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LEARNING ROMEO AND JULIET THROUGH MUSIC AND FILM

Introduction

While many of these lessons may be adapted to accommodate other grades, course requirements or texts, the following lessons were designed for a grade 10 academic English classroom studying Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  The lessons meet Ontario Ministry Curriculum Mandates promoting oral communication, reading, writing, and media literacy skills. There are four lesson plans included here and a set of culminating activities, with attachments saved at the bottom of the page.  Please note the lesson plans are not comprehensive but are meant to add to an already existing study of Romeo and Juliet.

LESSON 1: THE PROLOGUE AND MUSIC

Goals and Objectives

The goal of this lesson is simple – to get students comfortable with the language of the play and to consider some of the themes with the prologue introduces.  This can be done at the beginning of the unit or can be returned to later on.  Music is used in an introductory way to explore topics and so that students can apply their knowledge of the issues in the play intertextually. 

Instructions

Reading the Prologue for Clarity:  Distribute the prologue on handouts or texts.  Have the class sit in a large circle and read the prologue aloud in unison. Discuss and define any words the students do not recognize.  Clarify pronunciation for any word. 

2nd reading: Going around the circle, have each student read one word. 

3rd reading : Have the students read the same way, one word per person, but ask them to speed up the reading as if the words were all spoken by one voice. 

 (Many variations of readings are applicable – students can tap and stomp on the unstressed/stressed rhythm of the iambic pentameter) or change directions on the final word before each full stop.

Reading the Prologue for themes/analysis:

Discuss the story that the prologue tells.  Discuss key phrases and ideas.

4th reading : Return to the choral reading, with the class reading aloud in unison but add music.  These two songs might be useful to compare/contrast from Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet:

1) “Liebestod” (from Tristan und Isolde), which is used in Luhrmann’s death scene   AND

(2) “Whatever (I Had a Dream)" - Butthole Surfers*

 *Educators should note there is profanity in “Whatever” and if used, the opportunity should be taken to discuss this with the class beforehand, or find an alternative radio edit version if in existence.  Alternatively, the song can be stopped before the use of such words and students will still have a good understanding of the song.  These songs are suggested because they are fairly easy to locate, they will come up again when studying Luhrmann’s film and the contrasting style offers the potential for an interesting reading on how music can affect the viewing/understanding of the scene.  

Discuss the differences that each song adds to the prologue.  Which one is preferred by the class and why?  Does one express the mood of the prologue better, which?  For example, is the Liebestod better at creating a tragic mood to the prologue?  What is it about the songs, the lyrics (or lack of), beat,  instrumentals or singers that the students think are applicable to the Act.

(If used as an introductory lesson, this may be an appropriate time to discuss why Romeo and Juliet is still relevant to youth today, with love, unrequited love, resisting authority and parental control, gangs, etc.  Students can reflect on how the music they listen to, the films/television shows they watch, comic books they read, etc. contain similar ideas.)

Show the Prologue in the Luhrmann film.  Discuss the effects of setting, camera shots, lighting, imagery, sounds and music. 

Conclusion:

Students write down one song (or artist, or genre) which, if they were directing Romeo and Juliet they would have performing as the prologue was read.  Have them discuss briefly why they chose that song (i.e. lyrics, beat, artist, etc). 

Materials Needed

  • Luhrmann's film Romeo + Juliet, cued to the prologue.
  • 2 songs to compare/contrast the effect of the song on the mood of the prologue
  • Copies of the prologue for students

Assessment:

  • Did the students’ fluency and comprehension increase with the repetition of the readings?
  • Did the students become comfortable with the themes expressed in the prologue?
  • Did the students apply this knowledge to the themes expressed in songs?

Category

Description

Inclusion in Lesson

Knowledge and Understanding

1. Knowledge of facts and terms

2. Understanding of concepts, principles and theories

3. Understanding of relationships among concepts, principles, and theories

1. Students become familiar with the language used in the play and build upon their knowledge of the themes in the play.

2. Students learn about the role of the prologue in plays.

Thinking and Inquiry

1. Critical and creative thinking skills

 

1. This lesson is designed for students to become critical thinkers by practicing their analytic and creative thinking skills. The section “Reading the Prologue for themes/analysis” specifically asks students to infer and think critically about the media.

