Lesson idea: Kids take over Shakespeare’s Home

What a great “day in the life” experience!  Being a kid and working at Shakespeare’s home for the day!!!  I recently came across this a great little article out of the UK about some kids learning about the world of “work and decision making”.  But, what really hit my mind, was that they were in charge…

Lesson idea: Kids take over Shakespeare’s Home was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books


The Lulu App: Engaging Teens and Rating #ShakespeareMen

I recently came across a post about an app called Lulu.  Now, mind you this is not an app for kids or Shakespeare for kids, yet, I’m thinking of this as much more for getting teenagers engaged with Shakespeare.  While reading the article about Lulu and Shakespeare’s male characters, which I thought was pretty funny (mind you, it’s not much of an “article” as it is a list of statements about Shakespeare’s male characters) it got me lulu-logothinking about being in high school again. (Actually, I hated high school and the simple thought of high school actually made me want to punch a wall, but, I will save that thought for my shrink…)  So, knowing this thought, I figured that Lulu might be a great avenue to engage teens with Shakespeare.  It’s got the perfect mix: Twitter, technology, smartphones, boys and girls, sex, and Shakespeare.  Yes, I said Shakespeare (hell, if any of you know Shakespeare at all, it’s all about boys, girls, and sex… why teenagers don’t like him for these very reasons, I don’t quite understand…yet, I tangent again…).  So, if we want to get these hormone crazed young adults hooked into something exciting, let them do a project with Lulu and Shakespeare…. which leads me to the article I came across.

The original article is here by Caitlin Kelly.  You really need to read it yourself to get the full enjoyment out of it. (again, it’s not much of a “read” as it is a bunch of one liners, but the teens, well, they’ll get it).  A description from the NY Times article about Lulu:

On Lulu, women can rate men in categories.… The hashtags are used to calculate a score generated by Lulu, ranging from 1 to 10.

Well, Caitlin goes on to show a few hashtags about some of Shakespeare’s more prominent males: Romeo, Hamlet, Macbeth, and a few more.  Below is a list of hashtags and men.  See if you can connect them to the correct male…







Now that was fun… but, onto the potential lesson plan…if you haven’t already thought of it yourself.  Have your kids go on the Lulu app and start putting in the different Shakespeare male characters and see what they start getting back.  It will enlighten them on what a diverse array of characters Shakespeare created in a language that they understand. (I mean, who says “craycray” anyway if your over 17 years of age, right?)

So, now let’s get to Twitter.  I’m on twitter all the time, mainly to meet other people who teach Shakespeare and want to get kids more involved with him.   So, one of the keywords I search for is “teach Shakespeare”, makes sense, right?  By doing that, I see ALOT of teens tweeting about how Shakespeare has ruined their life or wasted their time, or how Eminem should be taught instead of Shakespeare because that’s “someone I can actually understand and relate to”.  And I’m leaving out all of the colorful f-bombs that these kids drop on the Bard for the sake that this is a family blog!  But, the point is, the kids use this forum to vent about Shakespeare, so, let’s turn the tables and have the kids use twitter to brag about him…At this point, have them tweet a description of a male character to all their friends, classmates, teachers, whatever… (I’m also assuming, by this time in their life, they are well into using twitter anyway and are probably sitting in your class right now doing just that very thing!)

The point is, we have tied in teens, tweets, and education about Shakespeare’s male characters in one fell swoop… should be fun!  I would love to hear if someone actually engages this idea in a class and how it goes.  If you do, have them tweet me their messages: @Shakespeare4kid

Till the next time…


The Lulu App: Engaging Teens and Rating #ShakespeareMen was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

Performing Shakespeare – Days 2-6ish – The Formula

This is a continuation from the article “Shakespeare in a Can: Six Days With the Bard From Start to Stage.” The second installment of performing Shakespeare.

REMEMBER, this mini-Shakespeare play you are doing is NOT a perfect play. Heck, if you want to make it perfect, please don’t do it; that’s a complete waste of creativity, and the kids are chock full of creativity – let’s pull it out! I specifically reference these plays as “Melodramatic Masterpieces,” so please don’t forget the MELODRAMA piece….  It’s what gets the parents rolling in the audience and the kids coming back for more! Remember, performing Shakespeare MUST BE FUN!!!


blocking 1By now you have the casted the play. So step 1 here is to highlight their lines.  I have a great little technique to get the kids all on the same page, “if it’s blue, it’s what you do” Just follow that link to see the easiest way to organize your highlighting. Step 2 is to do a read through just wherever you are (sitting at a desk, sitting on stage, on the grass outside next to a lake with ducks floating by, wherever). Once you have done your first read through, the next thing to do is start blocking. First of all, the definition of blocking, for those of you who don’t know: to plan or work out the movement of performers in a play. This is where the “F’s” come in… it is fun, frustrating, and FOREVER! Yes, the first time walking through and doing basic blocking of the play seems like forever, but don’t worry, it speeds up quickly! You will probably only get through the play maybe once, but call it a wrap and head home. HOWEVER, emphasize to the kids to start memorizing their lines (always do this, sometimes it takes a while to sink in). Also, remind them that as of Day 5, you will be “off-book” (no scripts) so, good luck.


