Unit approach: Romeo and Juliet (comparative study)

17 Apr

I teach the second Year 9 English class.  This class is quite capable and have been relatively compliant in embracing what happens in class.  However, they do not, they inform me, like Shakespeare.

This is a problem as the study of a Shakespearean play is compulsory in year 9, and  because I love Shakespeare’s plays and struggle to understand how students do not get as excited as I do.

Given the reticence to delve into a Shakespearean play, I think I am going to run this unit with a comparative focus.

First, I will introduce students to the general themes of R&J, perhaps by using a variation of the Melbourne High School starter activities.

Then, I will introduce them to the general story line  of the play.  I will begin this section with an activity that gets students to extrapolate information about the play from the prologue.  Based on this information, students will make inferences about how action might unfold in the play.  Time permitting, I might also ask students to listen to the first 27 seconds of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ by Poetry’n’motion, getting students to practice their comparison skills be noting similarities and differences between the prologues.  This could also function to kick start discussion on appropriation and adaptation.

I will also show them a summary version of the play, either in YouTube format or graphic novel format.  I may also get the students to act out the general story line, stepping into the circle, acting out roles and then pausing in a living portrait that can be photographed and used later to reconstruct the narrative.   Time permitting, I might have students listen to Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Story’, once again noting similarities and differences.  This could hone students’ understanding of appropriation and adaptation.  We could then view this response from an English teacher – this teacher aims to correct inaccuracies in Taylor Swift’s version.

Next I will explain to students that we will not be studying the whole play.  Instead, we will be dipping into the text, analysing how Shakespeare constructs key moments and then comparing and contrasting this representation with later appropriations and adaptations.

At the moment, I am planning on focusing on only three or four sections of the play.  One of these sections will be the balcony scene.  The other sections are currently undecided.

I think I will start with a comparison of the balcony scene in the play and the balcony scene in the Zeffirelli version.  I would also like to look at the balcony scenes in the 2010 RSC versionGnomeo & Juliet, and West Side Story.  We will not be able to cover all of these as a class.  Perhaps some can be explored in small groups and others as extension tasks.

The aim would be to have students write comparative paired paragraphs analysing similarities and differences, with a view to ultimately composing a comparative essay.

This approach would be repeated for the other focus sections.

At the end of the unit, students will have an opportunity to pick one of the focus scenes and create their own adaptation.  They will have opportunities to film and edit.


3 Responses to “Unit approach: Romeo and Juliet (comparative study)”


  1. Unit approach: Romeo and Juliet (scene study) | Once uPUN a time... - April 19, 2014

    […] have written previously about a comparative study approach for Romeo & Juliet.  Indeed, it is that approach that I […]

  2. Video summaries of Shakespeare’s plays | Once uPUN a time... - April 23, 2014

    […] and Juliet (Year 9  – comparative study/scene […]

  3. “Out damned spot!” | Once uPUN a time... - April 28, 2014

    […] skills and learn to write paired paragraphs and a comparative essay (this is also a focus in my Year 9 Romeo and Juliet unit), I want to give them the opportunity to examine how key scenes are represented in different […]

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