Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

“The Game’s Afoot; Follow Your Spirit!” (Henry V, III.1)

Students play "Thus Die I" during the 2011 Secondary Festival.

~by Carol Ann Lloyd Stanger

There’s no reason students can’t have fun while learning! Part of Folger’s philosophy of “performance-based teaching” encourages students and teachers to play with the Shakespeare’s language and be actively engaged in creating meaning. What better way than to make it a game? I’ll mention that these all caught and kept the attention of older students (high school and adult learners), so don’t discount games just because you think your students are “too old.”

I recently used games with a couple of groups of learners, and I was pleased to see how excited and engaged they were. Some games and activities were especially popular:

“Complete that Quote!”
The point here was not to focus on memorizing passages, but on focusing on rhyme and rhythm to discover words that would fit. This game application to iambic pentameter and rhyming couplets as participants brainstormed possible matches and then selected the best ones.

“Thus Die I”
One of the Docents once said of getting students warmed up for a workshop, “They love to die. Once they’ve died all over the place, they’re ready for anything.” For this activity, the group is given Bottom-as-Pyramus’s death line: “Thus die I, Thus, Thus, Thus.” Each participant draws a profession from a hat (America’s Next Top Model? Soccer Player? Voldemort?) and die as that character saying that line.

Instead of a standard review sheet, I created a Jeopardy game that provided answers to which students had to generate questions. I didn’t want to put anyone on the spot, so students worked in teams. The teams were able to earn points for stating the correct question to correlate with important facts.

“Top Ten”
Modeled very loosely after David Letterman’s Top Ten List, participants figured out the most important events in particular character’s lives. This is a great way to have a lively debate about how to organize events: in chronological order or in order of importance.

How have you used games or play to form new kinds of connections, explore ideas, or review material with your students?

Carol Ann Lloyd Stanger is the Docent Liason for Folger Education, and a published writer for Calliope magazine.

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