Leslie Kelly teaches at Githens Middle School in Durham, North Carolina.
This lesson is a general introduction to Shakespeare's language. Lines have been taken from:
Antony and Cleopatra
Henry IV, Part 2
Romeo and Juliet
Timon of Athens
The Winter's Tale
What's On for Today and Why
In this pre-reading activity, students are introduced to the drama and language of Shakespeare by delivering the famous last words of his characters.
This lesson will take one class period.
Famous Last Words from Shakespeare
Famous Last Words Using "Death Lines" to Introduce Shakespeare
What To Do
1. Prepare the activity by printing or writing each death line on a separate index card.
2. Begin the lesson by handing one card to each student.
3. Explain to the students that the words on their cards were the last words spoken by a character from one of Shakespeare’s plays. They are “death lines.” Inform the students that although they may not understand all the words on the card, they must attempt to derive meaning from the line and visualize the moment of death. (3 minutes)
4. Give the student the task. They must read the line out loud to the class as they act out the death itself. Not all students will have lines that dictate the method they use to die. Some will. They must take this into consideration as they plan their dramatic demise. (3 minutes)
5. Model for the students. (1 minute)
6. Give the students time to silently read their lines, ask any questions they may have about them, and plan out the death itself. (10 minutes)
Note: This is a good time to set limits that ensure the safety of all students.
7. Refocus the students to the front of the room. There is one final element of the activity that must be explained to them. After reading the line and dying, they must remain “dead.” By the end of the activity, all teachers and students will be lying dead in the same position in which they landed.
Note: Although the students can be instructed to deliver their line and death whenever there is a break and they are inspired to do so, I have learned that it is often better to have them take their turn in a more organized manner. I now have the student at the front and right of the room begin and direct students to proceed in a circular pattern.
8. Let the activity proceed. (10 minutes)
How Did It Go?
Did your students enjoy delivering the dramatic death lines? Did they gain confidence in speaking and interpreting Shakespeare's language? Have they gained familiarity with Shakespeare's characters?
If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.