Those of us who teach Shakespeare can easily be overwhelmed by the — literally — millions of online resources on Shakespeare. You don’t have to spend hours clicking around looking for the best ones, because we already did it for you.
First, the plays:
- The Complete Works: all the words
- No Fear Shakespeare is a parallel translation of Shakespeare into modern English.
Now the background information to help place Shakespeare in time and space:
- Shakespeare Online: a retro site that requires some persistent browsing, but totally worth it
- Shakespeare Research Guide
- An interactive timeline of Shakespeare’s life
- A Shakespeare Google Earth Tour inspired by that timeline, written up as an assignment
- Macbeth: A Google Lit Trip
- A Shakespeare Atlas for Google Earth
Some things people think about Shakespeare:
- Lectures on specific critical questions about various plays, from Oxford
- Shawn and Shakespeare: an interesting collection of personal essays on Shakespeare’s plays, plus reviews of movies.
- The New York Times on Shakespeare
When it comes to video, you can probably find a film of any scene you might want to show in class. Go to YouTube and search for the specific scene, or for conversations between characters (“Othello and Iago” for example) to avoid having to wade through too many options.
We also want to point out a couple of general introductory videos about Shakespeare that should pique students’ interest at the beginning of the study:
This is a wonderful time to be studying Shakespeare!
In studying exploration, we tend to focus on the conquistadors of Spain and the great explorers of Italy: Columbus, Magellan, Da Gama, Vespucchi, and Cortez. When we’re thinking of exploration in North America, though, we should remember the French explorers.
There were French explorers during the Great Age of Exploration, including Jaques Cartier, who claimed Canada for France. However, France was engaged in wars during much of the Great Age, and didn’t get serious about exploration until somewhat later. French explorers like la Salle, la Harpe, Marquette, and de Bienville explored the New World in the later 1500s and 1600s, mapping the Mississippi and establishing towns like St. Louis and New Orleans. In the 1700s and 1800s, French explorers like De Surville, Bougainville, du Fresne, and d’Urville explored Polynesia and what is now New Zealand.
Begin your study of French explorers by learning a bit about France. use our Country Study lesson plans as a starting point. Some online resources:
- Paris 3D is an impressive introduction to the capital city of France. Play the Saga, an interactive exploration of the city that allows you to choose various buildings and different time depths.
- See modern Paris in 3D with Google Earth. The video below gives you a tour, but students may enjoy exploring the city and surrounding countryside on their own. Be sure to turn on the 3D buildings layer.
Once students have a sense of where these explorers were coming from, it’s time to do some research on the individual explorers.
- Have students choose an explorer from Wikipedia’s list of French explorers or the list from the Virtual Museum of New France. Each student can choose one and prepare a report for the class. As a class, determine the minimum information each report should include (consider full name, date of birth, hometown, parents’ occupations, first experience with exploration, reason for choosing this career, and main accomplishments). Upper elementary school students can find a lot of that information at the sites linked above, but secondary level students should branch out. A search for an individual is a relatively easy way to get started with online research, since there’s little difficulty with synonyms or commercial uses of those names.
- Use file folders, as we did in our Study of Heroes, and create a tablescape of French explorers. Be sure to add each to the class timeline. you can also mark the explorers’ main discoveries on your class map, or have students create a map for their reports.
Rush for the Gold: Mystery at the Olympics by John Feinstein is a young adult novel set at the London Olympics and the run-up to them. The main character, Susan Carol Anderson, is a competitive swimmer. She learns firsthand, as she prepares for the competition, that it’s easy for a competitor to become a commodity. Her friend Stevie is reporting on the Olympics, and his experience as a writer and a journalist is explored along with the experiences of the athletes.
Read the book aloud or assign chapters to students for independent reading. Then follow up with cross-curricular activities:
- Susan Carol loves to swim and has enjoyed swimming competitively for her high school. As an Olympic athlete, she suddenly has a lot more options, including the potential to earn a lot of money. How might this affect her life? Quote from Chapter 3: “Just the thought of it staggered Susan Carol. She couldn’t begin to think of how to spend that money… All the things she’d imagined for her life were suddenly chaning — it was hard to keep up.”
