We are going to have a Romeo and Juliet test in a few days. Today, we are going to review for the test. So often students tell me that they don't know how to study for English tests, saying if I've read it, isn't that enough? My response varies; for some students, reading closely is "enough" to earn a high grade, but it's not for other students. They need to review characters, plot, theme, etc. But before a Romeo and Juliet test, I tell all students that simply reading isn't "enough," no matter what kind of reader or student you are because this play is complex and we need to review in order to fully understand. In other words, the first reading isn't enough; this play deserves review time.
The test consists of three sections: literary term analysis, quote identification and an explanation of its significance, and short answers. None of the questions are purely plot questions. Instead, students need to use what they know about the plot and characters to say more. They need to think about theme, characterization, and purpose.
While today's class will help them review for the test in the short term, I hope that it helps them understand the play more fully in the long term. We are only at the half point in our reading. A successful class today could deepen the way that we read the second half of the play. I will keep this thought to myself for the moment. I will focus our attention at the beginning of class on the test itself and the best ways to prepare for it, since that is where student focus will be.
My students are well-versed in literary devices. They have a section in their notebook where they keep a running list of the terms, definitions, and-- if they are thorough-- examples of each. But I sometimes compare their understand of literary devices as "finding the toaster in the tree." I remind them of being a little child, waiting at the doctor or dentist's office, and picking up a copy of Highlights Magazine. When they were little, it was a challenge to find the toaster hiding in the tree, but now, at age 15, it is time to move on. It isn't enough to simply point to the literary device; they need to understand why it's there and what it does for the writing (L.9-10.5).
We will discuss each of the following, first on a basic level-- definition-- but then we will start asking about how each can affect writing (RL.9-10.4):
Students should come to class ready for this discussion, meaning they should have a list of these words and they should have found examples. During our reading, we have discussed most, usually pausing to take notes on the effectiveness, even if I didn't use that word precisely. For instance, we talked in detail about Romeo's stream of oxymorons, used to describe how confusing love can be: he is happy to be in love, but desperately sad that his love is not returned.
Time for a little competition! Students will gather in groups of three or four and each group will receive the same passage from the play at the same time. Their mission is to write as much about the quote as possible (RL.9-10.1); they can start with plot, but they should also consider literary devices and their effectiveness (RL.9-10.4), character development (RL.9-10.3), and theme (RL.9-10.2). The group that has the most to say about the passage wins this round. Before moving to the next passage, we will discuss which details would be useful on the test. For instance, the test question asks students to "explain the significance of the quote," not describe the plot. This conversation will help students determine plot-based answers from answers that reveal deeper understanding (SL.9-10.1). Take a look at this example.
I have attached this document that contains all the passages I might go over with the class, but we certainly won't have time to go over all of them this hour. I will try to decide which ones will help them the most.
I will leave the last few minutes of class for last minute questions about the test. I will also remind students what is on the test and remind them that it is important to review their notes.