Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

451 Years Old—and Still Full of Life!

By Folger Education


Happy 451st, Will! Today is when people all over the world traditionally celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday, and we’re thrilled to bring you even more ideas for marking this occasion. Thanks to all the teachers, students, librarians, and theater practitioners who shared their fabulous birthday plans.


Here’s how the Folger celebrated on Sunday:

The Queen reads to children at Shakespeare's birthday. (Chester Simpson)
The Queen reads to children at Shakespeare’s birthday. (Chester Simpson)

–           DC Public Library debuted Uni, its first “pop-up reading room,” which brought dozens of volumes of Shakespeare and Shakespeareana to readers of all ages. Families, students, teachers, and other visitors to our open house gathered on quilts and benches in the Elizabethan Garden to read all kinds of stories, scenes, and poems. Queen Elizabeth I (or a rather convincing 21st-century doppelganger) even showed up to tell a tale!

–          “Spontaneous Shakespeare”—an open-mic event for anyone interested in speaking Shakespeare on the Folger stage—drew dozens of enthusiastic participants, who read sonnets and unforgettable lines from Titus Andronicus, The Tempest, and many more plays.

–          Local students recited their original, award-winning sonnets in Folger Theatre, and Folger Library’s High School Fellows 2014 celebrated a reunion—and then pitched in to help with the big day.

–          Experts gave talks on conservation, scholarship, rare books, and the current exhibition.

–          Swordfighting, book-making, quill-writing, scavenger hunting, music-playing, juggling, portrait-drawing, and cake-cutting were just a few more of the ways we celebrated with hundreds of Shakespeare’s closest friends. We hope you’ll join us in DC next year, especially if it will be your first time!


And here’s how some of you are celebrating today:

–          “At Trinity College, we are doing a rehearsed student reading of King John! We are not only celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday, but also the Watkinson Library’s acquisition if a Second Folio! (We chose King John because it is also the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta too)! Triple play!” – Christin, Connecticut

–          “For Shakespeare’s birthday, my ninth grade students will be writing their own poems using a line from Shakespeare.  The activity is called ‘The Jewel in the Crown’: the jewel is the line and they must put it in their poem, the crown.  I’ve done this activity with my students for years, but it does not always fall near his birthday. We’re finishing Romeo and Juliet projects this week, so it’s even more fitting this year. I give each student a jewel—both their line and an actual jewel image, then explain the assignment.  I then give each one a crown, usually donated by Burger King, and have them begin writing.  We’ll end with readings, mask-wearing and a few snacks to round it out.” – Jennifer, Ohio


Thanks again, colleagues. Let’s party!