Ways into Shakespeare: Creative Activities for Primary School

Teaching Shakespeare in Primary Schools

Last week a group of teachers gathered with our Creative Director, Abi, in the RADA training suite. They spent the evening chanting, dancing and moving their way through a toolkit of games and activities to help primary school children explore Shakespeare.

I loved the fact that we hardly stood still for the whole 2 hours and it really brought me out of my shell and got me interacting with text in a whole new way! This will 100% affect my teaching practice - I took away so many ideas that will work well in lots of different classes, not just English!
— Year 1 Teacher, St Albans Church of England Primary School

That evening marked the first of our new series of CPD Masterclasses designed to support primary school teachers in delivering creative lessons for Reception through to Year 6.

Following on from Abi’s top tips for exploring Shakespeare, we wanted to share a selection of the creative activities explored at our first CPD event of the school year:

1. The Moving Forest - “This green plot shall be our stage”

This is a game focused on creating physical confidence and group work. Best of all it’s applicable to many different stories.

  • In groups ask the students to use their bodies to create a section of the 'forest' from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (this could be adapted to any setting, like the castle in Hamlet or the Capulet's party in Romeo and Juliet). This is position 1. Ask the students to move to a different area of the room and form a new position with a new group of people. This is position 2.

  • As you count from 1 - 8 ask the students to move between the two positions. You can talk about how this magical forest might move. Are they twisting and turning or are they creeping?

  • You can add as many positions as you like.

  • Finally, add appropriate music and put it all together!

2. Text with Movement - “Speak, if you can. What are you?”

  • Split the class into four groups and give each group a line of a speech.

  • Speak the line through with them, focusing on the rhythm.

  • Ask them to think about what images it conjures up and get them to create a movement that they all do together, whilst all speaking the line in unison.

  • In order ask each group to speak their line and show their movement.

  • If the students are confident with this, it can also be turned into a round.

    G1:     When shall we three meet again,

    G2:     In thunder lightning or in rain,

    G3:     When the hurly burly’s done,

    G4:     When the battle’s lost and won

    All :    There to meet with Macbeth.

3. Character Sculptures - “This is Ercles' vein, a tyrant’s vein. A lover is more condoling.”

  • Put the students into partners, label them A and B.

  • Ask child A to turn B into a character at a specific moment in the story - put a time limit on this, it should only take 10 seconds! As an extension you can ask the frozen statue to come to life and say something that the character might be thinking or feeling.

The session introduced a variety of techniques for storytelling, using movement and ideas that have been developed by our Creative Director as the most effective toolkit to explore Shakespeare with children.

Outstanding session! I love the idea of including Shakespeare from a young age. I plan to include several Shakespeare style games as warm up sessions.
— Head of KS2 Drama, Chigwell School

For more ideas and inspiration keep an eye out for our next Masterclass event next term! We will be announcing future CPD Masterclasses on our social media and via our monthly newsletter.  

-Katie