Tag Archives: Shakespeare

Springtime Sonnet Projects

In Sonnet 98 Shakespeare wrote,

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight
Drawn after you, – you pattern of all those.
    Yet seem’d it winter still, and, you away,
    As with your shadow I with these did play.
Spring seemed to be absent this year with cold rains and fickle weather. That did not stop my students from exploring Shakespeare’s sonnets and learning more about the wise and witty bard. In addition to close reading and textual analysis of the sonnets, my students also participated in a few visual projects to help showcase their understanding of Shakespeare’s prose.
Here are three sonnet projects to inspire creativity and fun while at the same time helping students master Shakespeare’s text.
1. The 5 Frame Sonnet – I talk about this project in length my book, Personalized Reading (ISTE, 2018). For this project students work in groups to present Shakespeare’s sonnet visually in only 5 photographs. Students must read, interpret, and summarize the sonnet. Using only images, students showcase the summary and main idea presented in the sonnet. The student example below showcases Sonnet 138.
2. The Sonnet Project – Based in New York City, this organization produced videos of all Shakespeare’s 154 Sonnets with professional actors dramatizing the sonnets. Each sonnet video also highlights a specific part or place in and around Manhattan and the Five Boroughs.
Check out their Sonnet 29:
After viewing these videos, students were assigned a sonnet and group to work with to present in video format. This project also required students to read closely and interpret the sonnet in order to create a video to present the sonnet’s key ideas.
Here are two sonnet videos that students created after working to understand :
3. Pop Sonnets – I came across this project after reading an article in Time magazine about a Tumblr page that turns popular songs into Shakespearian Sonnets. Actually, a book has been published to showcase many of these pop sonnets created. Every Thursday the blog shares a new sonnet. Inspired by this site, I gave my students the following assignment:



Here is how I assigned the project to my students:

A. Take your favorite song and transform it into a sonnet. You do not have to write it in Shakespearean English. You do have to use Iambic Pentameter.  However, if you use Shakespearean phrases correctly, you will get 10 extra credit points!
         How to Start —

  • Paraphrase the lyrics.
  • Highlight keywords you want to work in to your sonnet.
  • Condense and reorder your paraphrase into the key parts.  Start with the Volta* and Couplet** and work up to that.
  • Modify the language to follow the sonnet rhyme scheme. Extra credit if you use Elizabethan terms correctly and authentically (10 pts).


The outcome from my students were awesome.

Check out this one a student wrote based on Dua Lipa’s IDGAF:

Thou hath approached me in cordial temper

Regarding me in fond sincerity

I hath turned deaf to thine lies so tender

I harbor no more time nor love for thee

Find thine lady who shall hear thy ramblings

Too many a tear I hath shed for thou

Thy ong reign over my heart is ending

You come bearing apologies and vows

In mine heart for you I hold no regard

Thee hath lied and lain with other women

Shun thy pleading words my heart I hath barred

Thou hath plagued me but I am not broken

You hath nary been kind nor true nor fair

Thine time is over and I no longer care 


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Playing with Legos for Classroom Learning

I just finished reading Quinn Rollins’ book Play Like A Pirate: Engage Students with Toys, Games, and Comics and found more than a dozen ideas to bring into my classroom. As a huge fan of Dave Burgess’ Teach Like a Pirate, I knew this was going to be another resource filled with ideas to engage students and energize teaching.


In each chapter, Rollins takes on a toy, board game, and kid favorite by sharing ideas and examples how he has used them in his own classroom to promote learning and understanding. Whether it is action figures, Minecraft, or games like Monopoly and UNO, his teaching tools go beyond worksheets and textbooks to “playfully” teach his content material. Bringing in these games and toys does not only bring an element of fun into the classroom, but is also allows students to use their own critical thinking, creativity, and analytical skills. The chapter on Action Figures gave me many ideas for sidequest projects this upcoming school year.