 

Communication

1. Communication of information and ideas

2. Use of language, symbols and visuals

3. Communication for different audiences and purposes

4. Use of various forms of communication

1. Class discussions develop oral skills, expressing ideas in front of peers and teachers

2. The variations of choral readings are an attempt to make the texts more approachable

- It also provides an opportunity for student-centred learning

3. Students practice speaking the language of the play

4. The concluding activity allows students to practice writing and explanation of their ideas.

Application

1. Application of ideas and skills in familiar contexts

2. Transfer of concepts, skills and procedures to new contexts

3. Making connections

1. The concluding activity is designed to introduce Shakespeare’s texts with media examples that are relevant to students’ lives.

2. Media literacy is an important component as students analyze, evaluate and are critical about the text as well as songs and other  media.


LESSON 2: DREAMS AND QUEEN MAB

Goals and Objectives

This lesson about Act 1, Scene 4 focuses on Romeo’s mention of dreams and Mercutio’s speech on the fairy Queen Mab comparing films, using close study and class discussion.

Instructions

Have students read 1.4 before class or at the beginning of class. Discuss the scene with the class. 

Questions to consider:

  • What is the role of this scene?
  • What does it reveal about Mercutio? About Romeo?
  • What are the connections between Romeo’s belief in dreams and fate?
  • What does this scene foreshadow?
  • According to Mercutio, what dreams does Mab deliver to the following persons: lovers, lawyers, soldiers?

Have students sketch a picture of Queen Mab and label the diagram using lines from the text.

Film Comparison:   Queen Mab and Dreams

Show the excerpt of the Zeffirelli movie and the Luhrmann movie of Romeo and Juliet. 

Have students compare the films on a graphic organizer : See handout 1 (attached).

Students should take note of the director’s decisions in setting, lighting, staging, music and sound effects, costumes and props and overall comments.

The middle of the diagram is a space for students to connect the similarities between the two films.

Group discussion:

Ask students to get into a group of 4 and share one or two points from their diagram.  Students should put an asterisk beside an idea that one or more members have on their sheet. 

After sharing their ideas, members of the group can exchange ideas to help fill out their chart. 

Class Discussion:

Ask each group to share one point (perhaps an idea that has an asterisk beside it)

What are the main differences of the two scenes?

Which film most closely resembles your idea of Queen Mab in the illustration?

Why is it that we are never shown an image of Queen Mab in either film?

What are the similarities with each of the Romeos presented?  With each of the Mercutios?

Extension:

Perhaps another scene which you may want to do a similar filmic comparison is the famous balcony scene, Act 2 scene 2. 

Possible films to view:

·         1936 MGM production, George Cukor dir.

·         1969, Franco Zeffirelli dir.

·         1996, Romeo + Juliet, Baz Luhrmann dir.

Materials Needed

  • Zefferelli and Luhrmann's film
  • Handout 1

Assessment:

  • Act 1.4 is a difficult scene. Students should have a better understanding about the language used in this scene, the meaning of the scene and its role in the play.
  • How insightful were student contributions during class discussion?
  • Were students engaged with the film clips?

Category

Description

Inclusion in Lesson

Knowledge and Understanding

1. Knowledge of facts and terms

2. Understanding of concepts, principles and theories

3. Understanding of relationships among concepts, principles, and theories

1. Students practice a close reading of a particular scene of the play, considering language, literary terminology, concepts and ideas

2. Students gain knowledge about production tools in media

Thinking and Inquiry

1. Critical and creative thinking skills

2. Research and inquiry skills

1. This lesson is designed for students to become critical thinkers by practicing their analytic and creative thinking skills. The body of the lesson and the activity specifically ask students to infer and think critically about the films and the connections to the play.

Communication

1. Communication of information and ideas

2. Use of language, symbols and visuals

3. Communication for different audiences and purposes

4. Use of various forms of communication

1. Class discussions develop oral skills, expressing ideas in front of peers and teachers

2. The small group discussion allows students to collaborate and communicate ideas, and provides an opportunity for student-centred learning.

3. Students will also understand the communicated messages (both visually and textually) within the

films.

4. The lesson allows for both oral communication amongst the groups as well as written communication while they formulate their ideas in chart format.

