare, try some ideas from our friend, Kat Patrick.


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