Defining Motifs

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SWBAT understand and find evidence for some major motifs in Romeo and Juliet.

Big Idea

Symbols --> Motif -->Theme -->Author’s Purpose

Latin Roots Study: Liter, Lumin

5 minutes

Almost every day, we begin class with a Latin roots warm up.  It's very simple; I give the students two Latin roots, they brainstorm a list of words that contain the roots.  Then, we use the list of words to try to figure out what the roots mean.  

The daily warm up leads up to some practice with the twelve roots we have studied over six days, along with some (more advanced) vocabulary words that contain the roots.  

The students choose from two sets of words -- one is more advanced than the other, but I do allow the students to pick.

Finally, after looking up the words, using them in sentences, and studying the roots some more, the students take a test on the roots and words.

The roots come from this series.  The tests, etc.  I write myself.

R&J-Themed Grammar Practice

10 minutes

At this point in the year, I am using daily Caught Ya's to reinforce grammar and conventions. The students go up to the SmartBoard and make corrections, and then we discuss their choices. This is a very quick activity, and this particular Caught Ya follows a story line that is based on Romeo and Juliet.

Reading Act II Prologue, Act II Scene 2

15 minutes

Today's text analysis is very brief.  Essentially, the students and I walked through the Prologue to Act II together.  In this video, I explain the Chorus' version of events, but in class, we constructed this understanding together, line by line.

This was just an informal way to unpack the text together.  It's important for students to see us modeling the practice of close reading in an informal way, not just as a "special" activity.

Finding Motifs

30 minutes

Today’s lesson was all about motifs in Romeo and Juliet.

Though we have discussed symbols earlier this year, this was the first time that I have ventured into motifs.   “Motif” refers to a collection of symbols that are repeated throughout a piece of literature.

Symbols -- Motif -- Theme -- Author’s Purpose

Since we have just finished Act II, Scene 2 (the balcony scene), it seemed like a good time to draw students’ attention to the repetition of references to:

a)      Celestial bodies

b)      Nature

c)       Light and Dark

d)      Dreams and Visions

It is my plan to make students “experts” about their assigned motif, since they will have to trace that motif throughout the play.  I have chosen to chart “dreams and visions” myself, so the students receive A, B, or C.

Today’s assignment was to find five references to your assigned motif.

The students, once they located the reference, had to summarize the meaning of the line(s), excerpt the quote with the reference in it, and cite the act, scene, and lines.


Example (for Dreams and Visions)

Act I, Scene 4

Summary: Romeo has a premonition that something bad is going to happen.

Quote: “I feel too early for my mind misgives/Some consequence yet hanging in the stars…By some vile forfeit of untimely death.”  Lines 106-114


The next step is to figure out what the motifs MEAN.  The reason why I am approaching the lesson this way is that there is just so much information online about the play.  I want the students to construct their own meaning, and by approaching it this way, I can at least ensure that TODAY they thought about it on their own, with no outside help or sources.

Why do I care if they google the motifs?  I am trying to teach the thinking process, the “detective” aspect of literary analysis.  It’s really hard to do this, when there are so many “answers” that are available at the touch of a button.