Who out there remembers reading Shakespeare in school? I (Yiola) remember starting Shakespeare in 9th Grade, Advanced English. I will be honest and share that I did not find reading Shakespeare plays enjoyable… the plays were hard to read… I could not understand the text let alone the sub-text… and quite frankly, reciting lines I could hardly read was humiliating and boring. Then… in 11th grade I had a teacher who took us to Stratford to watch the plays… but before she did that she talked to us about Shakespeare and his plays. She gave insights to the story and allowed us to explore the narratives in a variety of ways. Once I understood the story I could play with the script, recite sections and imagine the story unfolding on stage. Once I had access to Shakespeare I grew to love his work and more importantly I gain a deeper level of access to language.
There are many reasons to teach Shakespeare. One reason is for access. To have access to language is to have power. Knowledge is power – Language is power. Shakespeare’s work, apart from brilliant, has provided the English language incredible context for thinking, speaking, acting, and being. To know this and to have access to this language is powerful. This does not suggest that one must embrace Shakespeare, but to know it is to own a significant piece of the English language.
I have observed 2nd graders explore Shakespeare comedies. The Laboratory School in Toronto has developed an incredibly colourful and creative approach to teaching Shakespeare that includes graphic organizers, visual arts, storytelling, drama, reading, writing, and a number or language based activities that empower students. Students explore, read, listen, act, and play with Shakespeare’s work and they develop a sense of ownership. All students deserve that sense of ownership…its about owning language”.