Shakespeare: His Life


Writing a biography of William Shakespeare gives the opportunity to write in the third person and past tense while considering the most important events to include.

Teacher’s Note: This writing opportunity follows on well from the Review and Reflect lesson, Critical Events. It also provides an excellent opportunity to apply the grammatical skills learned in earlier lessons, including using parenthesis, modal verbs and adverbs to express possibility and use of the past and past perfect tenses.


  • If you taught the Critical Events lesson, the Flow Maps that were created in the session will provide a framework for writing the biography.
  • Copies of William Shakespeare, at least one per pair.
  • Access to the BBC website (see below)



Begin by explaining the writing purpose to the class. You might say something like: 

‘We are going to write a shorter version of the events in Shakespeare’s life. This is for people who do not have time to read the book that we have read.’ Compile a list of challenges that writing a biography will present, inviting contributions from the class:

  • Choosing which events to include. (Refer back to the Critical Events lesson.)
  • Writing using the past and past perfect tenses.
  • Including additional information efficiently. (Refer to the prior learning about parenthesis.) 
  • Indicating the passage of time. (Refer to work on adverbials. This is an excellent opportunity to revise the use of fronted adverbials such as eventually, after some time, many years later, which will move the writing forward.)

Remind the class that the Flow Map will help them to organise their writing into paragraphs. Encourage the children to add to their Flow Maps by revisiting the book. 


Teacher’s Note: A more challenging writing task is to write an autobiography. You may want to identify children who would benefit from this challenge and work with them as a group. Alternatively, you might prefer to offer the whole class a choice.

The biographies can be presented in different ways. You may want to provide different options, such as:

  • creating a book.
  • creating a comic strip. 
  • slideshow using a computer. 

Give time for writing and editing the biographies. 

Final reflection

If some children have written an autobiography, this is a good opportunity to reflect on the differences between biography and autobiography. The children may notice that an autobiography is:

  • written in the first person
  • contains emotional response to events
  • is less formal

Alternatively, you may focus on one of the grammatical elements such as the use of parentheses or invite the children to compare the key events they chose to focus on in their writing.  

Welcome to London!


The reading lesson in First Encounters will have introduced the children to Shakespeare’s London, and they will build on this knowledge by carrying out further research to create a guide to the city. 


  • Copies of William Shakespeare, at least one per pair. 
  • Copies of the Sensory Writing resource, one per pair. 
  • Copies of the Flow Map, one per pair.
  • Access to the internet, particularly Shakes[eare’s Globe website (see below)
  • If available, a selection of leaflets from a local tourist information office would be helpful to use as a model. 


Begin by reminding the class of the London lesson in the First Encounters phase of the sequence. Distribute copies of the book to pairs and ask them to search for references to any landmarks in London. Gather the class together and create a list. Explain that the children will work in pairs to create a guide to Shakespeare’s London for visitors during Elizabethan times. Distribute copies of the Sensory Writing resource and Flow Map for the pairs to use to plan their guide. They should use the book as well as other sources such as any information books you have available and websites (particularly the site listed in the Preparation section.) Once the research has been carried out, the pairs should decide how they would like to present their guide. Give time for the guides to be completed and edited.

Final reflection

Give time for the pairs to share their guides with other pairs and give feedback about the effectiveness of the leaflets in providing a picture of London. Ask:

  • What would you have liked about Shakespeare’s London? 
  • Which landmarks would you have been most interested in visiting

If the children are familiar with London, ask:

  • What do you think are the main differences between modern London and Shakespeare’s London? 

Drawing Shakespeare


Cameras did not exist in Elizabethan England, so portraits are the only record of the appearance of historical figures from the time. In this lesson, the children will follow a step by step process by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom to draw their portrait of William Shakespeare. 


  • The class will need access to the Guardian step by step guide, either displayed on the whiteboard or on individual devices (see below)  
  • Paper and pencils for drawing
  • Watercolour paints



Follow the step by step guide on the website to produce portraits of Shakespeare (see resource below).

Final reflection

Consider the concept of not being able to take photographs. Ask: 

  • How accurate do you think portraits were? 
  • Do you think that kings and queens could make portrait painters paint them in a more flattering way?