Shakespeare Homeschool Unit – A Midsummer Night’s Dream and More
This year to share our homeschooling journey, I am going to post updates on our unit studies we do, rather than on a month to month basis like I have in the past. I figure it is more helpful for you other homeschooling mama’s and dad’s out there who are looking for ideas/sparks for your own homeschool journey.
Lucy(9) was the spark behind starting the year off with an introduction to Shakespeare. She had really enjoyed these two graphic novels by Ian Lendler that are based on the plays but made for kids. They led to lots of questions about who Shakespeare was and what his plays were about. So we decided to jump in and start off the year with a little Shakespeare study.
Thanks to my own parents (who read it aloud to us when we were kids) and the book “How to Teach your Children Shakespeare” by Ken Ludwig, we decided to start with Midsummer Nights Dream. It is lighthearted and silly with themes and content that can be understood by kids (mine are 9,7,3, and 1).
One of the things Ken suggests is to memorize passages – which takes knowing the subtleties of meaning and words to a whole other level. Here is the passage we worked on memorizing –
Because the passage has so many flower references, we spent some time illustrating the different flowers and learning what each flower looked like – touching and smelling some out of our own garden. And then we also learned about how flowers work in this lovely book by Gail Gibbons –
And this enchanting one by Rita Gray and illustrated by Kenard Pak
I made some pretty little printouts to show and talk about each of the different plants referenced. Feel free to print your own and use them for personal use if you want. Here is the pdf if you would like a copy —-> Shakespeare flowers
Speaking of printables, thank you Phee McFaddell for sharing the fun printable paper dolls. They were the perfect thing to work on while reading the original Midsummer Night’s Dream play (I only wish there were a few more of the characters! – we improvised and made our own Lysander, Hermia, Demeter, and Helena).
For the reading of the actual play, we would read a couple of scenes in the original Shakespeare, and then switch and read the same part of the story in this kids version. Lucy also jumped ahead and read several of the other stories in the collection.
By switching back and forth between the two, it made it much easier for them to understand the difficult language of the original version.
Here are the books we used all together –
Along with the literature side, we learned some history of the era following Susan Wise Bauer’s “Story of the World”. She has an awesome chapter on the Elizabethan Era and also one on Shakespeare. (I think this series has the WORST cover design ha ha with some of the BEST content. The activities companion book has some seriously awesome and creative ideas that go a long with the history).
As well as doing some map work, and some coloring pages from the book, the girls chose to learn about 1200’s remedies and potions
The Shakespeare chapter also talked about stage fighting which was perfect because Lucy has been doing fencing lessons this month, which she LOVES
As well as stage fighting, we pulled from this awesome list of drama games and had a great time learning stage directions, playing improv, and miming.
(The only photo I could find of this was of Tim, ha ha)
We decided to wait on watching Shakespeare in Love (partly because I love that movie so much and I want to save it for when they are a little older), but we did watch the clip from the end with Queen Elizabeth.
Once we finished reading the play, which we LOVED, the girls worked on making a set for our tiny “Fable Theater” so that we could put on our own stage production of A Midsummer Nights Dream. Overall, an awesome unit! So fun!