The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Finding Shakespeare in Modern Stories

One of the major goals of doing a unit on Shakespeare was to help students understand the Bard’s influence on modern storytelling. As we have been reading adaptations of Hamlet, I have been encouraging my students to think about elements of the story that they recognise in other books, stories, and movies. One connection that was made in the other fourth grade classroom was to Disney’s The Lion King.

I had not even thought about that before, but as soon I heard it I began thinking of all the ways in which the stories are similar. But I was curious to know if my students could identify similarities and differences. Fortunately, we had just worked on using Venn diagrams with our Learning Buddies this week, so it was a perfect opportunity to build on this. Today was the last day before Spring Break and I wanted to do something fun to wrap up our study of Hamlet.

So this morning we watched The Lion King and completed Venn diagrams comparing and contrasting the two stories. Some of the students knew both stories well enough that they were able to do most of the graphic organiser without having to watch the movie (but they did anyway). Others had either never seen the movie or had not seen it in a long time, and so watching the movie let them fully participate.

One of the things that I was glad that my students observed was that the Disney story spends a lot of time establishing the relationship between Simba and Mufasa, whereas Shakespeare’s story starts with the death of Hamlet’s father. I was also happy to see that my students caught the most common shared themes, especially the uncle  who plots to steal the kingdom from his brother and his nephew.

This turned out to be a great way to wrap up our first Shakespeare story. After Spring Break we are going to tackle A Midsummer Night’s DreamRomeo and Juliet, and As You Like It.


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