Suggestions here are for both classroom activities and extra-curricular events. Ideas will continue to be added throughout the year. Feel free to use and adapt everything here in any way that suits you.
Bake a Shakespeare cake
Names of plays, symbols and decorations representing characters or themes, or things to do with Shakespeare’s world can all be baked into treats. It’s a great parent/child shared activity, and a chance to talk about the stories together.
Make a multimedia, interdisciplinary group artwork
Many passages from Shakespeare are full of exciting, highly visual imagery. Distribute copies and read aloud your chosen passage. Students should highlight the descriptive words and create paintings or collages based on the images mentioned. Scan and upload these to your smart board then use them as a backdrop to a movement piece. Use the spoken text, music the students have chosen to fit the piece, or a combination to accompany the movement. Even better if they can compose or perform the music themselves. Lines don’t need to be spoken as if by characters in the original scene, but rather treated as a shared poem. The files attached below in Performance Exercises contain suitable selections.
Nothing beats a dress-ups day
Students creating Shakespearean costumes should be encouraged to read out or learn a line that captures the essence of their character, or is simply fun to say. It needn’t be long, just a line. Remember, costumes don’t need to be Elizabethan period, far more important that they give a sense of character – there are a lot of different ways to be a witch, a queen or a knight, or to make a pair of ass’s ears.
Production concept art
Have an exhibition of concept art for your students’ imagined production of their choice of play. Set designs, costume designs, storyboards for a film treatment (live or animated), or simply mood boards of colours and textures. Make sure they are labelled with the title of the play, and the names of any characters depicted.
A prize for the most creative insult
Teachers may be cautious about letting lose this power in class, but kids love it. Here are some links to online Shakespearean insult creation kits. Experiment with different ways of delivering the insults. Which is more powerful, to shout it across the town square as a challenge, or to whisper it in the ear of your dying enemy?
A prize for the most extravagant death
Print and distribute this sheet of dramatic final lines: Famous Last Words Students choose a line to say, and then finish it off by dying dramatically.
The resources attached below are made available under the listed Creative Commons licence, so go ahead and use and adapt what works for you, but please attribute to this page when sharing.
Performing Verse Drama A basic guide to speaking verse drama as a PowerPoint file, suitable for secondary school students and adults. If using this as a presentation, you may wish to start with Slide 10, but I like the introduction of how poetry and drama connect.
Creating Group Performances A selection of passages that are suitable for creating group movement/speech pieces. These can be used with upper primary and all of secondary school – you will simply need to spend more time explaining words to younger students, and can expect more sophisticated results from older ones. An outline on what to do is included in the file.
Express Yourself A selection of short quotes expressing emotion. Although I use this with early readers (around ages 7 – 11) it also makes an excellent foundation to build on for older students. However, I don’t use this exercise with actors, who need to work on making emotion come out of an action or situation. This is aimed at demonstrating to novices the scope and exciting possibilities of a different kind of emotional expression.
Creating a Mood A selection of passages to use with young children for listen-and-respond exercises. I have used this with children as young as 5, but it works all through primary school. Start by reading a passage aloud while the students listen, then ask for their ideas. What does the piece make them think of? How does it make them feel? Can they guess what the tricky words mean? What is the mood created? Next you can ask them to create actions, tableaux or group sculptures to accompany each line as you read it out, to form a short performance.
Shakespeare TwentyScore by Anna Kamaralli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at ShakespeareTwentyScore.org.
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