Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

A Bit of Bard for the Kidlits

List of titles of works based on Shakespearean...

How well do your kids know this guy? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shakespeare. He probably isn’t on most parental to-do lists when it comes to childhood enrichment items. Then again–why not? We trot our kiddos to soccer practice, piano lessons, and the library to enrich their lives, why not foster the love of the Bard at an early age?
Acclaimed playwright Ken Ludwig believes infusing the Bard into our children’s lives is an essential, endearing adventure to undertake. His How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare is both inspirational and inventive in its approach. Although I no longer have kidlits at home since my progeny are now building their own nests, I can still adapt Ludwig’s methods by amending them to classroom instruction, especially since the ninth grade Common Core curriculum has a Romeo and Juliet section.

Teaching Shakespeare to our children is a notable endeavour. Ludwig states a few of his goals as to why he taught Shakespeare to his children on page 11:

  • giving them tools to read Shakespeare’s works with intelligence for the rest of their lives
  • enriching their lives
  • exposing them to literature to inspire them toward achieving great lives as they grow
  • providing meaningful shared experiences

Cool. Those are pretty much my intentions when I teach Shakespeare to my classroom kiddos.
Ludwig hits all the essential values of the “why” of Shakespeare:
1. The richness of imagery
2. The lilt of rhythm
3. The nuances and playfulness of language
4. The importance of memorizing and tucking away forever a few exceptional passages to pull out and nibble on throughout life
5. The joy of exploring character

Shakespeare’s plays showcase poetry at its best. Why wait until the kinder are all grownup before relishing the richness of English language? I am always amazed when I get a ninth grader who states, “Shakespeare? Who’s Shakespeare?” Admittedly that confession is rare. Unfortunately, the only Shakespeare most students know is Romeo and Juliet. On the other hand, by the time they leave high school they will become acquainted with at least three plays and a a handful of sonnets.  Sadly, I didn’t have any Shakesperience until I began teaching it.  That’s nearly thirty years of being Bardless.  Shocking, I know.  Now I’m a professed Bardinator and hope to put my acquired knowledge to page, one of these days.  We’ll see.  I have too many books in want of writing as it is.

For now, I am thrilled to introduce Shakespeare to my freshmen and strive to induce appreciation for his words and wit.

Mass-produced colour photolithography on paper...

Anyone out there have the Bard on their parent list? Is it squeezed in with ballet and soccer?

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13 thoughts on “A Bit of Bard for the Kidlits

  1. “Shakesperience” – love that!

  2. Interesting. I’m wondering what your feelings/experiences are about introducing them to the stories first through the Old Charles and Mary Lamb’s retelling of the plays, or bringing in a bit of humour through Armour’s Twisted Tales from Shakespeare. Or even seeing a movie first. Or do you hit them with it cold.

    • I never introduced my own kinder to the Bard until they were tweenagers. I also brought home different film versions of Shakespeare plays, but the language usually put them off. As they have become adults they appreciate the nuances of the language and the universal themes. As for my students, we try out with sonnets, move into movie clips and then start out with Romeo and Juliet, go to Julius Caesar, and then to Hamlet or Macbeth or King Lear or even Othello. I haven’t looked into the Lamb retellings, although I have heard of them.

      • Thanks for that. I suppose the language in the Lamb would be too old-worldy for now and would defeat the purpose. I first fell in love with Shakespeare when I saw the Henry V movie with Laurence Olivier. I can still hear that voice.

      • Oh, the Larry could definitely do Shakespeare. My first real try at Shakespeare on film was also Henry V, but with Kenneth Branagh. I think I dozed off. I should try it out again because when I teach Hamlet I show clips of Renaissance Man and Danny DeVito takes his students to a live production of Henry V. The St. Crispins speech is shivery, isn’t it?

  3. Bardinator…that is an awesome term, I love football and Shakespeare both but am not a parent. I think the quieter life suits me…if i get the chance to corrupt kids with Shakespeare though…in a legal and non weird way then I may just do so.

    • How about we start a quiet movement of leaving bits of the the Bard in slips of paper quotes and passages? Literary Littering? Ooh, I might be on to something…

      • I would be up for that, can it even be called littering to illuminate someone with greatness? That is our excuse for when the authorities come calling.

      • Yes. Oh Yes. They could be open air fortune cookies. From Ben Franklin to Voltaire we could educate and enliven the masses.
        I’ll work on the details…

  4. This is going to be more awesome than that time I drank a 2 litre bottle of pepsi in a minute…for a dare!

  5. Yup there is, the bladder can hold more than you think and it gets boring waiting for it to empty, when you don’t have a book that is.

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