Introducing Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Age

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SWBAT begin to develop an historical context for their study of Shakespeare's most famous play, Romeo and Juliet

Big Idea

Building background helps students to understand Shakespeare's time.

Teacher-led Intro of Elizabethan England

15 minutes

This is the very first lesson in our Romeo and Juliet unit.  Most of my students have not read any Shakespeare.  A few were exposed to The Tempest in sixth grade, but -- for most -- this is their first experience reading a full-length work that is over one hundred years old.

One of the challenges in teaching Shakespeare to younger audiences is knowing how much background they need.  I took a class led by the Folger Theatre that really emphasized setting Shakespeare "free"so that students could enjoy the plays and the language.  While I agree with that sentiment, I have found that students really miss a lot in the plays when they have no historical context.  At 13, their perspective on history is pretty patchy, and most have only glossed over British history (with a concentration on Britain's direct connection to the foundations of America.)

So, I tried to provide a little bit of information about the influence of Queen Elizabeth and the Tudors.  Perhaps more importantly, when I review the glogster, I want students to use the correct terminology when referring to the "ages."  This will help them later in the unit when they are doing research on aspects of Elizabethan society.  

This section of the lesson is a modified lecture, with me navigating the page and filling in information, as needed.

R&J Daily Grammar Practice

10 minutes

This is a new feature that I am using as a transitional element between activities.  Since my students have not had formal grammar instruction for the past eight years (more like the last four or so, due to multiple changes in grammar "attitudes" and "approaches" at the county level,) they are not all ready to tackle verbals, verb moods, etc. without regular reinforcement of the simpler aspects of grammar.

So, I am using parts of a commercial grammar program called Caught Ya.  The high school edition, luckily enough, is based on Romeo and Juliet, so it makes sense to start it now.  

Due to copyright concerns, I will not post the daily activities.  However, the basic idea is that students are faced with a sentence or two that needs correction.  They make the corrections and we discuss their choices. It's a very simple and effective program that I have used (in various forms) for my entire teaching career.

I suspect that we will use Caught Ya for a while and then move on to something else, but the program can be used for an entire year of instruction.

Shakespeare Jigsaw

40 minutes

There are five readings that I selected from the fabulous Shakespeare Resource Center for students to read.  I decided that we would read the biography, "Who was William Shakespeare?" together.  Then, I assigned them each a letter, A, B, C or D.  Each student read his or her assigned section. (Reading Packet in Resources.)  I encouraged the students to select five KEY pieces of information that they think are most important in their reading assignments.

After all students read, they met with their "expert" groups to review their information and compare "key" notes.  Then, groups representing each reading formed and taught each other the information from their assigned reading (relying heavily on their "key" notes.)

This ran like a traditional jigsaw, but with one added twist: the group who scores highest on tomorrow's mini quiz will win an extra credit point. (So, there was a little extra incentive to pay attention and make smart choices.)