The Tempest is a story with betrayal, revenge, reconciliation, and devotion. It has something for everyone: slap-stick humor, violent men & monsters, friendly sprites, and a fairy-tale island setting where forgiveness and keeping one’s word wins out in the end despite long odds.
Whether you introduce this story by picture book, movie, or reading the real deal – or all three – it is a story worth enjoying together with your children.
Shakespeare’s The Tempest for Kids
1. Introduce The Tempest
Start with a picture book retelling of the story to get not only the plot but also the feel of the semi-supernatural setting.
The art in these picture books is lovely and vivid, capturing the mood of the play.
2. Memorize Lines from The Tempest
Sometimes we think we have to understand something before we memorize it, but that’s not necessarily how our minds or our affections work. When we start with memorization, the familiarity brings gradual understanding. Knowing the lines by heart, we can think about them, rolling them over in our minds and letting not only the thought but simply the beautiful language sink in and resonate.
I chose two short sets of lines when I read The Tempest with my kids in our homeschool:
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in ‘t.
Download the lesson plans and memory sheets:
3. Watch a Movie or Live Production of The TempestYes, watching comes before reading the full play because Shakespeare was meant to be seen and not heard. It is much easier to keep track of who is who and what’s happening when watching the story unfold before your eyes than when all you have is the printed script in front of you. The script was written for the actors, not for the audience. Although reading Shakespeare is a wonderful thing to do, it should never replace watching Shakespeare. For a traditional production of this play, we watched the recorded stage production with Christopher Plummer. Another version I enjoyed was the version done in 2011 starring Helen Mirren.
4. Listen & Read Along to The TempestRather than simply reading a drama script aloud to my kids, we listen to an audio version - preferably one with different characters read by different people (it helps us keep track) - and follow along in our own individual copies of the text.
5. Play The TempestThe Tempest provides many fun scenes that would be a blast to act out for kids. Boys will arm wrestle over who gets to be Caliban and who the Magician. Girls will vie over Miranda or Ariel scenes. It doesn’t take many kids to put together a few select scenes, and you could even simply play the audio of the text and allow the kids to mime their chosen character, acting the part with appropriate facial expressions and movements. Telling the story with Lego people or finger puppets or drawing the story as a comic strip are also great reinforcing activities that allow the child to put his own artistic spin on the classic tale.
Put it together: Lesson Plans for The TempestClass Time: 20 minutes, 2 times a week (plus time to watch the movie) Total length: 8 weeks
- Repeat the lines to memorize together once or twice
- Do the day’s lesson
- Ask a question to get a narration/discussion going for a few minutes
- Read 1/2 the picture book. Have a student narrate.
- Ask each student to name & describe a character. Read the rest of the picture book.
- (over the weekend, have a movie night)
- Discuss the story, plot line, and movie - ask kids for favorite parts or characters. Let them ask questions.
- Listen to 15 minutes of The Tempest on audio while following along. (The Tempest is 2 hours 11 minutes, so this will take 10 class periods).
- Have students present either mimed or play acted scenes or present artwork done to tell the story.