You may get through the play only two times today. But that’s okay, the kids will have a basic idea of what they are doing and where they are going now. KEY POINT: kids will start coming up with their own ideas for their character – GO WITH IT! This is where their creative juices starting to flow. This is VERY IMPORTANT; if they feel empowered with the Bard, and start having fun with Shakespeare, they will start to embrace his work more and more (you are on your way to creating a Shakespeare monster!).

Oh yeah, and start thinking about costumes. WHAT! Costumes? Yes, costumes. This can be a major headache or really simple. I go with the really simple route myself. Hit Walmart or K-mart the day after Halloween and buy a bunch of plastic swords, renaissance type costumes, and miscellaneous fun stuff (the Witches are great fun to buy for). I typically throw everything in one or two bins and tell the kids to have at it. They spend about 20 minutes trying on costumes and seeing if they can make things fit, it’s great fun! But don’t do this piece until Day 5 (or the day before the show).

Most of the time there are at least one to two parents that can make a costume or two as well. You’ll always have those few talented moms out there who love to help! They are the BEST!

And remind the kids again… on Day 5 we are off book!


blocking 2Now you are starting to move a little faster. Some kids know their lines, other kids don’t, but they are starting to come up with ideas whether for costumes, props, how to die on stage (with dramatic sword fighting of course!) or whatever, just go with it! Keep remembering, the entire goal here is to have fun with Shakespeare. The kids will love it, the parents will love it, and I bet ya Willy will be watching too and having a great ol’ time!

And remind them, next time we meet we are off book!


Yep, that’s right. These two to three run-throughs today will be a bit slow, but by the third time you go through it, most kids will be moving pretty well with their lines and starting to really have fun!


Okay, pull out your two to three bins of clothes and let the kids have at it. Remember, this is NOT a perfect play. Some of the clothes will not fit perfectly (that’s what clothes pins, belts, and duct tape are for). If kids have their own stuff, let them bring it in too. They will really love doing this! (Although, I once had a kid want to bring in his own “authentic” pirate sword…well, let’s just say that didn’t happen!)

At this point, you are welcome to add more days for rehearsals. As any director will tell you, actors can ALWAYS use more rehearsals!


I typically do the performance in the same time slot that I have been doing all the other group meetings and rehearsals, but it is up to you. This day starts straight away with getting into costumes. You should perform two dress rehearsals just before the big show. And at this point, just let the kids just run it with no interference. Don’t even go backstage for this, they need to learn that the world is really their stage. Just stand back and enjoy the show.


By this time, the audience has filed in and you are ready to go with the show. So, to break the ice, you get on stage first. Thank the kids for all their hard work, the parents for putting up with Shakespeare in their homes for so many weeks, and then stand on stage and introduce the wrong show. Set this up before hand with all of the kids yelling from backstage the correct play. i.e.: “I am proud to announce today’s play, ‘Hamlet.’” From backstage the group says, “NO!”. Then one kid wanders on stage, whispers into your ear the correct play and you proceed to change your intro to: “I am proud to announce today’s play…(asking backstage so the audience can hear) what is it again?” Then all the kids yell in unison, “MACBETH!” “Oh yeah! Right! I am proud to announce today’s performance of …‘Macbeth!’” This typically helps break nervous tension that the kids have built up.

Then stand back and watch the show!!!!

That’s about it – pretty simple, huh?  But remember, the ONE simple rule… when performing Shakespeare, MAKE IT FUN!!!

For more information or fun items like the Shakespeare Insult Generator, or an acting guide, check out the site or read some of the other blog posts.

Break a leg!

Performing Shakespeare – Days 2-6ish – The Formula was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

Shakespeare Lesson Plan (Day 1): 6 weeks with the Bard

Melodramatic Shakespeare lesson planThis Shakespeare lesson plan is designed for grades 3rd – 9th – (Just an hour a week – it’s easy!)