5. After doing a close reading of the Queen Mab lines, students sketch an image of the fairy and label it with lines of the play.

Application

1. Application of ideas and skills in familiar contexts

2. Transfer of concepts, skills and procedures to new contexts

3. Making connections

1. Students become familiar with media production decisions, including lighting, music, staging, etc.

2. Students critically read the films for ideological considerations

 

LESSON 3: USING SONGS FOR A MID-PLAY REVIEW

Goal and Objectives

This assignment is useful for the class to begin to develop a repertoire of songs which can be used later in the final culminating activity. 

Note: This lesson is effective if used as a review of the play’s themes midpoint (I suggest Act II, scene 5 but this is not significant) as well as a discussion about what is to come in the remainder of the play.

Instructions

Brainstorm as a class the themes in the play as discussed so far:

Students may need prompting, but should be familiar with the play enough to this point to create a fair sized list. Remember to encourage students that brainstorming is a creative process where all ideas are welcome.

Be sure to keep track of all ideas on the board, overhead or other visual method.  Encourage students to make connections with similar items on the list.

It might also be helpful to help students make connections to other literature that they have studied this semester:


After a brief discussion of themes, work through a song which develops several of these themes.  It may be useful to bring in the audio/have the lyrics on a handout for students to follow along. (Please see handout 2: for songs organized by themes).

 

Activity:

Ask students to bring to class a song which explores at least two or three of the themes. Some students may be comfortable with this, while others may require some time on the internet researching.  Educators may also want to provide a list of songs which are used in Luhrmann’s film Romeo + Juliet for students to consider for this assignment.  Working with a partner, students are to provide the lyrics for the class (on overhead, chart paper, handout, course website, etc) and to briefly discuss specific lines in the song that demonstrate the theme.

 Please note:  It is likely that some of the songs will have content/words which may or may not be welcome in your classroom, it is recommended to address this issue before hand to avoid surprises.

(By showing the connection between a selected theme and specific lines in the song they engage in critical thinking in much the same way they will when using quoted passages to support their assertions in academic writing about the literature studied.) 

It may be useful for the educator to keep a list of the songs students find and discuss and possibly display in the class.

Materials Needed

  • Time on the computer may be required for researching songs

Assessment

  • Did the review/look ahead of the themes help to clarify the play thus far?
  • How comfortable were students in discussing the themes of the play?
  • Were students able to locate song lyrics that develop some of the themes discussed in the brainstorming session?
  • How comfortable were the students locating a line or two of the song in relation to the play?


Category

Description

Inclusion in Lesson

Knowledge and Understanding

1. Knowledge of facts and terms

2. Understanding of concepts, principles and theories

3. Understanding of relationships among concepts, principles, and theories

1. Students brainstorm and build upon their pre-existing knowledge of the themes and key concepts of the play.

2. The concluding discussion questions further enhance the concepts, by exploring the relationships further. These questions ask students to make predictions about the future and explore the relationship between other concepts and theories.

Thinking and Inquiry

1. Critical and creative thinking skills

2. Research and inquiry skills

1. This lesson is designed for students to become critical thinkers by practicing their analytic and creative thinking skills. The body of the lesson and the activity specifically ask students to infer and think critically about the media.

2. The song activity also provides students with an opportunity to practice research skills by finding, sorting and evaluating information that they gather based on a topic discussed in class.

Communication

1. Communication of information and ideas

2. Use of language, symbols and visuals

3. Communication for different audiences and purposes

4. Use of various forms of communication

1. Class discussions develop oral skills, expressing ideas in front of peers and teachers

2. The song activity in pairs allows students to collaborate and communicate ideas, and provides an opportunity for student-centred learning.

3. Students will also understand the communicated messages (both visually and textually) within the advertisements.

4. The song activity allows for both oral communication amongst the pairs and class

Application

1. Application of ideas and skills in familiar contexts

2. Transfer of concepts, skills and procedures to new contexts

3. Making connections

1. Students are fairly media savvy already, and thus this lesson asks them to analyze familiar texts

- The song activity encourages students to see the themes of Shakespeare’s plays as relevant to contemporary culture and also encourages students to analyze texts that are important to them



LESSON 4: STUDENT PRODUCTION OF THE BRAWL

Goals and Objectives

This lesson is adapted from Shakespeare Set Free.  The goal is to encourage students to think about themselves as cultural producers (creating, editing, and performing Shakespeare’s texts) in relation to Act 3, Scene 1. 

