Introducing the Bard to Young Learners

When should students first be exposed to the world famous works of William Shakespeare? Should it be during high school or college years? Isn't it true that Shakespeare is inaccessible for most modern readers and certainly for all children?

No, not at all. The nuances of language may be out of the reach of elementary students, but the stories of Shakespeare's plays are well within their grasp.

reviewed badgeAlthough your ultimate goal is for your children to read and enjoy Shakespeare's original works, don't wait until they can before offering them a taste of these classic works. Child-appropriate chunks of the Bard's works will lay a foundation for reading his original works later. At that time, they can focus their attention on the beautiful turns of phrase and poetic descriptions rather than the complicated plot lines which they already understand.

Shakespeare Retold For Children

image from Karen's Whimsy

When it comes to retellings of Shakespeare's plays, there are two classic choices. Either is an excellent choice for introducing young students to Shakespeare's plays.
  1. Tales From Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
  2. Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by Edith Nesbit
  3. Shakespeare Coloring Pages
  4. Tales from Shakespeare
  5. William Shakespeare & the Globe
Tales From Shakespeare

Tales From Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb

Charles Lamb and his sister Mary together wrote these prose adaptations of Shakespeare's plays intended for young readers. This book is in the public domain and can be found online for free.

Tales from Shakespeare at Main Lesson.

Or for a free PDF download (or many other ebook formats), go to

In addition, free audio recordings of the stories can be found at

Homeschool Mate has nicely matched the text of the stories (including the original illustrations) with MP3 files from Librivox so you can follow along as you listen. This site is very convenient if you want the text and the audio in one spot.

In this volume, a selection of Charles and Mary Lamb's classic prose retellings of Shakespeare's plays are beautifully illustrated by acclaimed artist Joille Jolivet. (Note that not all 20 plays are included in this book.)

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Free Shakespeare Texts

image from Karen's Whimsy

Since Shakespeare's works are available so widely, there is no excuse not to have some plays and poetry in your home library. Used book stores, garage sales, and thrift stores always have paperback dramas. You can also find complete texts online for free!

Shakespeare Online
Here you can find original texts of Shakespeare's plays --histories, tragedies, and comedies.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
Every known work of the Bard, in one large volume and in a multitude of formats suitable for printing or reading on a Kindle or other ebook reader.
Shakespeare's Works
This is an extensive site that offers links to particular formats of Shakespeare's works. For example, say you want a scanned image of an original Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare. Or maybe you want a PDF of King Lear. More than likely, you can find it here!
Shakespeare in Modern English
These eight plays are placed alongside a modern translation: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice,and The Tempest. This site is especially helpful for a parent preparing to teach Shakespeare to a child.
No Fear Shakespeare
Like the above link, at No Fear Shakespeare the original plays are set alongside a modern translation. But there are eighteen plays (and a selection of sonnets) offered in this format: As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors,Henry IV,Henry V, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, and Twelfth Night.
Gutenberg Shakespeare
Individual plays in various languages and various formats.

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The histories of Shakespeare are often neglected when it comes to renditions for children. No longer! Kelly Green has written the history of the Plantagenet kings in her novel Plantagenet Plots. This book is not only a great introduction to Shakespeare but also to the history of the Middle Ages, specifically the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses.

What About You?

What is Your Favorite Way to Learn About Shakespeare?

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Free Shakespeare Audio

Tales From Shakespeare
The text of Tales from Shakespeare, written by the Lambs, is recorded here in audio format, available for free download.
Many of Shakespeare's plays have been recorded by volunteers at These are all available for free download!
Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare
Edith Nesbit's Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare can be downloaded in MP3 format from this website.
Speak the Speech
Another site with free audio files of some of Shakespeare's plays.
A Child's Introduction to Shakespeare at Children's Records
This old vinyl record, narrated by Mary Douglas Dirks, has been converted into mp3s which you can download for free. It includes a few famous scenes from selected Shakespearean plays.

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Animated Versions of Shakespeare's Plays

Watch the BBC animated plays for free at YouTube. I've gathered the videos at this lens. Check it out.


Articles about Teaching Shakespeare

shakespeare face
photo credit

My assumption is that if you're landing on this page, you already believe that Shakespeare is worthy of being studied. But if you'd like some well thought reasoning as to exactly why or some ideas about exactly how to do it, read some of the articles below.

Quick Tips for Teaching Shakespeare
This is a fantastic list of tips for teachers and parents who want to teach Shakespeare to elementary students. More helps from this same source can be found at PBS's In Search of Shakespeare Elementary page.
Why Shakespeare For Christian Students?
A Christian defense of the study of Shakespeare's works.
What's So Great About Shakespeare?
A great explanation of WHY and HOW to study Shakespeare's works, written by a homeschool mother.
A Charlotte Mason Minute: Shakespeare
This is a wonderfully practical blog entry where Laura Lee shares how her daughter's love affair with Shakespeare has progressed since age 6. She started with Nesbit, graduated to the Lambs, and is now studying the original works with the help on audio recordings.

