Shakespearean literature in an EFL classroom

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Debido a la importancia de la lectura en nuestro currículo, nosotros, como profesores, debemos animar a nuestros estudiantes a desarrollar buenos hábitos de lectura. La manera de hacerlo es a través de nuestra asignatura. De esta forma, la materia de inglés, resulta ideal para trabajar este aspecto. Es así, que nuestros estudiantes deben conocer uno de los mayores exponentes en literatura inglesa, William Shakespeare.

A grandes rasgos, se trata de la planificación de dos sesiones, incluyendo una actividad preparatoria previa a la lectura, una actividad de lectura, que comprende obras relevantes de este autor, y una actividad concluyente que implica el desarrollo de una actuación en la que los alumnos deberán producir el lenguaje. Todo ello teniendo en cuenta las competencias clave que propone el currículo y conexiones interdisciplinares con otras materias como literatura o informática, siguiendo el principio metodológico de globalización, así como agrupamientos y temporalización. Finalmente, la evaluación del logro de los objetivos de aprendizaje y de las competencias clave se realizaría a través de la actividad final, la actuación.

Esta propuesta está diseñada para una clase de 1º de bachillerato. Sin embargo, puede ser adaptada a las características específicas de nuestros alumnos en otros niveles.


Due to the importance of reading in the Spanish curriculum, we, as teachers, should encourage our students to develop good reading habits. And the way we shall do this is by means of our subject. In such a way, English seems an ideal area to deal with literature. Therefore, students should know one of the major exponents of English literature, namely William Shakespeare. In what follows, a tentative plan to work on this aspect will be offered. That means that we could adapt it to the specific characteristics of our class and our students. More specifically, this plan is devised for a class of Year 1 of Baccalaureate.


According to Royal Decree 1105/2014, which establishes the Basic Curriculum for Compulsory Secondary Education and Baccalaureate, one of the main tenets is the development of reading habits. That is the reason why we have decided to plan a series of activities to help our students develop this aspect and also to offer them the opportunity to know the life, works and style of a genius of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries of English literature, William Shakespeare.

Apart from this, in the development of our students’ communicative competence, following Canale and Swain’s model, we will work on the linguistic competence, for obvious reasons, when dealing with the language. In addition to this, we will attempt to develop the sociolinguistic competence, using the language in different social situations when narrating and acting, the strategic competence, when doing the reading task, and, finally, the discourse competence, dealing with the use of the language, oral and written, in a coherent way. Besides, in the development of this plan, we will work on the receptive and productive skills in an integrated way. Therefore, we will use the reading task to work on speaking, treating, in this sense, the development of oral communication, as a crucial point of our curriculum.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that we will follow a global principle, establishing interdisciplinary connections. Thus, we will work on literature, when dealing with the readings, but also, we will work on ICT, since our students will need to use the information and communication technologies in order to carry out their tasks.


As for the main objectives of this plan, we expect that our students know general aspects of Shakespeare’s life, works and style. More specifically, we want them to know and recognise some of his most relevant plays. Hence, they will be exposed to different genres, namely comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Merchant of Venice; tragedies, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Macbeth; a roman play, Titus Andronicus; and a history, Henry VIII. In doing so, we want that students make a good use of different strategies so as to get information from these passages. Finally, we want them to be able to deliver short presentations about the different works, in the form of acting, involving the decorations, costumes and other aspects related to it.


Regarding the contents, firstly, we will make our students work on the development of different strategies so as to get general and specific information from the excerpts. Secondly, they will value the importance of the foreign language and of its literature. Thirdly, we want them to work on the development of communicative functions, when using the language to get information and also when doing the performance. Finally, they will work on different syntactic-discursive aspects and lexis, embedded in the texts.


Having dealt with the justification of our plan, the main objectives to be covered, and the contents that we will practice, it is time to analyse the activities to work with Shakespearean literature in our class of Year 1 of Baccalaureate.

