5 Ways to Add Some Fun to Your Shakespeare Unit

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June 10, 2024
5 Ways to Add Some Fun to Your Shakespeare Unit
Jamie Litton

You may have already fallen victim to the eye rolls and groans that often accompany the announcement of an upcoming Shakespeare unit. Student resistance usually comes from the assumption that studying Shakespeare is boring, but it truly doesn’t have to be (we promise!). Check out these five tips for introducing a bit of fun into your Shakespeare unit.

Play Games

Games are always useful additions to a lesson plan since they add the element of competition, tend to get students up and moving, and will likely result in some real knowledge retention. The possibilities for Shakespeare-based games are endless, so we encourage you to get creative and customize activities for your unique students. Here are a few examples to get you inspired:

·         Who Am I?—After your students have gotten acquainted with the play using myShakespeare, split the class into groups of four or five. Display a screenshot of one of myShakespeare’s character actors at the front of the class, and challenge each group to name the character and write down two character traits or plot points relevant to them. The first group to submit the correct answers wins that round!

·         Group Charades—Groups of four or five students receive a piece of paper with part of a scene on it. (If you would like to use myShakespeare printable PDFs, send us a message using our contact form!) Students will then have a few minutes to collaborate before performing the scene silently in front of the class while the rest of the students guess what is going on and which scene in the play is being performed.

·         Pop Song or myShakespeare?—The teacher reads song lyrics in front of the class that are either from popular songs or a myShakespeare song summary, like this Queen Mab song. Students can work in teams or individually to earn points with each correct guess.

Encourage Creative Expression

Students can get discouraged about a creative assignment that is too specific, such as one that involves drawing a picture or writing a short story. However, when you give students the freedom to explore whatever medium they choose, things get interesting! Encourage students to consider photography, visual art, poetry, dance, animation (using myShakespeare animated videos for inspiration, like this Midsummer Night’s Dream Prologue animation), or whatever else they can dream up (with teacher approval, of course). These kinds of projects can go in many directions, but here are a few ideas:

·         Ask students to identify a major theme of the play, and then create a work of art that says something about that theme. Check out our blog post “How to Use the myShakespeare Notebook Feature” to find out how you can use our notebook feature to track themes throughout the play. 

·         Ask students to pick their favorite character, and then create something as if they were that character expressing how they are feeling in the play. Check out our blog post on “Creative Ways to Incorporate Tech in Your Shakespeare Unit” for more details about how students can use blogging to create a digital character diary.  

·         Have students reimagine their favorite scene from the play, either visually, through performance, or in whatever way feels right to them. Our “Incorporating Tech” blog also includes an assignment idea that asks students to adapt a scene for TikTok!


One of the primary reasons students find themselves bored with Shakespeare is because the plays were never meant to be read; they were meant to be performed. Dryly reading through a play in class will surely put your students to sleep, but approaching it as a performance from the beginning is a fun way to get everyone involved and heighten the energy in the room. Here are a few ways to bring out your students’ inner thespians:

·         When reading through scenes in class, assign a student to each character, perhaps even asking them to turn towards each other when reading lines as if they were having the conversation on stage.

·        Ask students to create a direct-to-camera performance video in the style of myShakespeare’s performances, like this performance from Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew. Students should perform lines from the play that are not featured performances on myShakespeare. 

·         Use props! Encourage students to bring appropriate props in to hold while they are reading the lines of their assigned character.


Shakespearean Insults

This is a classic crowd-pleaser! Shakespeare is known for creating some of the most satisfying insults in the English language, and they are a fantastic way to get your students invested in the Bard’s way with words prior to diving into an actual play. Begin by providing a few examples of famous Shakespearean insults, such as when Mercutio says, “these strange flies, these fashion-mongers, these ‘pardon-me's”  in Romeo and Juliet, or when Katherina calls Petruchio “a mad-brain rudesby full of spleen” in the Taming of the Shrew. From there, here are two activities to get your students insult-inspired:

·         Using this handy Shakespearean insult list, students take turns crafting their own unique offenses, and hurling them at a classmate one at a time (for points or simply for laughs!).

·         Put a twist on this activity by turning it into a rap battle, where students craft a Shakespearean insult using the list above, and then write a rhyming line or two to rap to their opponent. After each round, the rest of the class votes to decide who won, and the next student comes up to take on the reigning Shakespearean diss-champ.


Tie the Plays to Real Life

Students will always invest more in content that relates to their everyday lives. At first glance, it is easy to believe the misconception that Shakespeare has no relevance to the lived experiences of American teenagers, but it is our job as educators to support students in making connections to the plays in a way that matters to them. Here are a few ways to make that happen in your classroom:

·         Discussion—Engage your students in rich conversations as a class about the themes of the play, and where they see those themes show up in pop culture and/or their lives. Students can use the annotation feature to highlight quotations that resonate with their experiences or that echo familiar song lyrics or movie quotes.

·         Modern Pairings—Choose modern movies and literature that share themes with the play you are studying to support your students in making current connections, especially with works by artists and thinkers who share intersections of identity with them.

·         Mental Health—Shakespeare’s plays are full of characters struggling with big emotions and mental health challenges. Use these moments as an opportunity for students to relate to the characters and discuss how the plot might have changed if the character in question had approached their problem differently or had more external support from family and friends.


The most important thing to keep in mind when navigating Shakespeare in your classroom is that it doesn’t have to be boring. Studying Shakespeare should be rich with engaging word play, layered plot points, contemporary connections, and modern critique. With a little pedagogical creativity and myShakespeare’s robust resources, your Shakespeare unit will be one to remember!