Jesse Kinos-Goodin’s article for CBC shows how some popular and mainstream music is influenced by Shakespeare’s works. There are about ten songs listed, each with the inspiring Shakespeare lyric and of course, a music video. In some videos, the entire song’s lyrics are displayed as well. I can see this article being used for a small group or pair activity, where students research and analyze whether more Shakespeare is present throughout the song or in other pieces of pop music.
For the most widely-read play among high school students, this is a fantastic activity to explore the star-cross'd lovers' first meeting. Students will learn to analyze the conventions of love sonnets, and later bring it all to life in a performance. There are four printable worksheets, as well as a two interactive student resources.
Mr. Sheehy's heartfelt blog post gives 7 rules of engagement when teaching Shakespeare to high school students. He draws on half a decade of trial and error, and says it's a work in progress for any teacher of the Bard's works. I was really moved by Rule 7, which reminds teachers that they, too, must truly believe the subject is important.
Performing Shakespeare in class can be the highlight of any Drama or English course. This is a collection of a few monologues from a handful of plays, accompanied by videos of their dramatic readings. The monologues here are pretty evenly split between tragedies and comedies as well. I love the video at the very end of the page, which features David Tennant performing the Coward Soliloquy from “Hamlet.” A lot of Doctor Who fans in your class might get a real kick out of this.
This blog shows you how to celebrate the Bard’s birthday with a collection of activities for the festivities. The page provides activities to incorporate into a lesson, such as writing a rap or a birthday card iambic pentameter. The Elizabethan Era games can get students outside and engaged in the cultural environment of Shakespeare’s time. The best part of this post (and any party) is the idea to recreate some of the foods inspired by the plays, or to cook up a meal from the era!
Get students acquainted with the language of Shakespeare with this fun lesson plan by PBS. There are three printable handouts to use in class, the last of which is my favorite— “An Insulting Conversation”! After this exercise over a couple days, students can feel more confident when doing assigned readings of plays at home. PBS also includes links to some of its Shakespeare performances, including “Twelfth Night,” “Hamlet,” and “Othello.”
If you are in the Washington, D.C. area, or can convince administration to take serious class trip, the Folger Shakespeare Library is an amazing place. Walk-in tours are free, and private tours are available for booking. While you’re there, you can explore Folger’s 82 First Folios and the Elizabethan Garden. Its series presents various Shakespeare productions and a discussion series. This is the epicenter of Shakespeare in the United States, and it’s probably my number one place to visit!
Shakespeare in American Life presents a live-action iambic pentameter activity that helps to understand the difference between stressed and unstressed syllables. Gail Kern Paster (Folger Shakespeare Library) makes an appearance in the video, giving the activity her seal of approval. You can see how students begin to grasp the musicality of the rhyme scheme once they start stomping on the floor. The best part about this activity is that it gets at least ten students involved.
Nothing beats seeing Shakespeare performed, especially in a modern context. Michael Hoffman directs this adaptation to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” featuring an all-star cast, with Michelle Pfeiffer as Titania and Stanley Tucci as Puck. Like any adaptation, liberties were taken, but it makes for a great classroom discussion to compare and contrast elements. The movie is about two hours long, so students can watch it as homework or it can be spread out over a couple classes.