Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

Thou Know'st 'tis Common…Ay, Madam, it is Common

The Hot News among English Language Arts teachers this summer (it’s been a slow news cycle) was the initial publication of the Common Core State Standards. Originally announced on June 1, 2009,the initiative’s stated purpose was to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.

And for those of us who teach Shakespeare, the really good news was the inclusion of a Shakespeare play–specifically Macbeth–as a requirement in the Grade 9-10 Standards.

Here’s what the commission said about the standards:

These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards:

  • Are aligned with college and work expectations;
  • Are clear, understandable and consistent;
  • Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
  • Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
  • Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
  • Are evidence-based

As of July 9, 23 states had decided to replace their standards with the Common Core and by the end of the year, 41 states are expected to have adopted them.

Only Texas and Alaska did not participate in the initiative and are not expected to adopt them.

But Shakespeare was one of the few authors mentioned by name, and the Folger has lots of fabulous lesson plans on Macbeth and a wonderful DVD of the production we produced on our stage.

So what do you think about these standards? Will your state be adopting them? Will it finally convince some reluctant administrators that Shakespeare should be taught in high school? You tell us.


  • I assume that what you mean to say is that Macbeth was included in their sample list of appropriate texts. However, you seem to be doing what I fear others will too: you’re making their sample list of texts a mandated curriculum. Even their own document (appendix B) states that the lists are “suggestive of the breadth of texts that students
    should encounter in the text types required by the Standards” (p. 2) Furthermore, it states that the lists “do
    not represent a partial or complete reading list” (p. 2). I’m pointing this out because I do not wish the myth that the reading list is definitive to be perpetuated. However, like you, I too feel that Shakespeare is definetly something that should be in the curriculum.

  • Thanks for commenting. Yes, we know that it was suggested, but that’s a big step for Shakespeare. The fact that the Core uses a rigorous text as an example is a good thing. It also helps us reach teachers and schools who feel that they can stop using Shakespeare.

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