"Who is William Shakespeare?" For more than 20 years, Lois Burdett has asked that question of her elementary school students in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, leading them on a voyage of discovery that brings the Bard to life for boys and girls ages seven and up.
A Child's Portrait of Shakespeare, written in rhyming couplets is suitable for staging as class plays as well as reading aloud.
About the Author
Lois Burdett's success in introducing Shakespeare to children is reflected in her growing international reputation. Her books and workshops for teachers have captured the attention and imagination of parents, educators, and lovers of Shakespeare around the world, including the American National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association. Among other commendations, Lois Burdett has received Encyclopedia Britannica's National Award for Early Childhood Education, Canada's Meritorious Service Medal, the Canadian Teachers' Federation's Hilroy Fellowship, and two writers' awards. Burdett's many speaking engagements have included the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English. Her books, magazine articles, presentations and media interviews are testimony to her strong influence in the education community, where she has also been instrumental in helping teachers to incorporate Shakespeare into early grade curricula.
Read an Excerpt
But an actor and a writer must also have a stage. The theatres in London town were all the current rage.
Since there was no place to rent William built one of his own; He cherished this new playhouse; The Globe as it was known.
The Globe was open to the sky, so plays were in the day. The poor folk stood about the stage; a penny they did pay.
They were labelled "groundlings" and could get quite loud and rude; If they didn't like the play they saw, they'd even throw their food.
Others paid a good deal more for shelter from the rain. But on opening day for Shakespeare, no one person did complain.
Shakespeare Can Be Fun!
Most students will be exposed to the works of Shakespeare, typically in high school. The language and content of the plays is seen as too difficult for younger children but primary children are underestimated as to what they can accomplish given the challenge. The study of Shakespeare has become an integral part of my grade two program at Hamlet School, in Stratford, Ontario, Canada.
When I first moved to Stratford, I had no intention of teaching Shakespeare to 7 and 8 year olds. Stratford is a beautiful city noted for its Shakespearean theatre and I was interested that the schools were all named after Shakespearean characters. I asked my class, "Who is William Shakespeare?" and "Why is our school called Hamlet?" Their answers were surprising. One thought he was a famous boxer. Another believed he was the President of Canada. A third student responded, "I don't know who William
Shakespeare is. I don't know any of the big kids." It was the children's enthusiasm and excitement on making the connection between an historical figure and the name of their school, which led me to continue. Thirty years later I can't imagine teaching anywhere in the world and not introducing Shakespeare. The study provided tremendous growth, particularly in the area of language and communication and evolved into a learning experience of a lifetime. I have endeavored in my books and workshops for teachers to share the excitement of exploring with children, the timeless emotions and ideas of Shakespeare.
The comments of two of my children, written at various times in their daily journals show the lasting impression Shakespeare has had on them.
"Shakespeare is like a big piece of chocolate cake. Once you've started you wish you could go on and on forever, in a non-stopping dream." (Anika, age 7)
"William's incredible words are like a velvet silk coat that rap around his pure thoughts. His pen writes on like all colors of the wind." (Sean, age 7)