R&J: Day 11

Yesterday, we read the two short scenes that end Act 2.  I’m finding that a great strategy to get kids to recap what we read the day before, make connections between prior scenes and the one we are currently reading, and discuss characterization is to discuss character emotions.  Let me illustrate.

P1070858We’re circled around our “acting space.”  Two students are standing in the center with their books.  One will be our Juliet this day.  The other will be the nurse.

Me: Juliet, how do you feel?

J: Well…

Me: What did you have the nurse do yesterday?

J: Oh, I sent her to go talk to Romeo and find out if he wants to marry me.

Me: So, how do you feel?

J: Excited.

Kid #1: She’s also probably anxious.  I mean, she doesn’t know what he has said yet.

Me: You got that, Juliet?  You need to be anxious too today when you chat with the Nurse.

J: Ok.

Me: So how do you think the nurse is feeling?

Kid #2: Well, she just walked all over the place looking for Romeo so probably tired.

Kid #3: Maybe a little angry.  Romeo’s friends didn’t really treat her right.  They kind of made fun of her.

Me: This is good!  So Nurse, what do you need to keep in mind today?

N: I’m tired and maybe a little upset.

Me: Excellent.  Let’s get started.

After reading through 2.5 and 2.6, we paused and took a look at the decisions that have been made thus far in the play.  Many decisions have been made (by many characters) which affect both Romeo and Juliet.  Taking a hint again from Jim Burke, I adapted an activity from his What’s the Big Idea?  Using this graphic organizer (Act 1-2 Decision Chart), my students worked in their groups:

  1. To make a list (in order) of the decisions people have made that have affected Romeo and Juliet in some way, and
  2. To plot these decisions on our decision chart (labeling each point, and eventually connecting each point with a line to make a graph).

I liked this activity, because it really got them talking.  Thinking of the major decisions was a great way to have them review what has happened so far.  Having them evaluate each decision and determine how good/bad that decision was, got kids arguing (in a good way) about literature.  Not everyone agreed, and sometimes had to argue their point using evidence from the book.

I also liked this activity, because evaluating decisions is something that high schoolers don’t always do for themselves.  Literature, in my opinion, should not only provide entertainment, but should also help us learn how to be better people.  Throughout Romeo and Juliet there are people who make decisions without thinking, and there are serious consequences later.  Bad decision builds on bad decision.  If I can get high school students to evaluate decisions that fictional characters make, I feel like I’m taking a small step towards getting them to evaluate the decisions that they make themselves.

Individually for homework, they wrote a paragraph explaining what has been the best and worst decisions made by a character thus far in the book.

Today, my students participated in a school writing assessment.  On Monday, we’ll discuss a few of these decisions as a class before moving on to a scene full of bad decisions: 3.1.

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