Instructions

Introduction:  Ready to show off your acting skills?

Ask for a volunteer to help you act out a scene in a tableaux vivant (living picture).  In tableaux vivants, the actor arranges themselves in a tableau (frozen stature) comes to life speaks a line and changes position. 

Example :  After waiting in line all day for concert tickets with a friend you receive wrist bands which push you both to the front of the line. As a result, you and friend sit front row at the concert. 

Example Tableau :

1.        Arrange yourself in a position of looking at your watch and freeze.  Wait one second. Come to life and say, “we’ve been waiting in the cold for almost 6 hours”.

2.        Assume a new position of being on the telephone. Freeze. Come to life and say, “Hello? Is this the radio station I’m calling for tickets to see the concert”.

3.       Assume a new position – dancing/jumping in the air. Come to life and say, “I can’t believe we won front row tickets!”

 

Discuss the example with the class.  What worked/what didn’t work?  How would you change it if you had multiple people in the tableau? 

Read through Act 3, scene 1 as a class.  Discuss the plot and unfamiliar phrases or words. 

Discuss the method of doing tableaux.  This might be a good opportunity to explain that when we watch the films of Romeo and Juliet, the director and the screen writer must cuts lines from the play otherwise it would be too long.  Ask students to consider what kinds of lines directors include in movies (i.e. lines that reveal plot or character’s feelings, lines which might predict what is coming up next, etc.).

Also, encourage students to disregard the sex of the character they are playing (i.e. a male student does not need to read a line by a male character in the play).  Remind students that all of Shakespeare’s actors were men, and the ability to act as another person (male or female, old or young) is an important skill to learn.  Students may have questions about these ideas, especially in regards to a love scene acted out by two men, therefore it is recommended to be prepared to have a discussion about the heterosexual romantic ideologies in Romeo and Juliet and encourage a critical reading of these ideologies.

Address any other questions or concerns the students have.

 

Day 1:  Students get into groups and discuss their section.  What happens?  What is important in terms of plot?  Is there any language that they need to look up?  You may also want to show a film version of Act 3.1 for students to further familiarize themselves with the scene. 

Groups should choose lines from their section that they feel are important.  It may be beneficial to make photocopies of the text for students to highlight/write on/draw as required.

Groups should also discuss who will say what line.  Everyone should have at least one speaking part.

Day 2:  Students practice a run-through of their lines.  Create action for each line.  Groups decide on a song which will be used in the background of their tableaux.

(Handout 3: Should be filled out by today.)

Day 3: Students have an opportunity to practice, cue their music and present their tableaux.

 N.b: You may also want to come prepared with lines from each scene which you feel would be effective in a tableau.

Group breakdown:

  • Group 1: 3.1 1-35  Benvolio and Mercutio say they should get off the street and avoid the Capulets, but they don’t.

  • Group 2: 3.1  36-86  Benvolio and Mercutio encounter Tybalt and the Capulets. Romeo tries to be friendly, but Tybalt challenges him.  Mercutio draws on Tybalt. Romeo tries to break them up, but they fight.

  • Group 3:  3.1  87-120  Romeo steps between Tybalt and Mercutio as they fight.  Tybalt wounds Mercutio by running his sword under Romeo’s arm.

  • Group 4:  3.1  121-143  Benvolio reports Mercutio’s death.  Romeo vows revenge, slays Tybalt, and then flees.

  • Group 5 : 3.1  144-207  Citizens of Verona summon the prince, who banishes Romeo.

Materials Needed

  • Photocopies of scene for students to write on and keep
  • Handout 3

Assessment:

  • The tableaux worksheets can be collected prior to the performances to make sure groups are on the right track and to evaluate if you need to spend more time assisting.

  • In order to evaluate the process of this assignment, tableaux worksheets can be marked.

  • How are the groups working together?

  • Did the groups identify key lines from each passage?

  • Were the tableaux organized, interesting, creative, relevant?

