Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.

We’re noticing something around the internet lately: educators are using contemporary music to enhance lesson plans.

This may not be up-to-the-minute news.

A lot of us remember at least this scene from Renaissance Man starring Danny DeVito where the class of military privates presents the summary of Hamlet as a rap. Or the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s interpretation of Othello as a rap.

But we’re finding fresh examples of this kind of musical education every time we look.

HistoryTeachers on youtube are teaching about famous historical personalities or events with parodies of popular songs. For example: The Black Death is taught through the music of Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stafani, and Shakespeare gets his own melodic biography sung to Shayla by Blondie.

We discovered Flocabulary recently through their inventive animation of Shakespeare thinking up the characters and plot for Much Ado About Nothing. They have a whole book with 17 Shakespearean hip hop tracks including Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and even Julius Caesar and Sonnet 18.

A week ago I would have rolled my eyes at the concept – it seems so overplayed, so overdone – but as it’s presented in these resources it’s so well-made it’s hard to see students not liking it!

Have you used either HistoryTeachers or Flocabulary before? Do you know of any programs like them? Tell us in the comments!

I’d also be interested to know if music plays a part in your lesson plans now in any shape or form? How do your students respond?

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