Secondary Secondary English

Secondary English – Shakespeare in their language!

Making Shakespeare exciting and relevant to today’s teenagers

Another academic year underway, a new timetable to be cautiously navigated… and the same old intractable dilemma  – how to make the words of Shakespeare speak to teenagers born into a world so brave that not even the great man himself could have envisaged it.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…

Well, it can certainly seem that way when you’re caught between the rock of thirty disaffected teenagers and the hard place of the GCSE English curriculum. And yet the plays themselves are full of the kind of stuff that the modern teen thrives upon. Take ‘Macbeth’, for example: intrigue, betrayal, murder, revenge, insanity, all served up with a liberal helping of gore. And, just for good measure, a hefty dose of the supernatural thrown in from the outset!

So what’s the problem? Well, ‘duh!’ it’s the language ‘in it’? No brainer, really. And the average scene length doesn’t help either, especially when our teens have been reared on a quick-fix cinematic culture which frequently puts action before dialogue and changes scenes at a rate that would have made the bard feel dizzy.

One possible solution to the problem is the Teen-Shakespeare approach.

The Teen-Shakespeare project is being developed in order to provide teenagers with a gateway into the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays. Comprising a full term’s scheme of work, each Teen-Shakespeare text will incorporate analytical and creative tasks as well as speaking and listening and reading and writing activities.

The Teen-Shakespeare Macbeth is the first in the series and, although suitable for use at any point in the academic year, is especially ideal for that tricky last term in Year 9 when you want to help your students make the transition from KS3 to GCSE… whilst simultaneously keeping them engaged on those sun-drenched afternoons when it can get extremely hot behind the paint-stuck windowsand adolescent thoughts very quickly turn to the long summer break.

Updated to the setting of an exclusive and fiercely competitive Scottish boarding school, and with three menacing rap sisters lurking in the background, the Teen-Shakespeare Macbeth has been designed as a gateway into the original classic. By reincarnating the tragedy of this major Shakespearean character in a realistic contemporary teenage context, and by using language that teenagers can readily understand, this exciting new drama aims to help them better understand Shakespeare, themselves and each other.

Of course, English teachers are notoriously creative – it goes with the territory – and this is an approach that you might wish to develop in your own classroom in entirely your own way. There’s no reason why you and your students couldn’t write your own adaptation of all, or part, of a Shakespearean classic. It might prove to be a fun way of meeting many of those lofty syllabus objectives… whilst simultaneously making Shakespeare exciting and relevant to the modern teen.

If you would like to sample the Teen-Shakespeare project, then you might care to take advantage of the following free downloads:
1)Teen-Shakespeare Macbeth, Act 1
2)Associated teaching and learning activities
3)Exemplar answers to the above

For further information on the Teen-Shakespeare project, please visit:

Peter Morrisson
English Teacher, author and creator of the Teen-Shakespeare project

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