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Romeo and Juliet: The Theme of Love in Literature and the Arts

Subject:ESL transitional

Grade Level: 10-12

Description: Students do not read and write enough in their English classes because they do not relate to the materials and curricula presented. Literature is usually taught from an exterior, moralistic perspective. This program presents literature and the arts as students want it: as a vehicle for expression and cultural liberation. The program asks for students' active participation in the design and implementation of the unit. Lessons are based on the collective consciousness of the classroom: activities such as reading poetry, writing essays, or viewing movies will be based on student selection. Additional goals of this project: to instill appreciation for literary and artistic masterpieces, arousing the imagination and creativity of the young reader; to encourage students’ creation of literature and arts, such as short stories, poems, theatrical fragments, and artwork; to integrate the presentation of literature and arts with the study of cultures and societies, within the understanding that tolerance and multiculturalism are the spirit of true art; to teach the New York State English Regents’ tasks using literature and the arts.

How it Works: This unit begins with a discussion about love, and progresses through readings from Plato, Shakespeare, Dickinson, F. G. Lorca, and others. Lessons are complemented with music, video, and Internet resources, culminating in the writing of a play based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet but set in modern times. Sample Regents activities are also offered.

Final Project/Product: The students are involved in every aspect of this project. Their feelings and reactions are central in this approach. The students' production counts heavily in performance assessment and in the continuous development of this unit.

Overall Value: The unit endeavors to discover the artistic and literary talents and capabilities of every student. The culminating motivation for participating in this learning act will be publishing on the Internet.

English Language Learners: By reading and writing about things they relate to and produce, students are better equipped to understand and use literature and the arts as a way to make sense of and to adapt to the environment. They are also better prepared to take and pass the state exams in English.

Tips for the Teacher: Use this unit as a draft. Assess the needs and talents of your students and include them in your literature-based unit. Remember that literature and the arts should be instruments for understanding and changing the world by making yourself relevant.


 Standards Addressed
Students will read, write, listen, and speak for information and understanding.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: English Language Arts
Students will read, write, listen, and speak for literary response and expression.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: English Language Arts
Students will read, write, listen, and speak for critical analysis and evaluation.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: English Language Arts
Students will listen, speak, read, and write in English for literary response, enjoyment and expression.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: ESL

Day 1: What Is Love?
Students will create a semantic map.
Students will participate in an oral discussion about the idea of love.
Students will use the idea of love as a catalyst for writing.
Students will read and comprehend literary quotations about love.
Internet quotation sites
Internet access
blackboard, large sheet of paper, or projection device
love, quotation, and any unfamilar words found in the quotations chosen by the teacher
Procedure 1
The teacher will lead the students to create a semantic map of the word "love".
a. The teacher writes the word "love" on the board/projection device.
b. Students are asked to brainstorm what comes to mind when they hear the word "love". Students are asked to also bring in related words or short sentences.
c. Short answers from students are elicited.
d. The teacher, or another student, will record responses on the blackboard, SMART board, etc. so a semantic map can be created.
Procedure 2
Quotes on love
a. The teacher can introduce various quotes on love and literary fragments dealing with this subject.
b. Some examples are:

* “For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love—this is the eternal law”. The Pali Canon (India), 500-250 B.C.

* “One word frees us from all the weight and pain of life: That word is love”. Sophocles, (Greece), Oedipus, 495-406 B.C.

* “Love conquers all things. Let us too surrender to love”. Virgil (Rome), 70-19 B.C.

* “The eyes, those silent tongues of love”. Cervantes (Spain), 1547-1616.

* “My only love sprung from my only hate; Too early seen unknown, and known too late!” William Shakespeare (England), Romeo and Juliet, 1564-1616.

* “For stormy limits cannot hold love out”. William Shakespeare (England), Romeo and Juliet, 1564-1616.

* “But love is blind and lovers cannot see the pretty follies that themselves commit”. William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice (England), 1564-1616.

* “Speak low if you speak love”. William Shakespeare, (England), Much Ado About Nothing, 1564-1616.

c. The teacher should read the quotes aloud and then ask several students to read them several times.
d. Ask students the following questions about the quotes, either verbally or in writing:

1) What does this passage/author tell us about love?

2) What kind of love is presented here?

3) Write/tell the definition of love

Bartlett's Familiar Quotations Home Page http://bartelby.com/99
Procedure 3
Discussing Love
a. The quotes provides an opportunity to discuss love overall. Begin a dialogue with the class. Some suggested questions are:

1) Is the meaning of love different in your country as compared to the United States? If yes, how so?

2) Is love important to you? Why? Explain.

3) Does the meaning of love change as you grow older? How?

4) Is the meaning of love associated with any image, experience, or childhood memory?

5) Why is love so important for so many people?

6) Are there differences between real-life love and fictional love, as portrayed in movies and literature?

