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My first exposure to Shakespeare was in a high school language arts class. We had a substitute teacher that day. He didn’t know what to do with the class, so he wheeled in one of those TV-on-a-cart jobs and popped in a video tape of The Taming of the Shrew.
We all sat there in disbelief, some of us trying to figure out what was happening in the play and others staring at the screen but mentally wandering in many other places. Since I was familiar with the King James Version of the Bible, I was able to decipher a bit of the fast-moving dialogue, but that experience left me with no love for Shakespeare or his wonderful way with words.
So when, as a new homeschooling mom, I learned that Charlotte Mason thought so highly of Shakespeare and made sure her students studied several of his plays, I was hesitant. I had no clue where to begin or how to teach this subject, especially since the Bard and I were not exactly on friendly speaking terms.
That’s when I discovered the Shakespeare in Three Steps method.
- Read the story.—Get familiar with the plot and characters by reading a story version of the play.
- Hear the script.—Now that you know where the story is headed, you can dive into the actual script and read it through in bite-size chunks. Assign parts for the students to read aloud or (my favorite) follow along as you listen to an audio recording of the lines.
- Watch the play.—The best part! A video recording is good; a live performance is even better! But do this last, after you have developed a relation with the play.
I’ve used this approach to Shakespeare with my children, and I can assure you that it makes the Bard’s works very accessible—and more than that, very enjoyable!
Shakespeare in Three Steps
We’re excited to announce a new resource that will make it simple for you to use this method with your children: Shakespeare in Three Steps!
Each Shakespeare in Three Steps book gives you
A well-written story version of the play by E. Nesbit or Charles and Mary Lamb—classic narratives that have been providing a wonderful introduction to Shakespeare’s plays for decades.
The complete script of the play with helpful notes to explain unusual terms or add to your understanding of Shakespeare’s stories, characters, and lines.
An outlined plan for walking through the script, divided into manageable portions with quick recaps, scene introductions, and summaries that will guide you each step of the way. (We’re happy to also make available the excellent audio dramatizations from Arkangel Shakespeare, so your students can hear the lines delivered masterfully from the very beginning. Highly recommended!)
Script highlights, featuring well-known or just ponder-worthy lines, that will gently introduce the Bard’s genius and cultivate an appreciation for his wonderful way with words.
Parental advisories to give you a heads-up on scenes that may contain material inappropriate for children.
Helpful lists of the characters in the scenes and the number of lines each one speaks, so you can assign parts knowledgeably for reading sessions or acting roles.
Candid reviews of several video recordings of the play to save you time previewing and help you select an appropriate presentation for your students to watch and enjoy.
Choose from three plays—A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, and The Taming of the Shrew—with more on the way.
With Shakespeare in Three Steps you’ll find it simple to teach one of Charlotte Mason’s favorite subjects and to give your children “lines of insight and beauty [that] take possession of us, and unconsciously mould our judgments of men and things and of the great issues of life” (Vol. 4, Book 2, p. 72)!