April Fool's Day: Time for Research and Reader's Theatre

Motivate student learning with lessons and activities designed to engage (and sometimes fool) the learners in your classroom

By Dawn Dodson

Enlarged calendar page of April 1st

All Fool’s Day, better known as April Fool’s Day, is the spring holiday that many people honor through silly pranks and hoaxes. As a middle school teacher, this is one holiday that students and teachers alike participate in. The origin of April Fool’s Day is shrouded in some mystery; however, many agree that it began in France when the Gregorian calendar was introduced. Due to lack of communication, some citizens were unaware of the change of the New Year and celebrated the Roman calendar’s holiday at the end of March. In response, those un-informed citizens became “fools” and the holiday of pranks and hoaxes was born. Other accounts describe ancient Romans celebrating a day of pranks in honor of the inconsistent spring weather. Although the history behind this folly-ridden day is mysteriously entertaining, it provides opportunities for your class to read, write, and research a cultural ritual celebrated around the world. Here are some ideas and activities to incorporate April Fool’s Day into your classroom.

Reader’s Theatre

Reader’s Theatre scripts are available online in a variety of levels that incorporate April Fool’s Day themes. One of the objectives in a reader’s theatre is for students to become engaged with the story’s characters and plot events. Having the opportunity to perform literature can also benefit comprehension and is a simple way to incorporate a variety of themes and topics into instruction.

A variation to performing Reader’s Theatre is for learners to create a script that can be performed as a class or in groups. My own classes have completed this activity with short stories. The class can be divided into groups and assigned a story to read. Taking the dialogue and main idea of the story, they create a script and perform it for the class. I’ve used the same story and have enjoyed watching the different groups’ interpretation of the characters and events, as well as assigned different stories with related themes.    

Research Cultural Traditions

Different versions of April Fool’s Day are celebrated throughout Europe. Have each person choose a country and collect research on the origin and rituals of the holiday. Research findings can be compiled into an essay and/or graphic representation that can be presented to peers. Another option is for goups to collect information on the various ways people around the world celebrate April Fool’s Day, and then have them compare and contrast the different celebrations among cultures.

Historic Hoaxes

Perhaps the most intriguing, and motivating, aspect of April Fool’s Day is the inevitable hoax. People await television, internet, and radio announcements that will catch the unaware listener. An assignment to commemorate the holiday tradition of hoaxing is to ask your class to read and respond to some of the most famous hoaxes in history. Online resources are available that summarize famous hoaxes from around the world. After viewing a few of the hoaxes, generate a rubric to evaluate the components of an effective hoax. As a culminating activity, you can compose a set of instructions on how to create a hoax.

April Fool’s Day can be a lighthearted, enjoyable holiday topic to include in classroom instruction. From performing a Reader’s Theatre, to researching, writing, and presenting information related to the holiday’s history and cultural traditions, scholars are provided opportunities to practice literacy skills—and maybe a memorable hoax or two!  

More April Fool's Day Lesson and Activity Ideas:

Backwards Day

Full of a variety of classroom and school-wide activities that put a “silly” spin to a regular school day, this lesson is sure to delight kids and adults alike. From wearing clothes backwards to literature suggestions, students can enjoy a different day of learning.

April Fool’s Day

The book “Museum of Hoaxes” help kids learn about famous instances of practical jokes. Students participate in a jigsaw activity to write their own hoaxes as well as rate their peers’.

A Ponzi Scheme Lesson Plan

Your class will learn about Ponzi schemes over an extended period of time. Divided into groups, students create a product to serve as the source of the Ponzi. Over the length of the project, they will learn how a Ponzi operates and whom it affects. The “tricking” aspect of this lesson can be a great lesson to conduct during April fool’s Day.

April Fool’s Day

Learn how the UK celebrates April Fool's Day. Worksheets guide learning and also cover the history and traditions of this day.