Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

New Shakespeare Set Free Toolkit Unveiled at NCTE

Imagine everything you needed to get started teaching Shakespeare all in one place. This summer, Folger Education developed exactly that in our newest teaching resource, the  Shakespeare Set Free: Doing Shakespeare Right toolkit.

We unveiled the toolkit at last month’s NCTE Convention in Philadelphia.  Teachers were incredibly excited and are already seeing success in the classrooms. One teacher from California even reported:

“I LOVE the toolkit.  The pictures on the flash drive really generated excitement among my students.  We looked at the pictures, and I told them ‘tantalizing tidbits’ about the plays the picture represented.  By the time I started the lesson plan for A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Shakespeare Set Free, they were totally engaged.”

So what’s in the kit? Essentially, all the resources you need to get your students started on an enjoyable and enriching experience with Shakespeare. Shakespeare isn’t about just reading the plays; its about getting students up on their feet and actively engaging with the text.

The kit contains:

  • The Shakespeare Set Free curriculum
  • A getting started guide
  • A DVD of Folger Theatre’s smash stage production of Macbeth, with special features designed for classroom use
  • Printable classroom activities
  • 40 laminated cards with lines from the plays for our two-line scene exercises.  Teachers have been asking for cards like these since we began offering our performance-based teaching workshops – they’re a great introductory exercise for students just getting started with Shakespeare.
  • and more!

Perhaps the most exciting feature of the toolkit is the flash drive with both edited and unedited scenes for classrom use, copies of our podcasts and videos from our YouTube site, and many other terrific teaching tools.  The toolkit is available for purchase online for $75.

We welcome hearing your feedback on your experiences using the toolkit. How have you used the materials to engage and challenge your students?


  • The toolkit is perfect for any play. The contents contain activities and exercises for all of the plays, and uses specific plays to illustrate the techniques used. Enjoy! Bob

  • The Shakespeare Set Free curriculum has revolutionized the way I teach Shakespeare! My students and I love the interactivity, the way the students are up and moving and interacting with the authentic language. Many of the techniques are appropriate with other pieces – novels that we read in my classroom, for example – and continue to be so engaging for the students. Now that I have taught Romeo and Juliet using the SSF curriculum, I know that I could adapt those same strategies to any other of the Bard’s plays. I took the workshop a few years ago and so have missed out on the extras, like the flash drive. But I check in with the Folger website frequently for all the wonderful resources there. I’ll be asking for English Department money to purchase the complete toolkite for next year!

  • Terry and Diane,

    The Folger approach to teaching Shakespeare isn’t really about the pre-packaged unit plans (though they do have some fantastic ones- I know for a fact that both Othello and R and J are included in the Shakespeare Set Free books). The idea behind the Folger method is to alter the entire philosophy of teaching Shakespeare.

    I participated in a month-long institute at the Folger in 2008 (they are doing another one this coming summer- You should definitely apply–It’s a life-changing experience). While I was there, we worked with Lear, Richard III, Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado. I was able to use that experience to help write a new Shakespeare unit for my 12th graders that covered those four plays, as well as two others (Tempest and Macbeth). Once you get are exposed to the ideas behind the Folger approach, it’s REALLY easy to apply those ideas to other plays.

    That’s really the only way I can think of to explain the toolkit. You’re getting the resources to implement an approach to teaching Shakespeare (which is far, FAR more valuable than getting JUST a unit plan).

    Good luck, and remember what I said about this summer’s workshop (you’ll love it–check the Folger website for “Teaching Shakespeare Institute 2010”).


  • Last week, my classmates and I, acted out a scene from Midsummer’s Night Dream. Our Professor, Michael LoMonico, based our “performance” on lesson #1 of “Shakespeare Set Free.” It was interesting to experience the almost immediate level of comfort that each step of the lesson provided. By the end of the class, we were “in character,” getting stage direction from our audience of peers, and the language seemed much less “foreign” to us. We understood how to better express Shakespeare’s words through our intonation and body language. The language became our own and we had a lot of fun performing the scene. If we were asked to jump right into the scene without the scaffolded steps provided by our professor and “Shakespeare Set Free,” the class would have presumably been much less productive and willing to perform amongst a classroom of peers. Personally, I can’t wait to teach Shakespeare, as well as other works, and incorporate the lessons provided in “Shakespeare Set Free” into my curriculum. Like Scott O Neil’s comment above, what you get with “Shakespeare Set Free” is not just a book full of exciting and practical lesson plans, you get introduced to a completely different mindset and approach to the teaching of Shakespeare in the classroom setting.

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