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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…


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By brendan kelso

Brendan is the main creative source and author behind Playing With Plays and the infamous Shakespeare for Kids series. You can typically find him inventing by day, playing with his family by night, and writing by very late night.

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