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Shakespeare Behind Bars – A conversation lesson plan


Today I’m trying out a new tool, inspired by my talented friends and teachers Cristina Cabal and Bruno Andrade: Spark Adobe.

You can open the lesson here.

It’s so much fun and reasonably easy to use!

I came across this video about this redemptive programme Shakespeare behind bars and it was mind blowing! My first thought was “how have I not heard of this before?” but my second thought was “I gotta make a lesson plan out of it!”. If you want to learn more about this programme, I highly recommend this link and this video.

I hope this story touches you the same way it touched me. It gives lots of food for thought for our students, to say the least.

Teachers’ Notes

For: Adults

Level: B2 students or above

Type of lesson: Discussion

Time: 1 hour

Aim: A discussion where students decide whether performing Shakespeare plays might be a solution for the prison crisis.

Language point: Functional language such as agreeing, disagreeing and turn taking

Screen 1:  Photos contrast ( Warm-up)

(Pair Work)Teacher shows 2 pictures of a Shakespeare’s play, without telling who the actors are. Ask students: What do they have in common? How might they be different?

Collect opinions from students.

The actors in the first picture are prisoners and the actor in the second picture is professional.

Screen 2: Vocabulary Match ( Pre-reading)

Highlight the pronunciation of bellow /ˈbɛləʊ/, screech /skrtʃ/, vermin /vɜːʳmɪn/ and inmate /ɪnmeɪt/.

Answers ( from top down) – 6 – 2 – 1 – 5 – 3- 4

Screen 3: Reading  “English prisons in grip of crisis”

Students read the questions first then read the text ( scanning)

Suggested answers to questions 1, 2, 3. The last question is personal

1 – staff cuts, a rising jail population and increasing availability of drug

2- After drilling through their cell bars with diamond-tipped cutters and stuffing their beds with pillows to mimic sleeping bodies. ( Ensure they understand what “diamond-tipped cutters” are by showing a picture of them)

3- Because it has become more routine as violence and disorder spread across the prison estate.

Screen 4: Pre-listening for details

Students should read the sentences and then carefully watch the video to find out whether the themes will be mentioned. Teachers might want to play the video twice.

  • Inmates are excited to be part of this programme – True
  • Inmates would like their families to attend the plays – Not mentioned
  • The types of crimes they have committed – True 
  • The inmates are rehearsing the play – True 
  • Negative reviews of the play – False 
  • A nasty relationship between two inmates  – False 


Screen 5:  Discussion

This is the icing on the cake. After reading and watching the video, students will hopefully possess more critical views on the sensitive topic of prison crisis.

Is “Shakespeare behind bars” a possible solution to the chaos installed in many prisons across the world?

Make sure they understand the meaning of recidivism /rɪˈsɪdɪˌvɪzəm/

Let students speak freely with their peers and monitor the interactions.



Thanks for reading.


1 Comment

  1. Alex says:

    You really make it seem really easy along with your presentation however I in finding this matter to be really something that I think I might by no means understand. It sort of feels too complex and extremely huge for me. I am looking ahead for your next put up, I will try to get the dangle of it!


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