So tomorrow is Shakespeare Day, remember? Have you prepared your arsenal of tried and tested activities yet? Or has the Bard become totally irrelevant?

I’ve recently had an amazing podcast experience taking part in the British Council podcast on the impact of AI on language teaching and learning. One of the questions was on whether AI would make language teaching and learning irrelevant. And it got me thinking: what makes something truly relevant? Relevance isn’t static; it’s shaped by our perspectives and motivations. For some, language is merely a tool for manipulation, while for others, it’s the essence of humanity. Similarly, Shakespeare’s significance may not be immediately obvious, but his exploration of timeless themes like love, power, and ambition continues to resonate with us, shaping our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

So I thought about how to make conversations with students about Shakespeare more meaningful and engaging. I didn’t want to go the usual route and throw in lists of words that Shakespeare invented or read sonnets. Instead, I aimed to engage students and get them excited about the idea of taking on and reading a play by Shakespeare, even if it’s just an abridged version.

Oftentimes, especially for students who have never been to the UK, it’s not just Shakespeare, but the entire cultural experience—or lack thereof—that can make the whole experience feel irrelevant. My idea was to provide them with a glimpse into the world where Shakespeare lived and created by exploring three key locations: Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, and New Place. To enrich the experience, students can wander the streets, soaking in the unique architecture and charm of the area while learning something new.

Google street view

If you’ve never used Google Maps Street View before, you can access it via Google Maps. I believe it holds great potential for language learning activities, if you’re not constrained by low-resource environments.

I’ve also included two short discussion activities/games that encourage students to contemplate the meaning behind Shakespeare’s words and reflect on whether they still hold relevance for them today. 

Shakespeare

As a final touch, students receive recommendations from Shakespeare on which play to read based on their interests. These recommendations are generated by an LLM and provide quite sound reasoning as to why a particular play would be interesting.

Shakespeare's recommendation

Shakespeare’s legacy may span centuries, but with the help of modern technology, we can bridge the gap between past and present.

You can access the module by following this link or click on the image below. 

I hope you’ll find inspiration in some of the activities or even decide to use them as stand-alone tasks.

If you give them a try, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts!

Resources and Attributions:

Talking Head Videos – Artflow.ai

Synthetic voices – Elevenlabs.io

Images – Microsoft Designer; Canva

Music:

UK Farmland at dawn in the Spring by richwise — https://freesound.org/s/565321/ — License: Creative Commons 0

Medieval Ding Dong3.wav by waxsocks — https://freesound.org/s/499734/ — License: Creative Commons 0

Binaural Street sounds Winchester by richwise — https://freesound.org/s/401154/ — License: Creative Commons 0

2 Comments

  1. Such a wonderful way to engage and actively involve learners in the lesson, all activities are amazing as always! I’ll definitely try them – thank you so much for sharing!

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