Over the next few paragraphs I am going to give you the simple formula for using my Shakespeare for Kids books to introduce the Bard to your kids. We will do it in a way that will ensure they will LOVE him for the rest of their lives. So much so, they will want more and more! Guaranteed! I have taught this to middle school and elementary kids, as well as kid’s drama programs for local public theaters. I also ran two successful after-school programs simultaneously (the second one came about after they saw the performances of the first one).

In a nutshell, with this Shakespeare Lesson Plan, you are going to take your group, whether it is an after-school program a home-school program, or a class in a school, and in just 6 weeks, have them on stage performing Shakespeare!

This Shakespeare lesson plan is pretty straightforward and easy to do. This can be done in 6 one-hour sessions, but if you have more time or weeks available, it may be a little more sane (I am slightly insane (my wife would argue with the use of “slightly”)). Either way, I know it can be done, because I have done it several times.

A little forewarning: this Shakespeare lesson plan is strictly designed for those who appreciate fun being at the heart of learning. If you can’t handle melodramatic, crazy Shakespeare, leave now. Or better yet, why are you even teaching?

The steps for day 1 of your Shakespeare lesson plan:

1) Explain the story to the kids
2) Auditions – part 1
a. Dieing
b. Screaming
3) Read the play
4) Fill out audition forms
5) Read parts for the play
6) Cast the play

Now for more details:

Shakespeare Lesson Plan – Day 1:

Fun! is where it’s at. If you can’t hook them here, you’re going to have a tough time getting them invested for the balance of the time. But DON’T WORRY, I’m here to help ya!

Step 1:

Introduce the play you are going to do. I do a quick and crazy one man rendition to get the kids into the swing of things. But there are several other ways to do it: • Do your own one-man show

• Show some snapshots of the Reduced Shakespeare Companies renditions to get the kids intothe flow of the melodramatic feel
• Have them hop on line and watch one of my one-man shows
• Super simple method: Cliff notes version – you tell the story, but you have to do it within 5 minutes in VERY simple language. And get the kids to interact with you during the story.

Step 2:

Auditions – ahhh, this is the BEST part. You have to do VERY LITTLE, and the kids have to do EVERYTHING, and they will LOVE IT! Yes, I am shouting, this is exciting stuff! First round of auditions: your best death. Have the kids line up to “die” their most dramatic death (possibly start with the ham in the group to set the tone, or better yet, YOU do the first death). Remember, the more melodramatic it is, the more fun the kids will have and the more the audience will laugh! And believe me, kids will line up again and again to “die” in new and creative ways (and yes, this is why the tragedies are more fun than the comedies). Some will even do it in teams, so be it! Second round of auditions: Screams. Yes, when someone dies, typically, someone screams when they find the body. Either way, kids love this part too! So line them up again and let’s hear their best scream. Remember, this can be “agony”, “excitement”, “shock”, “fear”, “dieing”, etc. – throw out some descriptive words for them to act against! (Depending on their age, you may want to wear earplugs!)

Step 3:

Read the play – choose one of the plays located here. I chose these plays for several reasons:
1) Very easy to understand – using modern simple language mixed with Shakespeare’s own lines scattered throughout.
2) Funny!
3) Each book has 3 plays for 3 different group sizes, so there is one that is perfect for your group.
4) I wrote them!
Randomly hand out parts and have the group read through the play. This should take about 15-20 minutes and by this time they will have a basic idea of what the story is about as well as which parts they want.

Step 4:

Fill out the “audition form”. This can be as simple as raising their hands for which part they want to filling out a page form with their past experience. This will take about 5 minutes. This is what you will use to determine who gets which parts.

Step 5:

Third round of auditions: by this time, you are running out of time – so if you don’t have time, skip it. Especially if you already know your kids and assign your parts. However, if you are working with this group for the first time, you’ll want to do this to get a better feel for the kids. Have some pre-determined sections of the play that you want 2-4 kids to read and start cycling through their readings.

Step 6:

At this point, the kids are done, send them home, to recess, or to some other place away from you so you can think. Now you have to cast the roles. My advice, don’t wait to do it, DO IT NOW! As it is fresh in your mind, it will only take about five minutes, so go!

So let’s summarize our Shakespeare lesson plan:

1) Explain the story to the kids
2) Auditions – part 1
a. Dieing
b. Screaming
3) Read the play
4) Fill out audition forms
5) Read parts for the play
6) Cast the play

See, pretty simple, huh?

Check out this post for days 2-6ish. Good Luck and Break a Leg!

Till Next time…


Shakespeare Lesson Plan (Day 1): 6 weeks with the Bard was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books