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An ode to the Common Core and Shakespeare
TUESDAY, MARCH 31, 2015 15:44 PM

The Common Core State Standards may emphasize informational texts, but students will still experience all the joys of analyzing a piece of literature. Not only that, but the CCSS covers poetry and drama as well. The Common Core doesn't say what plays students must read, only that they should look at some of the classics, like the works of William Shakespeare. Here's what the Standards say about literature and what your child should get out of analyzing texts by the Bard:

Why read Shakespeare?
Not only are Shakespeare's plays considered classics, but they are also full of complex language and poetic devices. In reading his plays, students can learn what iambic pentameter and anachronism are. They'll also have to use the meter to dissect the meaning and intent of a phrase or even how an actor would speak the line.

For instance, plays like "A Midsummer Night's Dream" closely follow iambic pentameter. Should a character's line not cover the full 10 syllables, that usually means the next person's line finishes the first person's. 

At one point, Hermia says "So is Lysander." This line has only 5 syllables, which isn't the whole 10. You can expect that the next line would only have 5 syllables, and it does. Theseus says, "In himself he is."

It is this detail and richness that makes reading Shakespeare an analytical experience. In fact, the Common Core emphasizes the development of critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, and a deep read of Shakespeare helps hone those abilities.

Poetic devices
In addition to following verse, Shakespeare's plays and poetry use devices students should learn about. From irony to alliteration to metaphor to allusion, Shakespeare infused his plays with many tools writers still use today for varying effects.

As students analyze Shakespeare in their Common Core English class, they should learn to identify the use of literary devices and the goal Shakespeare was trying to achieve when using them. Additionally, as is the case with most poetry, Shakespeare was careful in choosing his words. Students should think about word choice as they read or perform plays.

What the Standards say
The CCSS doesn't say which Shakespearean works students must read, so teachers get to pick. This freedom is especially important when it comes to field trips. Many students get to see Shakespearean plays with their class, and reading the script beforehand will help them better understand the performance. However, the Standards do suggest students read "The Tragedy of Macbeth," as the story covers a range of educational topics - plus, after reading this text, students will understand "The Lion King" much better.

Shakespeare is reserved for high-school students. The inclusion of complex language and literary devices may be too challenging for students in earlier grades.

The Bard left behind many works for us to study, and students will have the opportunity to expand their reading, writing and critical-thinking skills come high school. The Common Core notes that Shakespeare should be part of school curricula, and with all his plays have to offer, it's no surprise.