Anyone seriously wanting to incorporate Shakespeare into a Charlotte Mason styled homeschool should take a peek at this post.
To Shakespeare or Not to Shakespeare
Another must read article for those wishing to incorporate Shakespeare into the homeschool curriculum.
Ambleside Online's Shakespeare Schedule
Ambleside is a well respected, free CM curriculum plan. Here is the Shakespeare Rotation page.
Mental Multivitamin: Bardolatry
Bardolatry, the worship of Shakespeare. Lots of ideas here.
Shakespeare for Christians?
Harmony Art Mom tackles the question of "Should Christians read Shakespeare?"
The Shakespeare Guru's Guide to Getting Shakespeare Alive!

Teaching Shakespeare

shakespeare resources2

Here is a reference book for the teacher --how-tos and whys for teaching Shakespeare.

I was not aware of this book until the author sent me a preview copy. (Thanks, Martha!)

I was very impressed with the concise way she explained how Shakespeare's plays were originally performed and how modern theater has drastically changed them often to the detriment of enjoyment or even comprehension.

This book will guide your own philosophy of teaching Shakespeare and also provide a few acting activities that gets children engaged with the plays. Highly recommended.

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Shakespeare Printables

Notebooking Pages, Minibooks, Timelines, and Copywork

shakespeare minisShakespearenotebookthumbnail

Some of these printables are my own creation; others are links I've discovered online.

Be sure to click over to this Flickr set of Mad House Academy's Shakespeare Study photos. You're sure to be inspired by how she used many of the printables available here. Have Fun- Live Life blog also shows some great Shakespeare lapbook photos.

The Tie That Binds Us Shakespeare Unit
This is a "must-click." Not only will you see a wonderful Shakespeare study, but you can get a free printable Shakespearean quotes poster to hang in your home.
Shakespeare & Globe Theater Notebooking Page (PDF)
Peakmore Academy offers this lovely, landscape notebooking page.
Shakespeare Notebooking Pages (PDF)
I made this set of 4 notebooking pages and one cover sheet (pictured at right) from the public domain images cited on this page.
Shakespeare Shutterfold (PDF)
This is a minibook template I made. It has five shutterfold flaps -- one on top (Shakespeare's name, image, and years of his life) and two on each side (poetry, histories, comedies, tragedies). Fill it in with lists or descriptions.
Words & Expressions Coined by Shakespeare Notebooking Pages
Free printable pages from The Notebooking Fairy.
Shakespeare Timeline (DOC)
I selected eight events related to Shakespeare for this mini-book timeline of events. Print the Word file, fill in the dates, make it into an accordion book. Events include the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King James, Shakespeare's birth and death, the writing of two famous plays, and the building and burning of the Globe Theater. (For best results with the tiny images, print on high quality setting.)
Globe Theatre Minibook (PDF)
Another template I designed. Color in the cover drawing of the Globe and write facts inside this (letter size) minibook.
Shakespeare Presents Drawing Page (PDF)

This is a drawing page that looks like the stage at the Globe Theater. Draw the characters from whatever play you just read onto the stage, and write the name of the play in the banner on top.
Shakespeare Presents Minibook (PDF)
The same graphic in a simple single fold minibook for the older student who can draw smaller images. Use the inside for notetaking.
RETAIL --William Shakespeare Lapbook with Study Guide @ CurrClick
CurrClick has several Shakespeare related resources for purchase and immediate download.
Mini Posters of Shakespeare Quotes
Look for the lesson called "Shakespeare posters - a quotation for every location." The PDF has 65 one page posters with quotes from Shakespeare's plays. There's even a table of contents with suggested places to hang the posters. For example, hang this quote from Macbeth in your kitchen, "Round about the cauldron go; In the poisoned entrails throw." What a fun way to expose your family to more Shakespeare.

Also on this same page you'll find lists of Shakespearean insults. A wacky way to learn Elizabethan language, but may be just the way to draw in reluctant learners.
Activity Village Shakespeare Printables
A notebooking page, a booklet, and a couple of coloring pages.
Shakespeare Notebook Pages at Homeschool Share
Pages specific to six plays:
1. A Midsummer Night's Dream
2. Hamlet
3. King Lear
4. The Tempest
5. Macbeth
6. Romeo and Juliet
RETAIL -- Copywork: Shakespeare Quotes
Quotes from Shakespeare's plays to serve as copywork practice.
Shakespeare Notebooking Pages
This two page document has room for listing the cast of characters and for summarizing the plot
Shakespearean Sonnets Free Notebooking Pages
These free printable notebooking pages from The Notebooking Fairy are especially designed for copying and writing about English sonnets, the form that Shakespeare used.

Shakespeare Coloring Pages

These pages are great for the little learners or for a notebook or lapbook cover.

