Tag Archives: shakespeare

Today, We Celebrate Shakespeare!

Portrait of English playwright, William Shakespeare
Portrait of English playwright, William Shakespeare

In 1564, William Shakespeare was born on this day. In his life, Shakespeare wrote at least 38 plays and over 150 short and long poems. Shakespeare’s plays can be divided into three main categories: the comedies, the histories, and the tragedies. The following from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org provide more resources on Shakespeare’s plays.




As author Ben Jonson wrote of him, Shakespeare is “not of an age, but for all time.”

Beware the Ides of March!

0315-ides-of-march_full_600In Julius Caesar, a soothsayer warns Caesar to “Beware the Ides of March.” Caesar ignores the warning and is, in fact, murdered on March 15, called “the Ides” on the Roman calendar. Over time, the date has become associated with doom and momentous events – particularly ones with disastrous effects. The following resources from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org offer solutions for bringing Julius Caesar to life for all students.

Shakespeare in the elementary school? The Primary Voices article “”Creative Drama through Scaffolded Plays in the Language Arts Classroom“” chronicles how the author first used creative drama in a summer reading program with first graders, and then over the years, developed a much broader understanding of drama as an important teaching tool. She also describes writing “scaffolded” plays with sixth-grade students and illustrates their annual thematic dinner theater.

The ReadWriteThink.org lesson plan “”Book Report Alternative: Characters for Hire! Studying Character in Drama“” asks students to create a resume for one of the characters in a drama. Students select a character from the play to focus on and jot down notes about that character. Next, they search for historical background information and then explore the play again, looking for both direct and implied information about their characters and noting the location of supporting details. Finally, students draft resumes for their characters and search a job listing site for a job for which their character is qualified.

Julius Caesar, with its themes of loyalty, ambition, and deception, still resonates with high school students and remains a favorite text in classrooms everywhere. Through differentiated instruction, the NCTE text Teaching Julius Caesar: A Differentiated Approach offers solutions for bringing the play to life for all students – those with various interests, readiness levels, and learning styles. Discover more by reading the sample chapter.

An Introduction to Julius Caesar Using Multiple-Perspective Universal Theme Analysis” from ReadWriteThink.org is an introduction to William Shakespeare’s tragic play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, through the study of universal themes using multiple-perspective investigations of betrayal scenarios.

How can students build new connections with the poetic details of Shakespeare’s plays? In this digital movie project, “Connecting Students with Shakespeare’s Poetry: Digital Creations of Close Reading” students explore close reading and thoughtful selection of imagery to create deeper understanding.

What ideas do you have for Julius Caesar in the classroom?

Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare!

Portrait of English playwright, William Shakespeare
Portrait of English playwright, William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare’s birthday is celebrated on April 23. Students at every grade level can be involved in activities to celebrate Shakespeare’s birth. The following from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org provide more resources on Shakespeare.

Elementary students can begin learning about the rhyming structure of a sonnet by listening to and reading this type of poetry. They can also begin practicing with the number of syllables in a line.

Introduce Shakespeare to middle school students through popular culture. Pop culture provides an introduction to Shakespeare’s poetic devices in this lesson, which asks students to explore an excerpt from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Demonstrate to high school students that Shakespeare always remains relevant through modern updates and reworkings. YouTube can help students better appreciate literary details in Shakespeare and learn more about the cultural and aesthetic value of imitation, parody, and irony.

The act of translating Shakespearean text into contemporary language encourages student interest in further study of the text as described in this TETYC article.

Still want more? Visit here to see a collection of resources on Shakespeare from NCTE.

Shakespeare Mob Secret – Exposed!

shakespeareAt this year’s NCTE Convention, one of the most exciting events occurred in secrecy – if a massive rally can be considered secret.

We on NCTE’s staff were working hard that week, managing events, directing lost attendees, ringing up book sales, etc. For organizers charged with keeping the Minneapolis event running smoothly for our 6,000 attendees, it was a stressful time. We’d had more than our share of challenges already when we suddenly received a text from a staff member: a vocal mob had gathered around the escalators. Security was freaking out.

I scrambled to investigate. Down the halls of the Minneapolis Convention Center, I could hear the hundreds yelling:

Double, double toil and trouble!
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble!

What I found was a moment of magic. Hundreds of delighted people were reciting Shakespeare with giddy enthusiasm.

The Folger Shakespeare Library, one of many organizations participating in our 2015 Convention, had quietly distributed a flier encouraging people to assemble here. On the back of the flier were the lines from a scene in Macbeth. The hundreds who had arrived for this flash mob were divided into different teams, each team reading a different part. And everyone was having a ball.

Though NCTE had neither scheduled nor authorized the event, not everyone was caught off guard by it. The Folger Shakespeare Library had pulled similar stunts at the two previous NCTE Conventions. And though these flash mobs were planned with the subversive stealth of a jewel heist, they were such a delight that the last thing NCTE wanted to do was shut them down.

The mind behind this madness was Folger Shakespeare Library Senior Consultant on National Education Michael LoMonico. He told me in an interview that the reactions have been overwhelmingly positive, and this positive reception has allowed the flash mobs to succeed even in tricky situations.

