Teaching Shakespeare to Students Nontraditional Approaches

I taught senior English at my local high school for years. The course was British literature, and Macbeth was part of the curriculum. Sometimes it’s difficult to get teenagers excited about Shakespeare, but I came up with some innovative methods to help my students enjoy the words of the bard.

I had my students teach Macbeth to the class. There’s no better way to learn something than by having to teach it. I divided the class into five groups, assigning each group an act of the play. I chose the groups varefully, making sure each had both males and females. I knew my students well by the time we got around to Ole Will, so I also placed at least one student in each group I knew to be especially artistic or creative.

This was a totally student-centered assignment. They could choose any method they wanted to present their act. I gave them a couple of days of class time to work on the projects, separating the groups, sending one to the media center, one to the lunchroom, two to empty classrooms of teachers who had planning that block, and one group remained in my room. This way, everyone’s presentation would be a surprise, and they couldn’t “borrow” ideas from another group. The group members got each other’s phone numbers so that they could get together over the weekend to work.

I’ve been amazed at some of the projects! I’ve enjoyed elaborate puppet shows, radio broadcasts, videos, medieval banquets, modern versions of the play, and MAcbeth set to rap. One group, which included a drama student, even borrowed costumes forom the drama department and scheduled time at the school’s auditorium to present their act to the class. Another group did “Macbeth does Survivor,” based on the popular TV show. They filmed it at the local park. One of my all-time favorites was “Macbeth does the Jerry Springer Show.” This presentation was so clever and funny, we were all laughing until we cried!

I’m convinced that kids learn much better when they’re having fun. These methods not only helped the students learn Macbeth; it also helped them learn team work and responsibility. The projects were counted as a major grade, which really encouraged the students to do a good job.

To connect with teens, or students of any age, teachers sometimes have to think “outside the box.” Which would be more enjoyable to you – sitting in a desk, listening to a lecture and doing worksheets, or being actively involved in a fun project?