It’s believed that William Shakespeare died on the day of his 52nd birthday, on April 23rd, in the year 1616 and this makes this year 400th anniversary since his death. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t yet met one person who hasn’t heard the name William Shakespeare. And I am not aware of any other poet who enjoys similar kind of fame. I created this unit to share my love of Shakespeare with my children. Some parts of it are suitable for children 4 and up, other parts might work better for 7+. This unit helps children explore William Shakespeare and his works in a fun and relatable fashion. Along with a bit of fun history and geography, kids will have a chance to play a math game, explore the science of acoustics (no microphones in Shakespeare’s time), and engage in some other hands-on activities.
If you don’t already have Usborne Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare, I highly recommend this as a starting point for introducing William Shakespeare to kids. This delightful collection of six of his most known and beloved works is perfect for children 4 and up (in my family). Don’t expect kids to get the jokes on the first try, but this edition is absolutely fantastic and illustrations help the story move along. There are a couple of other great Shakespeare for little kids books on the market. We love humorous and imaginative Tales from Shakespeare by Marcia Williams (you might know her from her famous and very talented comic-strip style Greek Myths) and any book in the Shakespeare Can be Fun series.
After your kids fall in love with Shakespeare’s plays and I (almost) guarantee they will, it’s a good time to introduce a short video about Shakespeare. It was not easy to find a brief and informative video that would appeal to small children, but I found it! Believe me this just-under-5 minute video from Brain Pop is genius. My almost 8-year old was hooked from the first minute when he heard the words “Darth Vader.” What does Star Wars have to do with Shakespeare? You would have to check out the video.
My kids really enjoy doing math word problems. I grew up doing lots of word problems as opposite to multiple choices questions and I can see many benefits to this approach. Here I put together one sheet of problems based on the facts of Shakespeare’s life. You can print it right now by clicking Math.
When I started to look for math resources that I could link to the Shakespeare theme, I was extremely excited to discover this amazing site by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Here you will discover over 100 free curriculum resources that will get your kids excited about Shakespeare. You have to create a free account to be able to download Shakespeare Math games. We enjoyed playing Anne Shakespeare Goes Shopping. In this game you print out a map of Stratford (in Shakespeare’s time) and throw a dice to move on the board and learn about shopping and money. Besides games, this site has art project ideas, Shakespeare geography, history, cooking and other creative activities.
Did you know that Shakespeare’s sonnets are closely linked to mathematics? If you don’t believe me, listen to the video in this post by Professor Roger Bowley, in which he shares his thoughts on the role of math in Shakespeare’s sonnets. You can not celebrate Shakespeare’s Day without listening to at least one of his sonnets. This performance by a 8-year old intrigued my son immensely. Now he wants to learn some Shakespeare by heart. I told him to start with some quotes first. You can print some of our favorite Shakespeare quotes here.
Cut them into section and tape them next to the bathroom mirror or shoe rack. Next time you brush teeth or put the shoes on, read each quote a couple of times.
Are you up for some Shakespeare science? Explore the science of sounds. In Shakespeare’s time actors didn’t have stage microphones. They had to use their voices and their knowledge of acoustics to make their voice carry. Read a bit about acoustics here, then head over to Acoustical Solutions for 4 fabulous hands on science experiments that will have your kids asking for more! We especially liked the echolocation experiment because my kids love dolphins.
Art and Crafts
Are your kids big on coloring? We had a lot of fun with this collection from Activity Village: from a Shakespeare portrait to his Globe Theater and his Birthplace coloring pages. Interested in Romeo and Juliet coloring pages? Check out this collection.
Looking for more “hands on” Shakespeare fun?
- Make William Shakespeare’s writing tool – homemade Quill Pen. In the old days you had to start by catching a turkey and pulling it’s feather out. If the only turkey you ever see is the one on a Thanksgiving table, you can buy turkey feathers on amazon.
- Create your own book. This project does require a drill and an adult contribution, but the final product is absolutely gorgeous and so worth the effort!
- Eat like William Shakespeare. According to this article, “there are at least 2,000 culinary references in his collected works; and the word “feast” pops up over 100 times.” I have recently came across a wonderful cookbook called Shakespeare’s Kitchen. I can’t wait to share my review with you, but it will take me some time to cook through the recipes. For now why not try Yorkshire Pudding or Mincemeat Pie.
Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links.