It is always a great moment in the classroom when we show a new group of students a copy of the Collected Works of Shakespeare.
“Mr. Shakespeare,” we say, holding up the hefty volume, “wrote all of these words….”
Then we flip slowly through the hundreds of pages. Column after column of dense text flashes by, unadorned by drawings or photographs.
Jaws drop. “Whoa!”
Kids know how hard it is to write even a single paragraph. They can see that this guy just let it rip!
One of the most fun things about teaching Shakespeare is having a reason to go back into the plays and look for “new” material to share with students. Over the years we have lifted out a variety of speeches, songs, and passages from the plays for various lessons; we have focused on key scenes that seem to resonate with elementary-age students, and returned many times in many different ways to certain plays like A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
We have searched for ways to provide trimmed-down texts for young students who only have about 30 minutes of class time in which to explore a scene. We have experimented with mixing a narrative voice into scenes to assist with understanding of plot and action for young readers. We have opened up famous speeches – “To be or not to be” – and touched on the quiet wonders of obscure ones.
In this section you can look through some of our favorite edited scenes and passages, and take whatever you want. Perhaps some of these edited scenes, choice snippets, and soliloquies can prove useful as you delve into Shakespeare’s language in your classroom.
The scenes are grouped by their appropriateness for various grade ranges. The index for each grouping is located in the “index” column on the right side of the page. A brief description is provided of each piece, and you can click on the ones you want and print them out. Some of the pieces are in more than one group, as they work with different age levels.
As most of our introductory sessions with students in the K-6 range deal with either Midsummer or Tempest, that’s where many of the scenes hail from. But we’ve included a variety of other snippets as well.
A special note to any high school teachers out there: Many of these texts are also appropriate for your students.
By the way, many of our “working copies” of texts were gathered from copywright-free Internet sites, such as the one operated by MIT . Sometimes these sites have typos, and some of their editorial choices are from the 19th century, but it is certainly much easier to begin with these than it is to type everything in from scratch, as we used to do.
This also means, of course, that you too are free to create your own versions of favorite scenes. Perhaps, like great filmmaker Orson Welles, you will rearrange the lines of entire plays to suit your interpretation…