- As she becomes more well known, there are a lot suggestions that Susan Carol is popular because of her looks, not her swimming ability. How does she feel about this? Is this a problem? Issues of both sexuality and sexism come up in the book. In Chapter 9, Stevie becomes angry about “how they planned to market Susan Carol as America’s newest sweetheart/sex symbol.” Does this kind of marketing belittle an athlete?
- While her father originally stands firm on these issues (quote from chapter 3: “‘You and I had an agreement,J.P.,’ he said firmly. “We promote her as an athlete.’”) he later gives in, even agreeing to fire the coach Susan Carol has worked with all her life, over her objections. Should parents make these decisions, or should young people make them? Do good people get swayed by money and pressure to do things they know are wrong?
- In Chapters 16 and 17, there is a lot of discussion of the rules of the Olympic Village, where athletes stay, and the kind of access other people get to the athletes. Should athletes be focused on the competition to the exclusion of everything else, or should they be available for reporters — or able to spend time having fun? Are the rules protecting the athletes or limiting them?
- At the end of the book, after several chapters of mounting feelings that something might be wrong, it becomes clear that rules are being broken. Did the students see it coming? Can they identify the trail of clues leading to the outcome?
This book is full of numbers, from times and speed to the number of competitors and their chances of winning. Divide into groups and give each group a chapter of the book to work with. Have students make word problems using the data in the book, and challenge other teams to find the answers. Give the winning team Olympic-style medals.
Michael Phelps is a character in the book. In real life, Phelps has received the largest number of Olympic medals any athlete has ever received. Have students research Phelps and prepare a display board, PowerPoint, or class book about this exceptional athlete.
Find more ideas in our Olympics Classroom Theme.
Embrace geek chic with a Dr. Who classroom theme!
Dr. Who is an alien being in a popular BBC TV show, the last of the Time Lords, who goes traveling through time and space in his Time and Relative Dimension in Space (tardis for short). As you can imagine, this is an adventuresome theme, with lots of teachable moments for science and history. The new series also contains plenty of scenes involving decision-making by a young person:
- Should she do something risky or stick with what’s safe?
- Should she continue on a path toward a future that seems empty, or do something more daring?
- What are her responsibilities toward her family and friends?
Many episodes center on a mystery, and they often also include philosophical, moral, and ethical issues ranging from who should be saved when there seem to be no win-win options to what it means to be human to what happens when one entity controls all media.
Make your classroom into the tardis — or at least make your door look like the door of the Tardis:
You can create a timer with the Dr. Who theme and use it to start the morning, or as a transitional signal. The timer aspect means that you can set it to play for a certain number of seconds, either as an actual countdown or as a signal or just for background music.
There are plenty of video clips available online, and the full episodes are readily available on Netflix, at Amazon as streaming video and as DVDs, and probably in your local stores as well. Dr. Who is sometimes scary and often violent. There is no rough language, though, nor sexual innuendo. We wouldn’t show it to small children, but we’d be comfortable with it in middle school or high school. Read about the legal issues in our post on using video in the classroom, and then consider using some of the show in your lessons.
We like the idea of starting each day with a clip and discussing it just as we’d discuss a scene from a book. Pick a clip, plan a few questions, show the clip, and have some philosophical discussion. Here’s an example, using the first episode of the new series:
The episode “Rose” is shown here in a shortened form (about 8 minutes) with little violence. Some of the points we’d discuss for this episode:
- This episode is set largely in London. With the London Olympics coming up, we can look for and list London icons.
- At one point, Rose learns that the Doctor has been seen at numerous historical events, including the sinking of the Titanic and the assassination of President Kennedy. Find the dates for the listed events and add them to classroom timeline. Ask students to name some other events they think the Doctor might have attended.
- This is the point at which we first learn that Dr. Who is a time traveler. Is this plausible? Does it sound like fun? Click the link for more teaching ideas on this topic.
- This episode involves what are essentially robots, except that they are powered by “thought control” rather than electricity. Once they no longer receive transmissions from their controller, they are no longer able to move and act. How is that like robots in the real world?
