Home-schooling is something parents across the country have found themselves thrown into teaching their little ones from their kitchen tables. We’ve already given tips on how you could incorporate drama into your activity schedule, but there are plenty of study guides online for children to become more aware of what theatre is, and how to learn about it. Here are some online guides you can use to engage, teach and inspire little ones, and get them keen to see a show as soon as theatres open their doors once again.
One of the best free learning resources online, catering for all key stages right up to GCSE and post-16.
For key stage 2, there are guides and videos about what a play is and how to write one, as well as videos about staging Shakespeare plays in the home and in their original form.
Moving to key stage 3, there are in-depth study guides for eight Shakespeare plays (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice and The Tempest), encompassing plot, characters, themes, language and performance analysis. We highlighted in our guide to theatre streaming services, the Globe Player is an extensive resource with full-length Shakespeare productions to watch, which may help contextualise the words on the page and increase understanding.
For GSCE, there are in-depth study guides for English Language and Drama which are sorted by specific exam board, meaning and learning can be tailored to the exams and curricula you need.
Of course, the world of drama extends far beyond Shakespeare and what is taught at school. If you want to teach your child about your favourite play, you might be able to find a guide at SparkNotes. Not only do they contain guides on classics such by Ibsen, Thornton Wilder, Oscar Wilde, and George Bernard Shaw, but there are also more contemporary plays on offer including Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Caryl Churchill’s Cloud 9, Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter, David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross and many more. These may be better suited to older students but might provide relief and respite from studying the same plays. You could try choosing a play you also haven’t seen before, so you are learning together, and your conversations about the work will seem more natural and collaborative.
Musical theatre study guides
It’s common that children’s experience of theatre is solely through musicals, which differs from what they study at school, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to learn about plot, character, themes, and indeed music. A list of guides for shows such as The Lion King, Wicked, Mamma Mia and Mary Poppins are available at BroadwayEducators.com.
Royal Shakespeare Company
"Do you have any advice for performing on Zoom?" A question that a few months ago may have seemed nonsensical, but it's just one of the questions that's been answered by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Shakespeare plays may seem inaccessible to younger children, but RSC actors and alumni have been answering questions posed to them on social media. To take part, you can tweet or send in your questions and thoughts on Instagram using the hashtag #RSCHomeworkHelp, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Actors taking part include David Tennant, Paapa Essiedu and Noma Dumezweni, and questions answered so far include "Which sister is worse, Goneril or Regan?" and "If Julius Caesar was a radio play, how would you stage the assassination scene?". There's educational packs available too, really making the world of William Shakespeare come alive.