The first flash mob happened at our 2013 Convention, held in Boston. LoMonico decided to hold that one outside, but Boston’s November weather was not the only complication participants encountered. Earlier that year, the city had suffered its Boston Marathon bombing, so local police were unusually alert for anything suspicious. Hundreds of people suddenly appearing in public and yelling lines from Romeo and Juliette’s balcony scene drew immediate attention. But when police arrived and saw how much fun the crowd was having, with passersby eagerly joining in, the police allowed it to continue.

As LoMonico shared with me, “Somebody said to one of my colleagues, ‘You got their permission?’ He said, ‘Oh yeah, sure. We got their permission,’ which of course we didn’t. But the police were fine once they realized what we were doing.”

At the following year’s NCTE Convention in Washington, DC, LoMonico decided to hold the flash mob indoors. Drawing from the famous funeral speech in Julius Caesar, someone with a bullhorn read the words of Mark Antony from atop the convention hall escalator, while the mob below read the reactions of the funeral crowd. In our nation’s capital, security is always on high alert, but once again, the surprise delighted hundreds. LoMonico reports, “In all three [of these flash mob] cases, the police . . . thought it was so much fun that they were excited by it themselves.”

Yet LoMonico says he was doing even more than giving English teachers some joy. “One of the things we emphasize to the teachers . . . is that this is something they can do with their own students.” A fun event like this can make Shakespeare more approachable for reluctant readers. “It’s not just some stuffy words on a page. But it’s fun. It can be exciting. [And also] it’s a very safe way of reading because if everybody is reading together . . . it’s a lot easier, for kids particularly – and for anyone – to be part of a group that’s reading it. We refer to that as ‘choral reading.’ And choral reading is really helpful because it’s less intimidating than giving an individual a part.”

After LoMonico invited English teachers to do this activity with their own students, more than two dozen classes sent videos of their own flash mobs. The locations ranged from a middle school cafeteria, where students disrupted lunch, to Ellis Island, mobbed by an international high school.

And will Folger attempt another flash mob at next year’s NCTE Convention? LoMonico says he is already researching the announced Atlanta location to plan logistics.


Enjoy all the videos of students around the country doing Shakespeare flash mobs.

Read Mike LoMonico’s blog post, in which he highlights the most outstanding of these videos.

And watch all three of the NCTE Convention Shakespeare flash mobs.

Working with Shakespeare

shakespeareWilliam Shakespeare’s birthday is celebrated on April 23. While there are many ways to approach Shakespeare in the classroom, the Council Chronicle article “The Play’s the Thing: Getting the Most Out of Shakespeare” shares effective methods for teaching Shakespeare. These approaches develop reading and interpretation skills, providing benefits that outlast a particular unit. The following from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org provide more resources on Shakespeare.

The Voices from the Middle article “Where There’s a Will, There’s a Play” describes a yearly activity at one middle school in which a production of a Shakespearean comedy becomes the centerpiece of an interdisciplinary unit on the Elizabethan period with The Tempest as one of the model texts. In this lesson plan, after reading The Tempest or any other play, students work in small groups to plan, compose, and perform a choral reading based on a character or theme. View the video of students performing their choral reading.

The author of Reading Shakespeare with Young Adults and Reading Shakespeare Film First has created the website Reading Shakespeare in the Twenty-First Century. Here visitors can connect, extend, update, and animate the ideas and materials in both books. Two resources to note are “The Shakespeare Conspiracy” and “The Shakespeare Schoolwide Festival.”

The authors of Teaching Romeo and Juliet: A Differentiated Approach offer an approach to teaching Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that works with students of all ability levels, including lesson plans focused on key scenes, close reader handouts geared toward different levels of readiness, and scaffolded reading activities. Teaching Julius Caesar: A Differentiated Approach takes a similar approach to that play.

The Classroom Notes Plus article “Character Connections: A Multigenre Approach to Studying Shakespeare” shares a multigenre character study project for high school students as a way for them to engage closely in the study of Hamlet. In the ReadWriteThink.org lesson plan Analyzing Character in Hamlet through Epitaphs, students compose epitaphs for deceased characters in Hamlet, paying particular attention to how their words appeal to the senses, create imagery, suggest mood, and set tone.

The English Journal article “Stop Reading Shakespeare!” shares the idea that to be fully appreciated, Shakespeare’s plays must be experienced as they were intended—produced by actors on a stage and watched by an audience. In the lesson plan All’s Well that Sells Well: A Creative Introduction to Shakespeare, students compare attending a performance at the Globe Theatre with attending a modern theater production or movie. They then create a commercial for an Elizabethan audience promoting a modern product. Learn more in the Shakespeare-themed issue of English Journal.

In Performance Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare, the author explores how performance enriches students’ understanding of Shakespeare’s plays, with a focus on Taming of the Shrew, Richard III, and Hamlet. The lesson plan Book Report Alternative: Characters for Hire! Studying Character in Drama provides additional ideas tied to those texts.

Using Shakespeare’s Plays to Teach Critical Thinking and Writing Skills” from Teaching English in the Two-Year College describes classroom exercises and writing assignments through which students can use Shakespeare’s plays to develop their own thoughts about various social and personal norms, develop an empathetic yet critical understanding of others’ positions, and learn to express their own ideas more fully.

Many times, short introductions are all that are given before studying Shakespeare’s plays. The article “Introducing Shakespeare” describes the use and creation over time of these introductions to many different plays by Shakespeare.

Still want more? Visit here to see a collection of resources on Shakespeare from NCTE.