- 19 year old Rose loses a menial job in this episode, and sees no future for herself beyond another menial job. Is she being realistic about the opportunities available to her in her life? What opportunities do your students see for themselves?
- Rose initially refuses to go with Dr. Who because of her responsibility to her mother, a single mom, and to her boyfriend, whom she sees as rather helpless. When Dr. Who comes back and says the tardis travels through time as well as space, she changes her mind and joins him. Is she abandoning her responsibilities when she does so?
- After a couple more episodes, it occurs to Rose that she is traveling with a stranger, with no assurances of safety from him or from anything else. Her mother asks for Dr. Who’s promise that he can keep Rose safe, and he admits that he can’t. Is Rose stupid for doing this?
Follow up the discussion with a five minute free writing time.
From preschoolers who love to play with toy trucks to high school students discovering all the jobs involved in logistics and freight transport, everyone can learn something from a good less on trucks. Scroll down to find lessons at different grade levels.
Preschool and Kindergarten
Read books about trucks:
Listen to a song about trucks and sing along!
Invite students to bring a toy truck from home to show, or collect toy trucks at garage sales or dime stores. Have students create art with their toy trucks:
- Drive the trucks through shallow trays of paint and then across paper, creating tracks of paint.
- Have each student roll or pat out a thin slab of Model Magic and run trucks across it to create texture. Model Magic can be painted or colored with markers as well.
- Alternatively, make trucks. Milk carton dump trucks are a lot of fun, or just glue simple shapes onto paper — rectangles plus circles for wheels.
Kids come to school with some old-fashioned ideas about trucks! Share this information with your students:
Trucks pick up raw materials, such as rice from a farm or milk from a dairy. They may also pick up things like containers of computer parts arriving by ship — not exactly raw materials, but the needed parts for manufacturing. Different kinds of trucks pick up different things:
A tanker truck carries liquids like gasoline or milk. It’s very important to keep these trucks clean and safe. Tanker trucks have round bodies.
A flatbed truck can carry big things, like containers used to transport things by ship. They have big flat surfaces. It’s important to make sure loads on flatbeds are very secure so they won’t fall off the truck.
A van is the rectangular part of the truck. A truck may have a cab (shown on the flatbed) that attaches to a van, or it may be all in one piece, in which case it’s called a straight truck. Vans are used to carry dry goods, like boxes of cereal, books, or toys.
A truck for bulk hauling, such as carrying rice or other grains, might have a walking floor, as you can see in the video below. This automatic floor can make it easier to load and unload bulk items, or very heavy things that would be hard for people to carry.
Trucks bring raw materials to a factory to be made into new products, or to a warehouse where they’re put into packages. A warehouse is a big building where things are stored, and a manufacturer, factory, or store might have its own warehouse. Often a warehouse is part of what’s called a “fulfillment house,” where raw materials or new products are packaged and sent on to customers or to stores.
People in fulfillment houses use computers to keep track of all the things they need to store, package, and send. Students have probably seen bar codes and scanners in stores. These are the tools warehouse and fulfillment house workers use to make sure all the items in the warehouse get to the right place.
Once the products are all packaged, they’re packed into more trucks — usually vans — to go to stores. The workers use computers to make sure everything goes into the right trucks and to the right stores.
Truck drivers might make short hauls, like driving products from the warehouse to a store in a nearby city, or they might make long hauls across several states. Long haul drivers have beds in the cabs of their trucks, and they take showers and eat at special places called truck stops, where they can rest and get diesel fuel for their trucks. Most truck drivers have computers in their cabs, too, which they can use for communication and entertainment.
When the trucks arrive at the store, workers unpack the truck and put the products onto the shelves. They may use the barcodes on the packages, and they may also put new labels onto the packages. Sometimes a small store will use a different computer system, so the barcodes put on the boxes in the warehouse or on the products by the manufacturers don’t work with their computers. Bigger stores usually use the same system from start to finish.
Printable version of this passage, with comprehension questions, in PDF form
Read and discuss the information, have students complete the comprehension questions, and then ask students to think of other kinds of trucks. This passage was about freight trucks, but students will also think of garbage trucks, fire trucks, dump trucks, and more.