First and foremost, it is important to mention that the plan will be carried out in two sessions, following the pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading methodology. In the development of it, students will work in different groupings and rooms, as it will be specified.

On the one hand, during session number one, we will deal with a warm-up activity and the pre-reading and while-reading tasks.

Firstly, the warm-up activity will be implemented in the ICT room since our students will deal with a web quest. Therefore, in order to get familiarised with the topic, they will be working in pairs to look for information about Shakespeare’s life, birthplace, marriage, children, his life in London, his relation with the Globe Theatre and the King’s Man Company. In addition to this, they will find out about his works, his main plays and his sonnets, and his style. Finally, they will look for some information about the time, the Elizabethan Golden Era, the playhouses, the playwrights of the time and the lifestyle. They will develop this activity by filling a form with varied questions and also they will be provided with different online resources, such as for example the web

Secondly, as a pre-reading activity, students will do a matching activity, working on vocabulary. Therefore, they will look for the meanings of different words, phrases and quotes coined and used by William Shakespeare, with the help of online resources, working on linguistic and digital competence. For example, they will find out the meanings of the words “thou” or “thy” or quotes such as “an eye for an eye”, “all that glitters is not gold”, “the game is up”, “two’s company, three’s crowd” or “to be or not to be, that is the question”. For this activity, they will follow the groupings of the previous activity.

Then, once they are familiarised with the vocabulary and style of this author, we will move on to the while-reading activity, the reading itself. For this activity, students will work in groups of 4 or 5, dealing with cooperative work. They will be provided with different passages of Shakespeare’s plays. The chosen works will be A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Titus Andronicus and Henry VIII. Thus, students will be exposed to the different genres used by this playwright. Each group will have access to an online text at random and they will have to read it and complete a form, using strategies to get general and specific information about the characters, topics and style. Since, Shakespeare’s language is rather difficult to understand, they will do it in a guided way so as to lower their affective filter.

On the other hand, during session number two, as a post-reading activity, they will be asked to output the language, acting out some of the dialogues they were exposed to. To that end, they will be working in the same groups as in the while-reading activity, but now they will do it in their reference room. Aspects such as the costumes, special effects or decorations as well as fluency and diction will be valued. In order to lower their affective filter and to help them pay attention to the important points, they will be provided with the objectives and evaluation criteria for the activity. Therefore, students will be encouraged to distribute the work, monitoring themselves the task. In that sense, according to Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory, they will be allowed to choose the part that they like the most, namely colour and prepare the decorations, design the costumes, adapt the script or act out. All this, will make our students develop their linguistic competence, cultural awareness and expression and sense of initiative and entrepreneurship.

It is important to say, that this activity will serve teachers as an evaluation activity. Accordingly, by means of their acting and the preparation of the materials, we will be able to know to what extent they have achieved the key competences and the learning objectives proposed.


All in all, by means of this plan we will work with Shakespearean literature in our class of Year 1 of Baccalaureate. However, this design could be adapted to any level in the selection of the texts or providing a list of recurrent vocabulary to lower the level, for example. As we have seen, this will be a way to help our students develop reading habits since they will be encouraged to read complete adapted works, namely graded readers, once they have concluded these sessions. Additionally, this plan will also help with the contribution of communicative competence and development of oral communication, as an important point of our curriculum. Finally, in the development of these activities, students will deal with cooperative work, when working in pairs or in groups, and they will establish interdisciplinary connections with the subjects of literature and ICT.


  • Royal Decree 1105/2014, where the Basic Curriculum for CSE and Baccalaureate are established.
  • Decree 221/2015, where the Curriculum for Baccalaureate is established in the Autonomous Community of Murcia.
  • Alexander, M.J. (2000) A History of English Literature. Macmillan Press: London.
  • Puchta, H. and M. Rinvolucri. (2010). Multiple Intelligences in EFL. Helbling Languages: Cambridge.
  • Sanders, A. (1994) The Short Oxford History of English Literature. Oxford: OUP.


Beatriz Martínez Val




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