Poetry Month Coloring Page: William Shakespeare
A cutesy caricature of Shakespeare holding a quill and paper. (Pictured to the right.)
Shakespeare is Writing a Play Coloring Page
A realistic profile of Shakespeare sitting with quill and paper in hand. A candle burns on the table.
Wiiliam Shakespeare Coloring Page
A more traditional image of the bust of the bard.
Grandma's Graphics
These are black and white images scanned from old books. With a little work on your part, you could print these full page and create lovely coloring pages. Scenes are from The Taming of the Shrew, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and King Lear. (I like this site so much that I've linked to this page again below under Shakespeare Images.)
Midisegni Coloring Pages
Three coloring pages -- one is a bust of Shakespeare and the other two are simple scenes from Romeo and Juliet.
William Shakespeare Coloring Page
A simple coloring page with brief facts at the bottom. This would make a great cover page for a Shakespeare notebook.

Get Hands-on with Shakespeare

shakespeare and globe

Want more hands-on ideas to add to your study of Shakespeare? Visit this sister lens, Hands-on Shakespeare.


Kid Friendly Facts about William Shakespeare

shakespeare home
image credit

For a quiz about Shakespeare, see this link.

  • 1
    Shakespeare was the oldest child in his family. He had seven siblings!
  • 2
    He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, in the country of England on April 23, 1564.
  • 3
    He married a woman named Anne Hathaway, and together they had three children -- Susanna and twins Hamnet and Judith.
  • 4
    Shakespeare wrote his first play when he was about 25 years old.
  • 5
    Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets during his career.
  • 6
    Shakespeare actually performed in some of his plays as an actor!
  • 7
    Shakespeare wrote his own epitaph -- the words on his tombstone. In it, he cursed anyone who would dare to move his bones. And it worked! Although it was commonplace to move previously buried bones to make room for new bodies, Shakespeare's bones were never moved!

The Globe Theater

In 1599, once Shakespeare had become an established playwright, he and some others bought the Globe Theater.
For a fantastic, kid-friendly interactive and virtual tour of the Globe, visit The Virtual Globe. Far more than just images, this site will teach your children all about the theater during Elizabethan England.

For a free, printable paper craft model of The Globe, visit Paper Toys.
photo credit

Your Favorite Plays

What is your favorite type of drama?

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Shakespeare -- Master of Coining New Words and Inventing Phrases

Shakespeare was a master of the English language. He coined or made up hundreds of new words that are still used today! For more information and examples, visit this link.

The Notebooking Fairy offers free printable notebooking pages especially for listing Shakespeare's coined words and expressions.

For more of his phrases, visit this link. And for some rowdy fun, try the Shakespeare Insult Generator.

Here is a sampling of words and phrases which Shakespeare introduced to our language:

  • bump
  • luggage
  • zany
  • watchdog
  • dwindle
  • hobnob
  • lapse
  • swagger
  • yelping
  • as dead as a doornail
  • at one fell swoop
  • in a pickle
  • there's method in my madness
Tales from Shakespeare

Tales from Shakespeare

For a highly visual learner or for the youngest children, these picture books written and illustrated by Marcia Williams are a great choice. They cover a wide sampling of Shakespeare's plays using a combination of comic book style retellings and actual quotes.

The second book in the set is
More Tales from Shakespeare.

Includes versions of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, The Winter's Tale, Julius Caesar, Midsummer Night's Dream, and The Tempest, The stories are portrayed on a stage, with cartoon panels carrying the actions and direct quotations from the play. The author's narration appears below the panels.

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Shakespeare Images

If you're looking for free Shakespeare images in the public domain, try these links.

NEW! Grandma's Graphics
These are beautiful black and white line drawings that could double as coloring pages as well! Scenes are from The Taming of the Shrew, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and King Lear.
Shakespeare Images
Several styles in different formats.
Karen's Whimsey
This is a great collection of old images. Look for Literary Images in the menu on the left side. You will find not only images of Shakespeare but images from his plays. The color image from The Taming of the Shrew is from her collection.
Shakespeare at ETC
Search for Shakespeare images here at this HUGE collection of black and white graphics.

Shakespeare for Children Guestbook

Please feel free to express your thoughts here. If you found my free printables helpful at all, please let me know. It really makes my day!

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  • fcinternetmarketing Jul 19, 2013 @ 3:48 am
    Beautiful lens !
  • Joanne May 12, 2013 @ 3:35 pm
    In 1968 Scholastic published Shake Hands With Shakespeare by Albert Culum in which eight plays were rendered in very straight forward wording and each about an hour long. This was a great for very young readers, reluctant readers and a way to introduce the stories.
  • Michellle Mar 03, 2013 @ 11:32 am
    I'm passionate about this subject. Another great resource which would complement your list is a series of books by Lois Burdette. "A Midsummer Night's Dream Shakespeare for Kids". Lois Burdette has the other plays written in the same format.
  • Blessedmombygrace Feb 26, 2013 @ 5:45 pm
    As usual, you have outdone yourself. Thanks for this great resource, we just started Shakespeare today in our homeschool. Blessed.
  • HomeDecorKnight Sep 26, 2012 @ 9:01 am
    wonderful lens, thanks for sharing it.

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