Reading about Verona and Writing Letters to Juliet

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Objective

SWBAT analyze in detail how an author's ideas are developed and refined by particular sentences by reading a New York Times article and writing a response.

Big Idea

Dear Juliet, Let me tell you all my problems..

Getting Started

5 minutes

At the beginning of class, students will hand in their open responses, which they completed for homework.

Learning About Juliet's Secretaries

35 minutes

We read the balcony scene last class. We are going to pause in our reading of the play today to take a look at its legacy. We are going to read a New York Times article from 1993: Verona Journal; Dear Juliet: Let Me Tell You About My Problem. We will stop after each paragraph to annotate and ask questions. It's really important to give students this think time between paragraphs because it encourages active reading-- there's nothing worse than getting to the end of page and realizing you don't have a clue what you just read-- and a communal atmosphere. Students can learn from what other students think about the reading and from their questions.

 

Verona, Italy has become the real home of Juliet Capulet, and a balcony has been built in her honor. 2,000 letters are mailed to her every year, in which lovers ask for advice and seek solace in this worldwide symbol of love. A team of secretaries has taken up the cause and answers each of these letters. The article provides a glimpse into this world and shows that this play is not merely a mandatory text, but a source of hope for people around the world. It's really fun to see how different cultures perceive Juliet, the story, and themselves in relation to her (RI.9-10.7). There is even a movie "Letters to Juliet" about Juliet's secretaries and a particular (and fictional) love story.

 

Moreover, this article exposes students to a genre of writing, still foreign to them. They know of The New York Times, but not many freshmen have ever read a New York Times article. It's good for them to see that sophisticated language is expected in an educated society. As we read, we will use context clues to decipher such words as "lovelorn," "albeit," "endowed," "vexing," and "grim" (RI.9-10.4). But reading an article such as this isn't really just about learning individual words, but about appreciating a natural, yet mature writing style. So often students add unnecessary words or write in passive voice because they think they "sound smart;" reading articles that are smart may help them understand what smart actually sounds like (RI.9-10.5). For instance, the following sentences are relatively simple and straightforward, yet also mature: "At first, various Veronese took it upon themselves to answer the mail. Then, a couple of years ago, Mr. Tamassia conceived the idea of the Club of Juliet, and enlisted students from the university here to help with translation and replies." We will discuss the verb "conceived" and its power in this context.

A Letter to Juliet

20 minutes

Once we have read the article, we too will write a letter to Juliet (W.9-10.4). They can write about anything: love in general, a personal love problem, Juliet's relationship. They can write as if Juliet is a friend, a mentor, or someone that needs help themselves. They can even write to Romeo, if they prefer. The only stipulation on this assignment is that they have to write to a particular audience: Romeo or Juliet.

 

This activity is meant to give students perspective. Romeo and Juliet is not merely a freshmen text mandated by the school board of Waltham High School; it is a story that people around the world connect to and use as guidance. 

 

Take a look at some of the responses. Please note that although several students wrote personal responses, I have only included those about the play, out of respect for their privacy.

Wrapping Up

5 minutes

In the last few minutes of class, I will ask if anyone is willing to share his or her letter with the class. I suspect that few will volunteer, but it will be nice to even hear one or two before we conclude for the day (SL.9-10.1).