Do I Hit or Stay on 21?

My class is starting to dig in to Romeo & Juliet. I’m trying to utilize chunking of time for this unit. I’ve been changing focus every 10-15 minutes with this group. We’ll go over some questions and talk about the text then read for a few lines. We’ll question language use and intent while trying to relate to the modern world. I try to also have a creation or hands on activity, so they can work together with the text. I don’t want to overload them too much with the language.

Yesterday we had a little art time with Shakespeare. I know for some of them the activity may have seemed silly, but I’ve always been a big fan of visualizing what you’re reading. We looked at Mercutio’s Queen Mab soliloquy, and discussed how he gets carried away with the imagery. Instead of trying to decipher all the metaphors, I asked them to take a line that stood out and turn it into a visual like you’d see in a newspaper comic. I did this with Macbeth last year and was really pleased with how it worked. I didn’t want them to over-analyze and draw what they thought Shakespeare meant, but I wanted them to exist in that moment with the image. It simply could be the line as written as long as they showed that they were somewhat invested in it. In the end, they created some wonderful images of hazelnut carriages and agate sized fairies.

When the students simply read the text, some of the words get lost in the ether of confusion, but I hope creating something from the words allowed them to see something. If there was all the time in the world or a shorter text, we could create our own illustrated flip book of every line. Actually, maybe that’s something to investigate. There has been a bit of a debate in our department over why we look at an entire Shakespeare text. We could just focus on a few key scenes, and let the students interact with it as much as they can, so they can actually develop those transliteration skills. I know that great inquiry schools are probably already doing this, but we’re still learning at my school, and it takes a few baby steps to figure out some of our own shortcomings.

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