As a parent to a future Lego engineer, the over flow of the Legos in my home has ended up in my classroom. Two years ago, I was able to get my son (then eight) to help me recreate scenes of Midsummer Night’s Dream for a slide show to share with my students and help with their understanding of Shakespeare.

Rollins’ book bolstered the idea to put the Lego work in my students hands. In small groups, students selected the most telling quotes from each Act in Midsummer Night’s Dream and then created a Lego scene to depict the quote.

The final products were great. I talked with the students’ about taking multiple shot types to help find the best angle to convey the scene.

Rollins offers additional ideas for using Legos in the classroom:

Design a Minifigure – Students could design the four most important characters in a novel or a historic archetype, or four leaders of a particular movement from history.

Design a Set – Students design a Lego set about a historical event. For example, a set for the Great Depression can include a Lego representation of the Okies on the Road to California or a Hooverville.

Lego Stop Motion – Legos is a great tool to make stop motion animation videos. YouTube offers lots of amazing examples to inspire students creativity.

As the late Jim Henson said, “Kids don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”



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Concerning Character & Reputation: Character Analysis Activity

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

— George RR Martin, A Game of Thrones

Stories drive us. Characters and conflict drive stories. When teaching literature we want students to see dynamic characters for their complexity and understand their evolution throughout the story. When starting a new text with my students, the exposition has lots of great detail that can offer insight into the characters wants, needs, fears, and beliefs.

To help my students look closer at the characters in Shakespeare’s MidSummer Night’s Dream, students complete a two day character analysis/interpretation small group activity.  Each group receives an envelope with the directions, character survey, and character questionnaire. In addition, I also include a photocopied passage of the text with detailed information or dialogue from the character to use for interpretation and a graphic novel version of the passage. Students work together to complete the survey and questionnaire. Students go back into the text to find additional information and textual evidence to support their claims. At the end of day two, students are to produce:

  1. A brief, creative introduction about the character (a poem, interview, or improv)
  1. A mention of key passages or individual text that are central to understanding the character’s identity (wants, fears, values, and beliefs)
  1. An artistic representation of the character

This activity can be utilized with any text for character analysis purposes. I have included the activity and directions below for my followers and fans.

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Lots of Content + Not Enough Time = Learning Stations

As the end of the school year is winding down and the content continues at a steady pace before finals, I am doing more learning station activities to help my students learn important elements that will help them on the final and in the years ahead. Many elementary school teachers incorporate learning stations in their classrooms, secondary school teachers can benefit from learning stations as well.

What do I mean by learning stations?

Learning stations are designated areas in the classroom where students can work independently or in small groups to accomplish a given learning task. The teacher can work solely with one group or facilitate all the different stations to help keep students on task, answer questions, and promote inquiry.

What do learning stations look like for secondary students?

I tend to rearrange my classroom when doing station activities. Students choose which group they go to first and directions are clearly posted at each station.

Students can visit two to three stations per period. For the Midsummer Night’s Dream station activity there were three different stations and students had twelve minutes at each station before they rotated on the next. The objective was to cover all three stations within a 40 minute period.  At the first station students worked with a partner or in small groups to play “Roll the Dice,” a differentiated activity that allows students take turns rolling a die (round 1) or dice (round 2) and answer comprehension questions correlating to the number he or she rolled.

The second station focused on symbols of love and astrology/the moon in the text. Students were given a handout with the different symbols, significance of each symbol, and then had to go back into the text to find specific quotes that illustrate each of the symbols.

 Image Image

The last station required students to complete an interactive foldable on the many characters in Shakespeare’s play. There were three layers to this foldable for each of the three interconnecting stories in Midsummer Night’s Dream. Students identified each of the character’s status and or position and then found a telling quote to illustrate the character’s personality. Once students completed the foldable he or she glued it into his or her notebook.


Learning Stations allow students to tap into a variety of inquiries in a “hands on” manner rather than teach and listen approach. Depending on how the teacher organizes the stations, they can be based on Bloom’s Taxonomy or Multiple Intelligences. Learning stations promote independence and responsibility.

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