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Bring a little fun into your classroom by throwing Shakespeare a birthday party in April! This is a great way to hook your students into a unit on Shakespeare or to finish off your unit with a celebration. You’ll be surprised how excited even your senior students will get at the idea of having a party for The Bard. Most historians agree that Shakespeare was born on April 23rd, 1564 (based on his baptism records), but I think it is safe to say that you can get away with a birthday party for The Bard anytime during the month of April (or anytime in the year!) based on what is convenient for you and your students. Below you will find ideas and resources to make Shakespeare’s birthday party an unforgettable party for your students.
I like to give out an invitation to the party a few days before to build up the anticipation. I also tell them that they shouldn’t attend a birthday party empty-handed, so they are given the task of designing a birthday card for The Bard! Then, I give students a list of words that were used during Shakespeare’s time and have them write a birthday message to him inside. Here are a few of the words I give them to give you an idea:
I also enlist some students to stay after school to do a bit of decorating for the party. Don’t have any student volunteers? Bribing them with some treats usually does the trick! Here are some examples of the decorations that I put up for the party:
I usually start the party by bringing out some cupcakes/muffins with my Shakespeare cupcake topper that says “If cake be the food of love, play on,” a play on words from Duke Orsino’s quote in Twelfth Night that says, “If music be the food of love, play on.” If you don’t want to spend too much, consider asking your culinary arts teacher to have his/her students make mini cupcakes for you.
I also bring in some plastic cups for drinks and put a drink label that says “A drink! A drink! My kingdom for a drink!” (a play on words from Richard III that states “My horse! My horse! My kingdom for a horse!”). Students sing Happy Birthday to Shakespeare and we play a bit of Shakespeare Trivia while they have their treat.
Next, I have students share the cards they made for Shakespeare, and I have volunteers read what they wrote in the card. Then, we play a few fun games like “Pin the Hat on the Bard” and “Forge Shakespeare’s Signature.”
To end the party, I have students work in groups of 3 or 4 to discuss quotes from Shakespeare’s plays. Some that I include are “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” (from As You Like It) or “Brevity is the soul of wit” (from Hamlet).
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