Back in my classroom teaching days, I had the joy of introducing the world of Elizabethan England and the works of William Shakespeare to my 7th grade students.

William Shakespeare

Some of you might wonder at Shakespeare being taught on such an elementary level–especially to a middle school mind. Isn’t Shakespeare supposed to be taught to honor students in senior high school?

Nay, I say!

At the time, I was the drama teacher on staff in the mid-1990’s at StoneBridge School in Chesapeake, Virginia. It remains the pilot school for Principle Approach Education via the Foundation for American Christian Education, with history, the classics, and the Bible underscoring every subject taught on every grade level.

Implementing an expansive view toward teaching and learning, students are introduced to Shakespeare in the first grade using the classic retelling of prominent Shakespearean plays by in Tales From Shakespeare by 19th century authors, Charles and Mary Lamb. 

I recommend this edition (click on the book image to purchase) of their work in our Authors Showcase. Each tale is retold as prose–not play–in quality language to clearly communicate the plot and plight of the characters. From earliest years, students become familiar with Shakespeare, his time in history, and the language of his time–the language of the Bible. Themes appropriate to each grade level are introduced early as youngsters expand their understanding of this indispensible stalwart of our Western literary heritage.

So, by the time they get to me in the 7th grade, they are well grounded in Shakespeare’s world and the cadence of Shakespearean language. It’s time to put on a play–the original version–not an abridged version. I found my students meet to the task. Though only a few might be standouts on the stage, all rose to the challenge, stretching themselves in the process. 

Harder is better and through the gentle but firm shepherding of them in all aspects of production, we always enjoyed a successful stage production.

Were I back in my Shakespeare class again, I’d have to add another aspect to our classtime–Bob Hostetler’s new devotional released this summer, The Bard and the Bible.

Check it out with Bob in his book trailer, all decked out in Shakespearean garb:

Personally, I’m enjoying my autographed copy, picked up this month at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference when I had the pleasure of meeting him, enjoying a few discussions of all things Shakespeare and history.

Bob Hostetler The Bard and the Bible

Each day’s reading includes one of the hundreds of lines from Shakespeare mentioning God or alluding to biblical principles, and a Bible verse relating to it. Bob’s wit and humor draw out the meat in his easy-to-digest exposition of the line in the context of both the play it is drawn from, and the biblical truth it pertains to. He ends each day’s reading with two literary facts about Shakespeare’s work related to that day’s devotional thought. 

What a love of God, literature, and depth of study are evident on each page! Click To Tweet

Were I still in the classroom, here’s how I’d use it. Homeschool and English teachers take note:

  • Write each Shakespearean verse for the day on the white board.
  • Write each related Scripture verse for the day on the white board.
  • Assign students to write out the verses in a writing journal.
  • Start each of my language/literature/drama classes with that day’s reading. 
  • Assign a 5 minute journal writing time reflecting on the verses copied and the reading–this can be a prayer or simply a short few sentences summing up what the student gleaned from the reading.
  • Quick-share of student’s writing as volunteered. 
  • Allow approximately 20 minutes for this each day before moving onto the scheduled material.
  • Keep track of the themes that spark the most interest and plan to return to more discussion on those themes in other literature, history, or Bible study work.

vintage Shakespeare postcardShakespeare has gotten a bad reputation in contemporary times as being unreachable by the common person when, in fact, his work was the popular theatre of the day among the common people. Though his theatrical troupe performed for both Queen Elizabeth and King James, and many of his works were commissioned by royals and noblemen–the stories told hit the commonplaces of the human heart and mind of both high-born and low-born, and transcend cultures. This is a distinction his storytelling shared with the Bible–the most popular book of the era in which He wrote.

For this reason, Shakespeare is a classic, timeless touchstone that should be required in every level of education. Though his work will be received in varied ways according to the learning style and capacity of the individual, the puzzle of his complex themes and elevated language are tools to exercise the mind and challenge the heart no matter who you are.

Though sometimes bawdy, with no light touch in mirroring the evil in men’s hearts, learning Shakespeare expansively from the earliest years, through the filter of a biblical worldview, allows his tales a greater depth of meaning and ultimate purpose in molding a mature mind and elevated taste.

Don’t enter your teaching and learning adventures in life or schoolroom without both the Bard AND the Bible! 

BONUS SHAKESPEAREAN PUZZLE

When I produced my Shakespeare plays, the program included this crossword puzzle on the back page with some of the thousands of words/phrases attributed to Shakespeare for patrons to enjoy before curtain time. In truth, though, it is his predecessor in English language fame, Bible translator and martyr, William Tyndale, from whom Shakespeare may have borrowed much. But, in the end, Shakespeare gets to take the curtain call for many of these common words we use today.

crossword WM pg

Yes! You’re quoting Shakespeare every day of your life and probably didn’t even know it!

Download this FREE PRINTABLE to enjoy for yourself or use in your classroom–available for download on the FREE PRINTABLES tab above.

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Sharing Using “The Bard and the Bible” in School this week with:

Literacy Musing Monday

Create With Joy Book Nook

Wholehearted Wednesday

Christian Blogger Link-up

Sitting Among Friends

Booknificent Thursdays

Vintage Cottage Mama

Katherine’s Corner

Faith Filled Fridays

Pink Saturday

Spiritual Sundays 

Keep all good things and beauty in your life!

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