The presentation of famous literary quotes may work well with the viewing of famous paintings and other visual art products (classic and modern) on the topic of love. Some of these quotes will later be used for Task 4 of the Regents (Critical Lens composition).
Homework assignments:

1. Narrate a story about your first love.

2. Narrate the best (most touching) real love story you’ve ever heard.

3. Narrate the fictional love story (movie or book) that impressed you the most.

Day 2: What do poetry, music, and the visual arts say about love?
Students will recognize basic concepts of poetic style (rhyme, rhythm, verse, stanza, metaphor, simile, hyperbole, personification, etc.).
Students will produce simple poetic texts, using poetic devices such as metaphors, similes, and personifications.
Students will understand main elements involved in musical productions (voice, chorus, instruments, lyrics).
Students will learn the main skills in essay writing.
poems about love by Shakespeare, Pabloa, Keats, Shelley, etc., with copies for students
Jazz music
device to play music (iPod, speakers, CD player)
metaphors, similes, and any difficult words in the poems chosen by the teacher
Procedure 1
Teacher modeling
a. The teacher presents the poem "A Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes, using jazz tunes as the background.
b. After the reading, the teacher proposes an interpretation of the poem, using historical and social data (Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights movement, African-American literature, for example) connected with the linguistic substance of the poem.
Harlem Renaissance background on Encarta http://encarta.msn.com/schoolhouse/Harlem/harlem.asp
Procedure 2
Copies of poems about love are given to students.
a. The teacher reads several poems aloud.
b. Students read the poems aloud again. Intonation and vocabulary are explained.
c. In groups, students discuss meaning and interpretation.
Procedure 3
Students choose one of the distributed poems to analyze at length.
a. Each group produces an interpretation of the poem containing several elements:

* Oral presentation (the reading of the poem)

* Musical background (students choose the most appropriate music to come along with the reading)

* Artistic (visual arts) elements accompanying the reading. Are there any art, photographs, pictures, paintings (student-produced or researched) that can help the public understand the meaning of the poem?

* Short written essay: The meaning of this poem for me.

Listen to the poet reading from his work: Langston Hughes reading The Negro Speaks of Rivers. Download the audio file at: http://poets.org/LIT/poem/lhughe07.htm
Homework assignments:

1. Write a short composition describing the meaning of this given poem as you understand it.

2. Write 10 metaphors and 10 similes using your own experience.

3. Find 5 poems that you like, match them with appropriate music, sounds, pictures, or artwork, and present them to the class.

4. Write an essay on the subject of poetry, music, art, love, and your own experience. Example: How are poetry and music alike?

Day 3: Romeo & Juliet: What Is Theater?
Students will recall important information on the times and life of William Shakespeare.
Students will be familiar with artistic conventions of Elizabethan England.
Students will be familiar with the differences between movies and plays.
Students will understand the production of theatrical performances of Elizabethan England.
copies of Romeo & Juliet
movie adaptations of Romeo & Juliet
first part of the film Shakespeare In Love
photos of the Globe Theater, Elizabethan theatrical productions
Elizabethan, biography, film, genre, scene, theatrical terms, summary
Procedure 1
The teacher presents a brief background of Elizabethan England. Use maps, pictures, websites, movie fragments, and music to portray the spirit of the times.
a. The teacher disseminates a biographical timeline of William Shakespeare. The teacher explains what a biography is, and reviews significant dates in Shakespeare's life with the class.
b. The teacher shows the beginning part of the movie "Shakespeare in Love." Ask students to pay attention to the relevant facts about theater at that time.
c. After the viewing, ask students to recall what they noticed about theatrical and artistic conventions of the time, scenes and theater houses, the acting profession, sponsors, the church regulations, the crown, and the public.
A Shakespeare Timeline http://shakespeare.palomar.edu/timeline/timeline.htm
Procedure 2
The plot of Romeo and Juliet. The teacher show parts in "Shakespeare in Love" that relate to the plot of "Romeo and Juliet."
a. The teacher asks students for information they have gleaned from the viewing, and fills in the blanks with the plot of the play.
b. The teacher distributes the play, or copies of particular scenes. Initially, the teacher reads from the play, and students are gradually be integrated into the reading until the teacher is no longer needed.
c. The teacher introduces the concept of theatrical performance and discusses roles that are played in a production. As an additional resource, the teacher shows the scene in "Shakespeare in Love" where the company rehearses the show.
d. The students organize in groups. The teacher asks each group to choose one scene from the play and adapts it for a modern high school audience. Each group will have members performing various roles in production: screenplay writer, director, actors, musical director, set designer, costume director (add or subtract roles as you see fit).
Procedure 3
Each group presents their own interpretation of their specific scene.
a. Groups are required to create adapted dialogues, directions for actors, drawings of costumes or scenes, information on music and sounds, and any makeup or lighting directions.
b. Each group arranges a presentation in class of their scene. An important addition to the lesson, especially for English Language Learners, is including a video camera to record the progress of each group's scene. The tapes are played back to encourage comments and constructive criticism from classmates and the teacher.
c. The teacher may consider inviting a non-profit acting or drama group who can provide the class with the motivation to discuss play production and message, acting, performance, art and reality.
Procedure 4
Ask the class, "What are the differences between plays and movies?" Brainstorm some ideas with the class and compile a chart of their responses.
a. Ask students questions to provoke a discussion:

* What do people today like more, movies or plays? Why?

