There are several terms that your students should learn while studying Romeo and Juliet. Here is a list of the basic dramatic terms and devices that you should work into your Romeo and Juliet lessons (all terms are defined in The Complete Romeo and Juliet Unit Plan):
Unlike some of Shakespeare's plays, Romeo and Juliet isn't cluttered with countless minor or completely insignificant characters. There are some with lesser roles, but so many that it becomes confusing.
Here is a list of the major characters, on whom you should focus while teaching Romeo and Juliet (The Complete Romeo and Juliet Unit Plan includes descriptions and definitive quotes for each character):
Romeo's parents, Montague and Lady Montague, have been left off this list because they hardly appear in the play. They are in two scenes, and have very few lines in either.
Theme is likely the most important, and the most difficult, concept to teach. If students are to have a deeper understanding of a text, they must be able to identify and articulate the major themes.
Commonly, theme gets confused with topic. A theme is something more. 'Love' is not a theme in Romeo and Juliet. Instead, it is what the play says about 'love' that is a theme.
To help students, and teachers, better understand theme, I have developed a formula:
Theme = topic + insight
This means that you must add some insight to a topic before it can be a theme. 'Love' is a topic in the play Romeo and Juliet. But if we were to add insight and say that Romeo and Juliet shows that love can cross social boundaries, we would have a theme statement.
Romeo and Juliet is a great play to study with teenagers because it has so many themes that are relevant to that demographic.
Shakespeare's play contains themes on the following topics (and more):
Get your students to add insight to the topics above and you will have complete theme statements. Ask them to consider what the play says about each topic.
Here are a few theme statements your students might come up with:
Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet shows that...
It is these themes that make Romeo and Juliet so relevant and enjoyable for teenagers. It's our job as teachers to highlight these connections between the play and our students' lives. Making it relevant makes it far more meaningful for students.
Lesson planning is where your curriculum comes to life, and it must be done the right way.
I like to use an inverted-pyramid approach to lesson planning - start from big and go to small.
Begin with your objectives, the things you want students to get out of your lessons. Think about what you want them to learn and practice, and what you want the learning experience to be like. Make a list of these objectives.
You might want your students to engage with and enjoy studying Romeo and and Juliet. If this is one of your objectives, you must make sure your lessons are built and delivered in a way that will engage your students.
You might also want your students to become comfortable with Shakespearean English. If this is the case, you will have to build opportunities where you and your students can closely examine text and practice paraphrasing. Your lessons should include a fair bit of reading as a group, with lots of stopping for explanation and clarification.
If you want your students to learn the definitions and usage of literary terms, make sure you teach it.
When you start with the objectives, you build a strong foundation for your unit plan. You have guiding principles to refer to to help you ensure all of your lessons and activities have a point and are a worthwhile use of curricular time.
When you plan your individual lessons, try to mix things up. Unless it is especially interesting, students have difficulty remaining engaged in any one particular activity if it is much more than 20 minutes. So break things up accordingly.
Also, play to your strengths. This being honest with yourself about who you are as a teacher and then building your lessons in a way that utilizes your stronger attributes.
Finally, consider the composition and personality of your class. Some classes can handle 20 minutes of discussion, others cannot. Don't torture yourself trying to force your preferred style of class on them. Be flexible and adapt.
I have identified Five Main Objectives to keep in mind while teaching Romeo and Juliet. These are the fundamental keys to ensuring that your students get the most out of Shakespeare.
I'd be happy to share these objectives with you over the next few days. All you have to do is sign up to receive my Romeo and Juliet Mini Plan. Just enter your first name and email address into the boxes below, and I'll walk you through the Five Main Objectives. I know you'll find them helpful.
The resources here are free for you to use to help guide your lesson and unit preparation for teaching Romeo and Juliet.
But remember, nothing is a substitute for The Complete Unit Plan, which comes with everything you need to teach Romeo and Juliet from start to finish.