Finish up by having students draw and label a picture that shows the most interesting thing they learned. Create a bulletin board or a class book. Alternatively, have students imagine a world without trucks and write about it.
Discuss the information in the passage above with students:
- Did students realize how much computers are now used in freight transportation? Truckers also often find their jobs by computer, with programs called “load boards.” There are also freight brokers who use computer programs to find the trucks and drivers (also called “carriers”) for customers who need things transported. Then manufacturers or farmers and stores can use computers to track the products between the factory or field and the store. Ask students if they think everyone needs to learn to use a computer now.
- Trucks use huge amounts of fossil fuel to carry goods from one place to another. According to government studies, trucks are responsible for about 20% of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. New laws require big trucks to become more fuel efficient by 2018. Challenge students to think of ways that fuel use could be reduced. Possibilities include everything from more efficient truck designs to using things made or grown locally.
- The whole field of freight and getting things from one place to another is called “logistics.” Check out the Occupational Outlook Handbook’s page on this field. Have students conduct internet research to find jobs in the field of logistics in your area, and then to find colleges offering training in logistics. As a class or in small groups, compile a list of the jobs in the field, the skills and talents required for this type of work, and the pros and cons of the jobs.
Give students a typical logistics job to plan:
- Have students imagine that they have a shipment of computer parts arriving from China or Japan.
- They’ll arrive first at a dock in Los Angeles, and the class is responsible for getting the components to a computer factory in Cleveland.
- Then the finished computers need to be shipped out to stores. One group of computers will be sent to a fulfillment house in Bentonville, Arkansas for “kitting” — they’ll be packed in special red boxes with some cool accessories for a Back to School promotion at a store in St. Louis.
- The accessories will be going to the fulfillment house from a factory in Toronto and a warehouse in Virginia.
- The red boxes are being made in Ft. Smith.
The class is responsible for getting the special computers in their snazzy boxes to St. Louis in time for the special Back to School promotion. Have students figure out how they’ll do it. They should consider the people they’ll need to hire, the trucks they’ll need, the information they’ll have to keep track of, and the schedule.
You could divide the class into teams and have each team present their plan, or have the class work together. Create flow charts once the plan is finalized.
Combine research, art, and writing to create a great classroom project that can be anything from a quick classroom activity to an organizing system for a major science unit.
The basic idea is to have each student create a labeled picture that shares information, then put them all together into a display in the best way for your particular class:
- a bulletin board
- a Pinterest board
- a portfolio page on your class website
- an album for the class library
- a poster board display
I made the example above on my computer, which can be a great way to practice tech skills, but it works just as well if you do it with art supplies in the classroom. You can also use the Trading Cards tool at BigHugeLabs if you want to get a little tech practice but don’t have a graphics program in your classroom. The example below shows a card made with this tool:
Begin by choosing a topic, either as an assignment or together in a class brainstorming session. Then instruct each student to create a card. You could show kids baseball or video game trading cards if the idea will be completely new to them.
To make a card:
- Choose a subject. Here, I’m looking at adaptations. I’ve made a card for a cheetah. If others make cards for other animals, we’ll have a display of various adaptations that will give a good overview of animal adaptations.
- Research the subject, looking for specific information related to the overall theme of the portfolio. Take notes on note cards during this part of the process.
- Choose several points you want to make about your subject.
- Find or create a picture of your subject. I used a photo of a cheetah which I found online (with Creative Commons licensing).
- Label the picture with the informative points you want to make.
- Use any visual tricks you want to make your project look cool — I put white under my words and used arrow images to point to the elements of the picture that went with the information I had in mind. If you’re using physical cards, this is a great opportunity to practice new art techniques in a small project.
Once students complete their cards, collect them and display them. I like to take some time here to discuss possible ways to organize the cards, since I teach writing — organizing data is key for my class. If you’re focusing on the art aspect, you might choose to lay the cards out to find the most attractive mix. There may also be an obvious best arrangement; for example, if you have students create cards for elements, you’ll probably want to arrange them according to the periodic table of the elements.