  • Were the songs discussed in a way to help facilitate discussion of the tableaux?

Category

Description

Inclusion in Lesson

Knowledge and Understanding

1. Knowledge of facts and terms

2. Understanding of concepts, principles and theories

3. Understanding of relationships among concepts, principles, and theories

1. Students learn about a theatrical method : Tableaux Vivants.

2. Knowledge of language used in the scene

3. Students practice strategies for reading, writing and (re)presenting

Thinking and Inquiry

1. Critical and creative thinking skills

2. Research and inquiry skills

1. This lesson encourages students to become performers of cultural work.  Students generate and organize ideas about the adapted text, infer,  interpret and analyze the play.

2. Using a song in the tableaux provides students with an opportunity to practice research skills by finding, sorting and evaluating media which they determine relevant to their scenes.

Communication

1. Communication of information and ideas

2. Use of language, symbols and visuals

3. Communication for different audiences and purposes

4. Use of various forms of communication

1. Class discussions and performances develop oral skills, expressing ideas in front of peers and teachers

2. The group work allows students to collaborate and communicate ideas, and provides an opportunity for student-centred learning.

3. Students learn and practice different modes of expression including oral, written, theatrical (through movement) and media production.

4. Students also have the opportunity to reflect on their peer’s performances, practicing listening skills and provide feedback.

Application

1. Application of ideas and skills in familiar contexts

2. Transfer of concepts, skills and procedures to new contexts

3. Making connections

1. Students apply their knowledge of the play, make connections to what they feel is relevant and present that information to their peers. 

2. Using a contemporary song in the tableaux to enhance their scenes encourages students to see applications to Shakespeare’s works to contemporary culture

3. Comparing their tableaux with the film adaptations encourages students to view their work as cultural producers, and to think critically and be able to deconstruct films.

 CULMINATING ACTIVITIES

A)     Staging a scene.

Pretend you are the film director for an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.  Choose one scene and write about how you would direct that scene. 

 1.      What happens in your scene? Outline the basic events.

2.      What are the key purposes of your scene?

3.      What is the setting? ( Is it modern/futuristic/historical? Where does it take place (Canada, England, Space?))

4.      What are the costumes like? 

5.      Are you going to cut lines or have the actors speak every line in Shakespeare’s play?

6.      What music will you use?

  

B)    Album Cover Design 

Design an album cover for a music single which reflects one of the themes discussed in Romeo and Juliet. 

You may draw or sketch original art, use computer graphics or images from the internet.  Designs, colours and fonts should reflect the tone and mood of the song you choose and the scene to which the song is relevant. 

 Required Elements:

Be sure to include the following on your album cover:

  • the name of the song
  •  the singer/artist’s name
  • consistent text and graphics that are relevant to the mood of the song and the play

Write a reflection about your album cover.

1.      Which scene(s) of the play is the song relevant?  Why did you choose that song? Which characters would identify with the message in the song?

2.      Explain the design of your album cover.  What do the images/text/colours/fonts represent?

 See Handout 4 - for a sample rubric for evaluation


C)    Music Video

Film a music video for a song discussed in class in relation to Romeo and Juliet. 

You may either a) film a video using a camera or (b) create an edited montage of images

Be sure that the song is audible in either video format.

Write a reflection about your video.

1.      Which scene(s) of the play is the song relevant?  Why did you choose that song? Which characters would identify with the message in the song?

2.      Explain your video.  Who or what is in your video and why?

 

D)    Romeo and Juliet on Facebook / Myspace

Using a Wiki or a blog, mimic the interaction between two characters from Romeo and Juliet as though they were communicating via Myspace or Facebook.

The two characters can engage in status updates and wall conversations that you write.  You can add photographs and videos to make the profiles seem more realistic. For example, Paris might post a music video of a love song that makes him think of Juliet.

Write a reflection of the profile that you create. 


ĉ
Jennifer Schamehorn,
Apr 4, 2010, 5:00 PM
ĉ
Jennifer Schamehorn,
Apr 4, 2010, 5:00 PM
ĉ
Jennifer Schamehorn,
Apr 4, 2010, 5:02 PM
ĉ
Jennifer Schamehorn,
Apr 4, 2010, 5:01 PM
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