Wordplay Cowboys – teaching Shakespeare

Wordplay Cowboys is a learning activity based on transforming Shakespearean language into cowboy slang from Hollywood Westerns.

First read and summarize the play.

classroom Rand J
Students write scene summaries in groups and then share on the board.

Moving onto the Student Scribe activity, start by giving students an example. Make the example interactive. Here they are introduced to the activity and asked, as a class, to offer up verbally some possible dialog. First they must identify the scene.

This is a nice way of reinforcing students’ understanding of wordplay and checking for understanding of plot and character.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 6.53.23 amStudents then divide into groups with a handout on cowboy slang and the script for the scene they must translate. To make it easier, choose a well-known scene – The Balcony Scene. If they are confident, they may choose their own scene.

Suggested scaffold – list of cowboy slang:

* reload gunslinger * pilgrim * hit the trail gringo * fancypants * Hell of thing, killin’ a man

* burnin’ daylight * we deal in lead, friend * deed to the ranch * will, coffin, grave, grace

* dead in the dust * Bounty, Reward, Price on yer head * meltin’ cowboy’s heart * coddle

* Pretty as a picture * fancypants * cinch * We may not get out alive * humdinger

* like spittin’ in yer eye * cowboy up or bleed * yep * Howdy partner * what’s that stranger?

* Easy gal * I’m gonna blow yer head off * there’s right and there’s wrong * God dang

Students may be daunted from the start, however, it is a reasonably good formative activity to coax their performance and language abilities out before assessment tasks requiring these skills.

aw shucks romeojpg


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