Who is the Bard? And, Why Should We Read his Play, Romeo and Juliet?

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SWBAT demonstrate an understanding of background information for Shakespeare through using a powerpoint presentation and by answering comprehension questions. SWBAT cite specific evidence by reviewing drama terms, and closely reading the Prologue and other short passages from (Act 1, Scene 1 Romeo and Juliet) and demonstrate understanding by writing evidence based answers.

Big Idea

How to start the process of bringing "No Fear" to Shakespeare.

Unit Introduction

5 minutes

The students in my class have some background knowledge of Shakespeare, the play, Romeo and Juliet, and its resolution.  For this reason, I decided that it would be best only to study parts of  Romeo and Juliet in class, and focus specifically on the following elements which are important skills for students to learn and practice with for any text at all:

  • analyzing Shakespeare's use of figurative language and how it impacts the plot and characters (RL.9-10.4)
  • analyzing characters and how they advance the theme as required in standard RL.9-10.3

Thus, instead of focusing on plot, I can use the knowledge that my students already have of this text to advance their close reading and analysis skills by doing "deep dives" into the text. It should be a lot of fun! 


15 minutes

I begin this first lesson by checking for prior knowledge.  This is an adaptation of a KWL. I ask my students to work with academic learning partner and to write as many facts about William Shakespeare as they can.  I expect them to know a lot about Shakespeare given their prior exposure to this text. I then make a list of their facts on the white board as I ask partners to share with the class (SL.9-10.1).  After all the facts are shared, students write this information in their journals in order to retain it throughout the unit. We will  then compare their knowledge with facts learned from a power point presentation of Shakespeare life in the next section of this lesson.  

Building Knowledge

20 minutes

I begin this section of the lesson by passing out and projecting the Character Map each student will fill out as we read selections from the play.  I chose this character map because its focus is on the constellations of their families relationships versus character traits which many of them are familiar with. I want to clear up any confusion as to who belongs to which family and how they relate to each other RL.9-10.3.  I begin by writing in the names of the characters introduced in the Scene 1: The Prince, Capulets, Montagues, Benvolio, Romeo, and Tybalt and ask the students to do the same.  I explain that these characters are both dynamic and static.  I then review both types of characters by writing on a white board:

  • Static characters do not experience basic character changes during the course of the play.
  • Dynamic characters will experience changes throughout the play. 


Next, I want to introduce or re-acquaint my students to Shakespeare. There are many free downloadable power points online with regard to introducing Shakespeare to students that can be time saving resources for teachers. I usually design my own power points to match the specific learning objective and academic needs of my class.  But, for this lesson, I introduce a creative power point that I found online.  I chose this Power Point to give students additional background knowledge on William Shakespeare as well as review the elements of drama. Engaging in a power point discussion which visually presents the information I will expound on increases my students engagement and understanding. I also adapted the power point in several ways. First I eliminated sentences that I felt were giving to much information.  To add some fun and increase my students' engagement,  I cut and pasted some of my students photos into the power point presentation as well.  Students are asked to take notes in their journals as we move through the power point slides W.9-10.10.

For this lesson I stop on slide #22 and do a quick verbal summary of important facts covered in the power point.


Student Learning Activity: Analyzing Prolouge

10 minutes

I pass out a copy of No Fear Shakespeare that has both the modern and original text from the play.  No Fear Shakespeare puts Shakespeare's language side-by-side with a facing-page translation into modern English.  I believe that Shakespeare is meant to be seen rather then read but we will do a little of both in this unit.  Many of my students are struggling readers and would have additional difficulty reading the original Elizabethan text.  I make the play accessible to all my students I give them a choice of reading either.

To begin the play I read the Prologue and review its meaning with the class, paying particular attention to the figurative words Shakespeare uses  RL.9-10.4.  


I then ask students to listen and watch a BBC animated video (first 3 minutes) of Act 1 Scene 1 found on slide # 23 of the power point after which I facilitate a short discussion of setting, and characters. The purpose of having my students view this video is to re-acquaint them with the characters, plot, etc. of the text as we begin a deep-dive into the text in our next section of the lesson. 

Student Learning Activity

30 minutes

Next I pass out a Characters Read Chart and as I  put name tents on their desks assign character roles to students . Students record their role on their chart with the date. I have found this increases their engagement and accountability when reading a part out loud.

Because this demonstrates the emotional state of Romeo and establishes his friendship with Benvolio, I first facilitate a reading of the last interaction between Romeo and Benvolio (end of Scene 1) and discuss the translation of this quote as well as Shakespeare's use of figurative language referring to the original text:

R: What doth her beauty serve but as a note
Where I may read who passed that passing fair?
Farewell. Thou canst not teach me to forget.
B: I’ll pay that doctrine or else die in debt.

We then begin reading Act 2 and as students read, I pause at times to identify vocabulary words, referring to the original text for the use of figurative language, and character analysis asking students to take notes in their journals RL.9-10.3RL.9-10.4.

Wrap Up

10 minutes

Ticket to Leave:

To get a quick assessment of their learning I ask students verbally share biographical information on William Shakespeare, the Globe Theater and/or a character introduced in the play.  I use the Cold Call technique to randomly picked students to share information with the class.