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Need Help with Shakespeare? There's an App for That.

February 04, 2015

Shakespeare is widely – and justifiably – considered a mainstay of any student’s education in English. But the Bard’s vocabulary and expressions are so different from middle- and high-schoolers’ day-to-day language that it can sometimes leave them feeling frustrated and bored.

With the help of some iPads and a Shakespeare app, however, one seventh-grade English class at Poly Prep Country Day School in New York engages with the plays on a whole new level. The app combines text, video, and interactive components to increase students’ understanding of complex texts.

After key passages, the students watch portions of the text acted out, and draw on both the wording and the video during seminar discussions. After all, Shakespeare’s works were originally meant to be watched – body language and interactions with others play a huge role in understanding the plays. Students can also use their iPads to apply their understanding by highlighting sections of text and writing comments about the scenes from different characters’ points of view.

Even though they’re reading on screens and supplementing the text with video, the seventh graders are actually keeping a critical element of Shakespeare’s legacy alive. Shakespeare’s plays were so revolutionary in his time precisely because they were accessible – they were written in a way that ordinary people could understand and identify with. Over four hundred fifty years after his birth, the students in Poly Prep and the Shakespeare app are continuing that tradition with a very modern twist.