I know I’ve written a lot about Shakespeare resources on the web here but every time I Google Shakespeare or the title of one of his plays, I find something new and cool (and yeah, I’m a little obsessed with teaching Shakespeare lately but really I’m determined to make it fun and relevant for my students every year). This time I stumbled across a sweet game produced by PBS called the “Playwright Game” and it is part of PBS’ “In Search of Shakespeare” site which complements the televised series of the same name. With this simple, “choose your own adventure” role play game, students can learn a lot not only about Shakespeare but also about his contemporaries.
The premise of the game is that you are a 16th Century Londoner who is responding to an advertisement for “one writer of plays needed for gainful employment in a major theatre…no experience required.” You click “Apply Within” to get started and then you are led through a series of slides with questions such as “What are you going to write?” which determine how the story goes and ultimately whether you will succeed as a playwright in Elizabethan England.
Each choice leads visitors through a play by Shakespeare or one of his contemporaries. For example, choosing that you will write about “Murderous Romans” teaches you about how Titus Andronicus came to be written and about the good and bad outcomes of the play’s publication, including if you make any money, if your play will likely endure through the ages, etc.
In the Classroom
Why not make this a scavenger hunt for your students? You might try going through the game yourself several times first. As you do, make note of important facts you would like your students to gather. Once you have done this, you could assign and reward points for what facts they collect each time through the game. They could also collaborate through Google Docs while taking notes.
When you visit the PBS site, it is also worth your time to explore some of the other useful resources available there such as the “Educators” section where you’ll find a huge section on teaching Shakespeare with technology…which is why you came here in the first place, right?
One final note…Henry Jenkin’s “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture” is a worthy read for any teacher concerned with digital media in education. The section “Core Media Literacy Skills” outlines some important things to consider about the role of “play” in the classroom. That section begins on page 22. I’ve included the paper here if you would like to download it.