I have to tell you: for the past few years I have been extremely jealous of the math teachers and their elaborate Pi Day celebrations on March 14th (you know, 3.14). They make pie, eat pie, and talk about pi, pi, pi, pi. I want in on the fun! SO, could there be a better way for us to bring the party over to the English department than by celebrating birthday of the Bard, the one and only, William Shakespeare? Uhh… no.
Though we do not know the exact day William Shakespeare was born, it is globally acknowledged and celebrated on, or around, the week of April 26th. This year the Wizard of Words would have celebrated his 454th birthday. Let’s spread the joy and appreciation of the greatest playwright of all time by celebrating his life, legacy and work with our students.
Here are ten ways to make the fun happen. Make April come alive and live out the spirit of Shakespeare’s Sonnet XCVIII: “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything. “
1- Poetry Café
Encourage students in your class or school to compose original poetry to share with their peers and teachers. Consider setting up a portion of the cafeteria or library to resemble a cafe to emulate a comfortably creative environment perfect for the recitation of spoken word!
2- Throw Shakespeare a birthday party!
Throw the Bard a birthday bash! Turn the event into a learning experience by making the students draft a personalized birthday card. The card can have specific criteria to include, for example: Shakespeare’s greatest accomplishments, what other famous writers think about him, his work, or the public’s opinion of the Bard during his lifetime. And if you are especially adventurous, and like to cook, try making a dessert item mentioned in one of Shakespeare’s works. See several ideas here. https://www.englandcast.com/2018/03/10-foods-from-shakespeares-plays-that-shakespeare-probably-ate-himself/
3- Birthday cake bake-off
Work with your school cooking teacher and collaborate a lesson for baking a cake for Willy! Avoid the 454 candles, though.
4- Act out a scene
Choose a scene, study the roles and perform it. Maybe you can take your production on the road and display your acting talent for the younger kids in your school district! Consider paying proper homage to the Bard by performing his scene as it was intended: on the stage. Ask your administrator if your school’s auditorium is available for your flash performance.
5- Send someone a sonnet
Need a fundraiser for a club? Sell a sonnet with candy or a flower to be delivered to students during the school day. You can raise some money for a club while spreading the joy of William Shakespeare’s poetry.
6- Door decorating contest
Involve your teachers in the English department by initiating some friendly competition. Allow students to decorate your classroom doors thematically to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday. For example, each teacher could pick a play to guide their door design. Students can work with teachers to make a rubric for judging the doors and everyone can get involved. Take it a step further by creating an Instagram for the contest, post individual pictures of each door and give a prize for the door with the most likes!
7- Make William Shakespeare a social media page
Have students create a social media page for the famous playwright. This will inspire your students to find out important biographical information and display it for the world to see on a fake Facebook page! This activity is educational, technologically relevant and fun. Take it to another level and have students create tweets from a Shakespeare character of their choice, or create a Snapchat exchange between two characters. (Henry V tweets: “That arrogant French Dauphin doesn’t stand a chance. This St. Crispin’s Day battle is going to be fantastic. Best underdog victory ever. If you’re not supporting me you should hold your manhood cheap.”)
8- Watch a movie
Enjoy what William Shakespeare was all about: the pleasure of theater. Watch one of his plays adapted into film. Modern adaptations of his plays into modern contexts include movies like “O,” “Ten Things I Hate About You,” and “The West Side Story.”
9- Recitation Competition
Provide students with choices of famous monologues or sonnets written by Shakespeare. Allow them to practice and perform them in front of a group. This could be a school wide contest, among the English department, or even just one of your classes.
10 – “Scavenger Hunt” web quest about his life and times
If you want to celebrate William Shakespeare’s birthday on a smaller scale consider creating a web quest about his life, works, and time period. You could include information from books, notes, the internet, other teachers and the library to give it a scavenger hunt feel. This is a fun way to get the kids moving, learning and utilizing multiples sources for research.
- Rebecca Stone has taught 12th grade special education English at Long Branch high school for ten years. She is also an education blogger and writer.