Activity Overview

A great way to engage your students in comprehending the text is by creating a storyboard that uses Shakespearean vocabulary. Many students struggle with the meaning of commonly used Shakespearean terms; getting them to use them in context before reading is an excellent way to cultivate the comprehension of vocabulary. In the example below, students were asked to create storyboards that use familiar Shakespearean terms.

In a Shakespearean vocabulary board, students can use the words in a sentence they create, or they can pick a phrase from the play. In the example storyboard, the student has chosen to create their sentences for their words:

  • Marry - Indeed:

    "Then they asked me if that was the word of the Prince, and I replied, 'It was marry!'"

  • Pray - To hope:

    I pray the nurse comes quickly with good news!

  • Sauce - Sassy:

    The saucy porter wouldn't let me in without a password.

  • Thou - You (used for one person who is the subject of a sentence):

    If thou hast a cold come see me... the friendly apothecary!

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create a spider map storyboard for Shakespearean vocabulary words and phrases.

  1. Identify unfamiliar words or phrases that Shakespeare uses.
  2. Type each into the title boxes.
  3. Briefly describe the meaning of the word in the description box.
  4. Create a standalone comic in each cell that has the word in a sentence in a speech or thought bubble.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/11-12/4] Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/11-12/10] By the end of grade 11, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 11-CCR text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

    By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades 11-CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently
  • [ELA-Literacy/SL/11-12/2] Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Shakespearean Vocabulary Rubric Template
Define, illustrate, and give an example sentence for Shakespearean vocabulary
Proficient Emerging Beginning
Word meanings are clear and correct.
Word meanings are mostly correct, but some are unclear or incorrect.
Most word meanings are unclear or incorrect.
Vocabulary words are used correctly in the example sentences in both meaning and context.
Most words are used correctly, but some of the vocabulary words are used awkwardly or in the wrong context.
Most vocabulary words are not used correctly in the example sentences.
Comic Visualization
Storyboard cell clearly illustrates the meaning of the vocabulary word.
The storyboard cell relates to the meaning of the vocabulary word, but is difficult to understand.
The storyboard cell does not clearly relate to the meaning of the vocabulary word.

How To Teach Shakespearean Vocabulary


Meet the Vocabulary Head On

Many students are reluctant Shakespeare readers because of the vocabulary. If you acknowledge that going in you will tend to have more success in teaching his plays. Doing a variety of activities to make the vocabulary more accessible will assist students in understanding both the vocabulary and the play as a whole.


Hurl Shakespearean Insults

Shakespeare's vocabulary can be very difficult for students to comprehend. Using a fun game such as hurling insults at each other using Shakespeare's language will make it more accessible for students. And there are so many insults to choose from!


Use a Graphic Organizer

Using a graphic organizer will help students understand the vocabulary more clearly. Any descriptions and pictures they create themselves will help them to internalize the knowledge.

Frequently Asked Questions about Shakespearian Vocabulary

Why is vocabulary in a Shakespearean play so important?

With so much distance in time and culture, students often find the language in Shakespeare difficult. Getting ahead of the curve to understand the vocabulary will go far in helping students to understand the play as a whole and make students feel more comfortable with the vocabulary.

How can students better engage with vocabulary from hundreds of years ago?

Students should play, analyze, and create using the vocabulary from Shakespeare so they can get accustomed to it. Speaking the vocabulary out loud, creating graphic organizers, and even listening to the vocabulary on a tape will help students learn these new words more easily.

This Activity is Part of Many Teacher Guides

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