Teaching Comics: Shakespeare Charades


I wanted to repost this comic from a few years ago as a counterpoint to yesterday’s strip where I take teachers to task for heavily relying on old ideas and lessons.

I didn’t mean to make it sound like teachers should NEVER use old lessons and ideas – indeed, building a reliable stable of working LPs you can fall back on is the cornerstone of a decades long career as an educator. You can’t do brand new things every second of your day. I was more taking aim at teachers whose entire repertoire is “read the story, answer the questions, quiz on the story and questions on Friday.” If Wednesday’s comic didn’t read that way, apologies.

The lesson in the above comic strip is one I’ve been using to great success for years; it’s become a student favorite. I pulled the idea from the Folger Shakespeare Library, but they don’t seem to have a proper link for the lesson any longer. I thought I’d share some of my armchair rationale behind the cut for what I’m doing here.

Activity Statement

SWBAT understand figurative language

SWBAT read and comprehend complex literary tests independently.


Copy of Elements of Literature text, notecards

Procedure/ What To Do

  1. Break students up into groups of three. Ask students to discuss challenges of performing in The Globe Theater in the 1590’s (typical answers: no microphones, people might not be able to see you, weather…). Ask students to brainstorm solutions to these problems. Bring them around to the idea that stage actors often need to overemphasize words and physical actions so “the cheap seats” can read them. (5-7 minutes)
  1. Give each group a line of figurative language from the balcony scene, written on a 5×7 index card.
  1. Each group has three minutes to plan how they will represent the ideas as charades for the rest of the class. (10-12 minutes)
  1. When the students are ready, have each small group act out its line, while the rest of the class guesses. When the audience has finished guessing (successfully or not), ask a member of the group to write the line on the board. (15 minutes)
  1. Wrap up with a discussion on the power of the images in the balcony scene. Ask the students to identify specific examples of different figures of speech. Review techniques actors would use (overemphasis, hand gestures) to get across Shakespeare’s work. (5 minutes)
  1. As an extension, ask the students to identify the speaker of each line, Romeo or Juliet. Then see if the students can successfully sequence the lines written on the board in the order in which they appear in the scene. It might be fun to do these extra activities before working on the balcony scene in class. Also, if time permits, show YouTube clip “How to Be a Mime- Climbing a Ladder” in preparation for physicality of charades activity (5-10 minutes).


Class Participation

2 Responses to “Teaching Comics: Shakespeare Charades”

  1. I love this idea.

  2. I second Akilah! As a first-year English teacher, I’m always on the lookout for new lesson plan ideas. Just finished my own Shakespeare unit (Hamlet), but, of course, there’s always next year. 🙂

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