William Shakespeare / During Reading / /


Using visualisation to understand Shakepeare’s London.

Lesson length: 1 session

Lesson from William Shakespeare series

Required reading: Pages 13-14

Text potential

  • Inference opportunities: Elaborative inference
  • Historical, Social and Cultural Context: London

Strategies used

  • Vocabulary: Blended Approach
  • Visualisation


Visualisation is the skill of being able to create mental images while you read. The reader combines their background knowledge with the words of the author to create mental images that enhance understanding of the text and bring the text to life. This lesson uses visualisation to build a mental image of London as Shakespeare would have first seen it. 

Teacher’s Note: The writing lesson, Welcome to London, could be completed after this session.


  • Copies of London Visualisation, one per pair.
  • Copies of Shakespeare, at least one per pair.


Write ‘London’ on the board and ask:

  • What do you know about London? 
  • Do you think London has changed since Shakespeare was alive? 

Tell the class that you are going to read the part of the book, which describes Shakespeare’s arrival in London. Read the text on page 13 aloud. Ask:

  • Can you think of one word to describe the impression you get of this place? 

One way of sharing responses is to give each child a sticky note or whiteboard pen. They should write the word on the sticky note and place it on the board or write directly onto the board. Look at the range of responses and ask children to explain why they chose the word they did. 

Distribute copies of the London Visualisation resource to pairs. Give time for the children to read the passage before following the visualisation process:

  • Ask the children to work in pairs to describe the images they visualised with the passage.
  • Now ask the children to draw what they visualised. This can be done in pairs. Emphasise that the quality of the drawing is not important.
  • Share their images. Do you see things in a similar way? Differences are to be expected depending on the experiences of the reader.
  • Ask them to return to the passage to see how closely they have visualised.
  • Where are the gaps they needed to fill in with their knowledge and experience?
  • What sense of place does the passage give?
  • Were there any words or phrases that were unfamiliar and stopped you being able to visualise? 

Gather the class together and make a note of any unfamiliar words and phrases. At this stage, do not address these. Some of the words that might be identified are troupe, racket, rickety, precarious, cobbled, chamber-pot, slops, cudgel, ferrymen. 

Distribute copies of the book and ask the pairs to read pages 13-14. They can take turns to read while their partner follows the text. Draw attention back to the list of words and phrases and ask the pairs to re-read the whole spread, paying close attention to the illustrations. Ask:

  • Have you been able to clarify the meaning of any of the words using the pictures? 
  • Are there any new words to add to the list? (The speech bubbles might provide additional words such as almanacs, cut-purse, quill, beggar.)

Discuss the strategies used to work out the meaning of the words and phrases. You could draw attention to a word such as ‘cut-purse’ and identifying the meaning using their knowledge of the two words. You could use an etymological dictionary to find the origin of the word. Some words are still in use today but may be unfamiliar such as almanac. 

Final reflection


  • Where is Shakespeare in this picture? 

Look at the speech bubble:

London at last! What a filthy, noisy, delightful place!

  • Is the word ‘delightful’ the word you would have expected to read here? 
  • Are there any other words which might fit here? (For example, a negative adjective such as disgusting.)
  • Why does Shakespeare use the word ‘delightful’? What aspects of London might be delightful to a writer? 
  • How do you think London compares to Stratford? 

Key vocabulary

racket, rickety, precarious, cobbled

Additional vocabulary

chamber-pot, cudgel, ferrymen, almanac


London Visualisation

London Visualisation


Sam Keeley

Formerly a teacher and local authority advisory teacher, Sam now works with Just Imagine as an English consultant and manager of the year 6 Reading Gladiators programme.

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