A week or so ago, I began a project of giving stuff away. I’ve been teaching for mumble-mumble years now, and I’ve always tried to follow the lead of the mentors I had in my early days: a lesson shared is a lesson multiplied. When I share ideas, lesson plans, resources and so on at the school-level, I often find it works its way back to me in positive ways. People improve on the ideas I share and give them back, more polished, smarter or just plain different than they were when I gave them away.
Last time around, it was something new: a series of reading, writing, media and oral communication activities for Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother. Now I’m going in the opposite direction. Here linked is my booklet of somewhat differentiated instruction activities to accompany a class reading of Romeo and Juliet.
I should make a couple of things clear: First, I’m a read-aloud kind of guy, especially when it comes to drama. I don’t tell students at the end of class to go home and read act two. That’s useless in my view. It doesn’t get me what I want, which is for the kids to have a direct encounter with the poetry of the play. I know it’s difficult to read Shakespeare aloud, but I find it rewarding as well. My students feel a sense of accomplishment at the end, a sense of ownership of Romeo and Juliet. We read every single word aloud, and pause often to talk about the words. Before act two, scene two, I ask them to think about that famous line, “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” Most believe that wherefore means where, and I love to see their faces light up when they hear that it means “why.”
Second, I’m pretty demanding. All told, from pre-reading note-taking to post-reading essay-writing, I take five to six weeks for R&J, but even six weeks isn’t a lot of time to assign all of the activities herein, and read the entire play aloud, and watch two movie versions (as we read: read an act, watch an act — rinse, repeat). I often cut something here or there, and I have to keep making things as fresh as possible in the classroom to keep them with me. So, as I said over the Little Brother stuff, use as you like; discard as you don’t.
My only request is that you keep the attribution on the front page. I’ll be honest: part of my goal in all of this is altruistic, but another part is very self-serving. I have a book coming out in October 2013 from Flux(Backward Glass — available at Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and Chapters: feel totally free to pre-order) and I want to drive traffic to my (hopefully soon-to-be-spruced-up) website to generate sales and interest. So if you’re a teacher, and get some use out of my materials, please consider buying a copy of the novel for your classroom or asking your teacher-librarian to order a few for the school. If you really don’t want to keep that ugly attribution text-box on the front cover of this package, how about this? Buy a copy of the book, and you’re off the hook for the year. Get a kid to read it, and you’re good for life.
Oh, and a couple of other resources: I’ve put together a couple of Prezis that define some of the literary terms and poetic and dramatic devices referenced in the early part of the booklet. Please feel free to use those as well. I also have some content quizzes, but I’m not making those available here — not much point in a quiz if anyone can have it. If you’d like them, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, I have some games and activities for David Riley’s awesome platform-independent Triptico. Seriously, if you have an interactive whiteboard in your class (it doesn’t matter which type) Triptico is a simple way to liven up a class. Easy to use, and amazingly fun for the students; it’s like turning your classroom into a slick game show. I have files for that as well, and if you email me, I’ll send them to you.