Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Nerdy Teacher's Epic Romeo and Juliet Unit Idea

I have this idea for a unit on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It would involve all 3 sections of my Freshmen English Students (Grade 9). That would be around 80-90 students. By dividing the play into thirds, each class would be responsible for putting on their piece of the play by the end of the semester. Using Web 2.0 tools and class time, students would be working within the class and with the other classes to create 1 performance. This idea is still in its infancy stages, so there is still plenty of stuff to work out, but I'm really excited about where this lesson could go. Please take a look at my ideas for the different parts of the play and let me know your thoughts.

Acting - I will have about 90 students in my 3 classes. Not everyone will be able to, or even want to, act. I will divide the play into thirds and students can audition for the various parts per class. This way kids that want to act will be able to act. We have a great Drama and Show Choir group at my high school, so there will be plenty of students that will want to have a role. By dividing the play into thirds, the classes will  be able to work together in their class without having to worry about meeting with other students in different hours. These students will do research by watching other versions of the play and researching the historical basis of the characters. This will allow them to have a sense of the history of these type of characters and it will provide them a better understanding of what Shakespeare wanted to see performed on the stage.

Directing - I'm not sure about this one. If I don't have a student do it, I would have to. I don't mind doing it, but I would like the students to have as much ownership of the entire play as possible. I would provide guidance to the student director, but I would allow them to run the show. This is something I would need to give more consideration.

Script Writing - (Maybe) I'm considering allowing students to take the play and adapt it or update it. I will be doing this lesson at the end of the year, so I will have a good idea on who the best and strongest writers are. This would allow these students to have a role in the project they could excel yet. This would be tough to do because of dividing the play into three parts, but a Google Doc or other collaborative sites could make this easier.

Costumes - There are always students who want to design costumes. This would be a great chance for students to design and put together costumes for their 1/3 of the play. Depending on whether there is an adaptation of the play or not, students could do research and present rationales as to why they dressed the actors in certain ways. This allows those artistic students a chance to express their understanding of characters and the roles they play in the story.

Set/Prop Design - Designing a set is not an easy task, but broken into thirds will allow students the room to be creative and manage their time. The really hands-on students will have a chance to design and construct a set for the play. They will need to explain how they built the set and the reasons they chose to include or exclude props.

Advertising -I'm really excited about this part of the project. This will really allow those students with various talents to shine. I would love to see students create a blog updating the progress of the actors, the set, the script, etc. A twitter account designed to creat interest in the play. Posters, fliers, websites, etc would be created by the students to help promote the production. The sky is the limit for this part of the production. This could involve so many different types of technology. This would require a little more collaboration between the classes, but work for this part of the project could easily be divided and worked on using various sites to facilitate collaboration. Viral marketing campaign would be great to start. Creating Facebook accounts for the characters and having them interact with actual students in preparation of the play would be fun. Twitter accounts could be used the same way. Again, the sky is the limit.

Soundtrack - We have a great orchestra and band at my high school. I could have some students in one class learn and play music for certain parts of the play. If I'm lacking in band kids, I could have students create a playlist for their third of the play and submit it with detailed explanations as to why certain songs are chosen for certain scenes. If it is a period piece, students would research period music and explain its role in the play.

These are just a few of the ideas I've had cross my brain since Wednesday afternoon. I'm sure there are more things I can add and eventually subtract from this lesson idea. In theory, it would be the best lesson I've created since my Mock Trial of Mark Twain. Many hours will be spent planning and organizing this project, but I think this project will allow all students access to a great literary work that is too often dismissed by students. Please leave a comment after reading this post if you have ideas, concerns, questions, suggestions, etc. Your help in making this lesson a real thing would be very much appreciated. Bonus: If you help make this idea happen, you get to read my posts about next year. It's win-win for everyone. :-)


  1. Love, love, love this! There are many ways to use Facebook for this project's advertising, but even the scriptwriters could exchange ideas and drafts that way. What about the soundtrack and script being "urban"? As in, a rap/ghetto version of the play similar to Leo DiCaprio's film? What about funding for the sets? I'm excited for you!

  2. Great idea. I would also offer the suggestion of filming and editing together parts of the rehearsals/dress rehearsal to make a commercial that can be posted to youtube and facebook. This way the A/V minded kids could have an outlet to show their creativity.

  3. I am a writer for and I am including you on my upcoming list of the top 100 technology blogs for teachers. I was wondering if you could write me an e-mail ( so I could ask you a few questions about your blog. Please include the title of your blog in the e-mail, thanks!

  4. This ideas is epic. Fantastic, seriously, I hope the kids take off with this one and surprise you! I really like the idea of rewriting the script for a modern day adaptation, I would include that for sure. Present this lesson to your students with enthusiasm and give them free (almost) reign to run it and they will come up with something spectacular. Maybe a glee/musical version of Romeo and Juliet? Could be fun!

  5. Google Docs has a real time collaborative feature complete with "post-it" type comment features. Students can create, share, and edit documents in real-time as a group.

  6. I'm doing R&J as our fall full-length production this year. We're setting it in a high school, with distinct cliques defining the Montagues and Capulets. Also, in order to give more girls a chance to shine, we're casting Tybalt, Benvolio, and possibly the Prince as female roles. (I'm looking forward to seeing Tybalt, the head cheerleader, rue the day Romeo crashed her sweet sixteen party.) Anyway, we've started discussing character ideas/director concepts via facebook, but I can't wait to see how the kids let this idea evolve. We have a TON of marketing ideas already- especially ones that involve asking the school to "take sides." But I'd love to hear what kind of media you use to promote this endeavor. Should be interesting to see how it all plays out. ;)


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