Leaving Home


Shakespeare’s decision to move to London may puzzle readers when they read about how much he loves Anne and consider the fact that they have three young children. Forum theatre allows an incident or event to be seen from different points of view. The opportunity to investigate different perspectives makes this a beneficial strategy for examining how Anne and William felt about this decision and the conversation that may have taken place. 


  • Copies of Shakespeare, at least one per pair.


Distribute copies of the book and give pairs time to read pages 9-10. Explain that you will return to this spread in a later lesson. Read pages 11-12. Ask:

  • Can you summarise what happens at this point in Shakespeare’s life? 
  • Do you think it would have been a difficult decision for Shakespeare to leave home?
  • How do you think Anne would have felt when she found out? 

Draw a table on the board like the one below:

Reasons to stay Reasons to go

Invite suggestions from the class for each heading. 

Organise the class into pairs and ask:

  • How do you think Will announced that he was going to London? What do you think his exact words would have been? 

Share ideas before asking the pairs to continue the conversation between Anne and William. They should consider:

  • What are his reasons for leaving?
  • Why would Anne want him to stay?
  • Would the conversation be amicable, or would there be any argument? 

Ask for a pair to volunteer to act out a scene while the rest of the class watch them. The class work as directors of the group in role, for example, asking them to act or speak differently, suggesting that a character might behave differently, questioning the characters in role, or suggesting an alternative interpretation of what is happening. Forum theatre allows an incident or event to be seen from different points of view. More than one pair can act out their scene.  

Final reflection

Give the opportunity to consider their own opinions about Shakespeare leaving by asking:

  • Was Shakespeare right to leave home? 

The children may recognise that William would be perhaps more likely to achieve his ambitions in London and that he will then provide more for his family. Others may see the situation from Anne’s point of view and feel that he should not have left his wife and young family. Emphasise that there is not a single correct answer and that it is unlikely that everyone will agree. 



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? 

Summarising the Plays


Summarising is important for several reasons. Firstly, by summarising a reader discerns the most critical aspects of a text and disregards less important detail. If they can do this, they can show that they understand the text at a more fundamental level to simple plot telling. Furthermore, teaching students to summarise improves their reading memory. 

Shakespeare contains comic strip versions of six of Shakespeare’s plays. In this lesson, the children become familiar with at least one of these by creating a 50-word summary.


  • Copies of Shakespeare, at least one per pair.


Read p15-20 aloud while the children follow with their copies of the book. Ask:

  • What do we learn about Shakespeare’s life in this section of the book?
  • Has he written any plays yet?

Introduce the terms, histories, comedies and tragedies. Explain that Shakespeare’s plays fall into these three types. Histories are stories about England’s past. Tragedies told unhappy tales which usually ended in deaths. Comedies had happy endings. Explain that the class will be reading shortened versions of seven of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. 

In this first session, the class will be reading one play together and working on a summary in pairs. Distribute copies of Shakespeare and invite the children to turn to pages 31-32. Read the spread aloud as the children follow. Ask:

  • Is Henry V a comedy, history or tragedy?
  • What kind of character is Henry V? (The children should be able to refer to the text, and the adjectives used to describe him such as ruthless and merciless.)
  • What are the main events of the play? 

Organise the class into groups of three. Explain that they will be writing a summary of the play in no more than 50 words. Give at least 20 minutes for the summaries to be discussed and written. Encourage the children to begin the task without worrying too much about the word count. Write a first draft, then count the words. If you have more than 50, reduce down by thinking about what is not essential. 

Teacher’s Note: If the children you are working with need support with summarising, model the process with Henry V.

Once the summaries are complete, invite the groups to share with the class. Ask:

  • Did any groups include details that you left out? 
  • What was the most important? 

Add a final challenge:

  • What is the smallest number of words you can use?

An example is:

King wins the battle.  

Teacher’s Note: If you are dividing the learning into two sessions, this is a good stopping point.

Session 2 

Remind the class of the learning that has already taken place around summarising. Organise the class into six groups and allocate each group with one of the following plays: 

Group Play
1 Romeo and Juliet (p21-22)
2 A Midsummer Night’s Dream (p23-24)
3 Hamlet (p33-34)
4 Macbeth (p37-38)
5 Twelfth Night (p39-40)
6 The Tempest (p41-42)

The group should begin by reading the double-page spread containing their play. They can read independently or in pairs, or each child could read a section. The group must first decide whether their play is a comedy, tragedy or history. They should then write a 50 word summary of the play. Allow plenty of time for the group to work together to draft and redraft their summaries. If you have access to computers, they could use word processing software to write. 

Once complete, give time for the groups to share their summaries with the class.

Final reflection


  • Did hearing any of the summaries make you want to read the fuller version?

Give pairs time to read the play summaries in the book.