William Shakespeare is widely known as one of the greatest writers in history, and there is no doubt that his works have made a profound impact on the world. Spring is the perfect time to bring The Bard into your classroom, since his birthday is usually celebrated around April 23rd!
While a more in-depth look at his plays and sonnets would be a perfect way to celebrate Shakespeare in Language Arts, in Social Studies class we can look more closely at the life and times of the world-famous playwright in order to enrich students’ knowledge of the man himself, his works, and the culture in which he wrote.
And when you frame it as a celebration, learning about Shakespeare and his life in 16-17th century England can be a blast!
Here are six fun and engaging ways to celebrate Shakespeare in Social Studies class!
1. Have a feast: What a person ate during the Renaissance period was largely dependent on an individual’s wealth or social status.
Teach students about Renaissance cuisine by explaining that peasants often ate soup made out of vegetables like carrots, or mush out of oats or some other grain. They also ate black bread. Those with more wealth enjoyed more of a wide variety of meats and seafood. Fruits and vegetables were eaten by all, and desserts such as pies were widely enjoyed. Try the CSI Text Marking Mystery to hook your students!
In the classroom, you could serve simple oatmeal and bread, or a sampling of fruits and veggies that were commonly eaten during Shakespeare’s time. If you’d rather go big, a quick search on Pinterest will yield many results for tasty Elizabethan recipes that you can make for or even with your students.
If you want to keep it simple but still want to celebrate The Bard’s birthday bash with a bang, make him a birthday cake!
2. Take some virtual field trips!: Celebrate Shakespeare by “visiting” important places from his lifetime. Using Google Arts and Culture, embark on 9 Virtual Tours of Shakespearean Spots! You’ll visit places like the birthplace of Shakespeare at Stratford-Upon-Avon, the site of the original Globe Theater where Shakespeare’s plays were performed, and more!
3. Play Shakespeare Trivia: Conduct an impromptu formative assessment by playing a quick game of true and false with some Shakespeare facts. You can easily put this together by looking up basic facts about Shakespeare and turning them into true or false statements. You could have students write “true” or “false” on mini whiteboards or even pieces of paper, and they could hold up their answers when prompted. Here are a few sample questions:
True or false: Shakespeare was born in London (false–Stratford-Upon-Avon)
True or false: Shakespeare never married (false– he married a farmer’s daughter named Anne Hathaway)
True or false: Before he wrote plays, Shakespeare was an actor (true)
True or false: Only male actors performed in his plays (true)
Pro tip: Instead of spending your time googling facts about Shakespeare, use the anticipatory set provided in the resources mentioned below. The true/false questions are already made for you and ready-to-go!
4. Shakespeare Color by Number: This engaging resource turns reading comprehension into a hands-on activity! In this fun activity, students will read and learn interesting facts about Shakespeare, the Globe, his plays, poems, and other famous works.
Here’s how it works:
First, students will first complete the pre-reading anticipation guide to check for prior knowledge (remember, you could do this in a game format as mentioned above).
Next, students will read a Shakespeare-themed reading passage and answer 12 questions. The answers to these questions will guide them through the color-by-number sheet and they’ll be asked to mark the text in certain colors in order to cite textual evidence!
5. William Shakespeare Digital Escape Room: Students can learn and celebrate all things Shakespeare while honing their critical thinking skills with this Escape Room activity! And here’s a major perk: this activity is housed entirely on ONE link, which makes it so much easier to share and play.
How to play: Students will search for icons in six rooms with a 360 view. The icons will lead to a reading passage, puzzle hint, and a puzzle to decode. After students read the passage, they’ll use the decoder to help them solve the puzzle.
Here’s another great part about this activity: it’s self-checking! Students cannot move forward unless questions are answered correctly. This motivates students to actually read the passages thoroughly!
If you’d love to do a Shakespeare Escape room but you don’t want to use digital devices, try the paper version HERE!
6. Shakespeare Secret Message Activity: Shakespeare’s plays included all sorts of secrets, spies, and intrigue, so why not celebrate Shakespeare with a Secret Message Activity!?
First, students will read a non-fiction passage about Shakespeare. Next, they’ll type their answers to the 16 comprehension questions into the form. Correct answers will reveal the secret message! Another great, self-checking reading activity that kids love!
Whether it’s through food, field trips, secret messages, or escape rooms, learning about Shakespeare will enrich students’ appreciation for this renowned poet/playwright, and increase their knowledge of history and its continued impact on the world around us.
Check out ALL the interactive Shakespeare activities HERE!