According to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts, students are expected to:

  • proficiently read and comprehend increasingly complex texts (including dramas and poems) both in and outside the classroom;
  • develop effective speaking and listening skills;
  • acquire a use of language and vocabulary knowledge that serves them both in and beyond the classroom at the college and career levels.

Our program allows students of all levels and abilities to meet these expected goals.  Students will: 

  • Engage in an interactive, performance-based study of literature.
  • Participate in the close reading of Shakespeare’s text through intellectual, physical and vocal engagement.
  • Develop essential skills (such as critical thinking and close reading) needed for the classroom and beyond.
  • Increase their self-confidence (especially with public-speaking)
  • Discover and explore the beauty and complexity of Shakespeare’s poetic language and classic themes.
  • Learn to express Shakespeare’s words with understanding, feeling and clarity.

English Education Standards

The Competition connects to the Common Core State Standards, a national set of standards now adopted by a majority of US states.   The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).  The standards focus on preparing students for the classroom and beyond.  

The English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition fulfills the following Common Core Standards for English Language Arts (Grades 6-12):  

Reading Standards:  Literature


Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.


Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.


Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.


Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.


Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.


Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.


Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.


Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

Note:  Usually applies to Reading for Informational Text 


Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.


Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Speaking & Listening Standards


Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.


Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.


Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Language Standards


Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.


Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.


Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.


Demonstrate understanding of word relationships and nuances in word meanings.


Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

* Indicates a Common Core Standard that is fulfilled by the supplemental materials (Suggested Classroom Schedule for Teachers).  See the Teacher Handbook for lesson plans.

Theater Education Standards

The National Standards for Theatre Education were developed by the American Alliance for Theatre and Education in cooperation with the Education Theatre Association.  They are part of the National Standards for Arts Education, a product of the Consortium of National Arts Education Associations.  They have been widely accepted across the country as standards for theatre education.  These standards are also designed to complement other state and local standards.

The English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition fulfills the following National Standards for Theatre Education (Grades 9-12):  2, 4, 5 and 7


In preparation for their monologue performance, students analyze the physical, emotional, and social dimensions of their character.

Students compare and demonstrate various classical and contemporary acting techniques and methods (through experimentation with interpretive techniques) and determine which method(s) are best suited to their personal interpretation.

Students in an ensemble (the competition) create and sustain characters that communicate with various audiences at different stages of competition: school, Branch (community) and National.


Students explore and develop multiple interpretations of their monologues, exploring various visual and aural production choices for the text.  They ultimately choose those ideas that are appropriate to the dramatic text (Shakespeare’s play). 

In discussions with teachers and their fellow students, contestants must justify their selections of text (ex. why they picked a certain monologue or why they cut certain lines from this piece) as well as their selections of interpretation and visual/aural artistic choices. 

Students effectively communicate these directorial choices to their teacher and/or classmates.


Students identify and research cultural, historical and symbolic clues in their dramatic text (Shakespeare’s play).  They then evaluate the validity and practicality of this discovered information for use in their performance.  Students ultimately employ any useful information to help them make artistic choices about their chosen monologue.


Students construct social meanings from their own performances and their classmates’ performances.  They relate them to the current times, including their own lives. 

In the classroom, students articulate and justify their personal aesthetic criteria to analyze their own and their fellow classmates’ performances.  They compare their own or their classmates’ perceived artistic intent/choices in relation to the final aesthetic product of their monologue.

Students analyze and critique the whole and the parts of their classmates’ performances.  They take into account the context of the piece and constructively suggest alternative artistic choices to them. 

Students constructively evaluate their own work and their fellow students’ artistic choices both in the informal preparation stage and then formal school competition.

See the Teacher Handbook for lesson plans.