* Have you ever seen a play or a live show? Narrate your experience, if yes.

* If you'd like to be a famous actor/actress, would you like to be on the stage or on the studio? Why?

* Are there other careers in theater/movie industry that are as interesting as acting?

Procedure 5
The students see segments of two Romeo and Juliet movie productions (there are several to choose from, use the best choices for your students).
a. During each screening, students are asked to take notes on what they see. These notes help them complete future assignments (such as compare and contrast essays) and are part of the class evaluation. See the attachment for an example of a Note Sheet to use with your class.
Site of 1996 Baz Luhrman Romeo & Juliet movie http://romeoandjuliet.com
Homework assignments:

1. Write a short comparative essay, “The Theater Actor and the Movie Actor” about the qualities of each actor needed on the stage or on the movie set.

2. If you'd like to be a famous actor, would you like to be on the stage or on the studio? Why?

3. Broadway or Hollywood? What's better?

Review student note sheets to make sure they are recording pertinent information.

Day 4: Orpheus and Eurydice
Students will be able to understand the story of Orpheus and Eurydice.
Students will be able to understand relationships between the stories of Orpheus and Eurydice and Romeo and Juliet.
Students will be able to relate both stories to the overall theme of love.
Students will discuss the topic of art and sacrifice.
copies of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice
Internet access
Procedure 1
Ask the class, "Why do artists sacrifice everything for their art?" Solicit responses from the class.
a. Distribute copies of the story "Orpheus and Eurydice." Students take turns reading parts of the story out loud in class, and any student may interrupt to with clarifying questions or for vocabulary.
b. The teacher asks comprehensive and critical thinking questions:

* What were the terms of the understanding between Orpheus and Hades?

* Why couldn’t Orpheus stick to the terms?

* What would have happened if Orpheus had not turned his head?

* Why did Orpheus want to go to Inferno even though he knew it was impossible to go there and return alive?

* What happened to Orpheus after he returned from the dead?

c. The theme of descending into hell is quite popular in classic and modern literature and art. You might want to ask students for other examples that they are familiar with--one may be Hercules.
d. The most important part of the story is the idea of creation and sacrifice. The artist is bound by his talent and calling to create and sacrifice his/her life on the altar of creation. Ask students whether or not they would or could make this kind of a sacrifice in their own lives.
The Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice http://paleothea.com/Myths/Orpheus.html
sacrifice, creation
Procedure 2
Discuss the similarities and differences between Orpheus and Romeo. Create a classroom chart with some of the points they raise in class. How did each of them make a sacrifice for love?

* Find two examples of artists who sacrificed so much for their art. Write a compare-and-contrast essay.

* Find a recent New York Times Arts section and read an article dedicated to a singer/actor/actress/artist. Look for elements that illustrate the idea of artist's sacrifice for the sake of creation.

There is a wonderful Brazilian movie, Black Orpheus, that follows closely the story of Orpheus and Eurydice in the setting of the Sao Paolo carnival. You may want to show sections of it. Watch the movie before you show it in class. It has plenty of scenes that suggest death, the underground, and paganistic rituals.


Day 5: West Side Story: What Is a Musical?
Students will recognize major musical styles.
Students will understand and discuss musical elements (voice, instruments, style, lyrics, message).
Students will understand the evolution of musical styles.
Students will understand the cultural significance of musical styles.
music of diffferent genres from different parts of the world
copy of the movie
videos of popular operas
operatic music on CD or music file
names of musical styles that are introduced (jazz, merengue, salsa, etc.)
Procedure 1
Ask students to do a free write on one or more of the following questions:

* When do you like to listen to the music?

* Is music important to you? Why?

* What kind of music do you like to listen? Why?

* Describe your favorite style (type) of music.

a. The teacher discusses the different musical styles that relate to the history of a people and the culture of a country. Example: merengue is the music of Dominican Republic independence; jazz is the music of African Americans; salsa is Brazil's national music.
b. The teacher discusses innovation and tradition in music. A timeline is provided (which can be improved and modified). See the attachments for this timeline.
c. Students add more styles to the chart.
Music Styles http://library.thinkquest.org/15413/styles/styles.htm
Procedure 2
The teacher plays different musical samples, classic and modern, instrumental and vocal, Western and Oriental, and Hispanic and African.
a. As with the movie assignment, students are asked to write while the music is being played.
b. The teacher asks the class to express their written comments in class and compiles an observation chart of students' various responses to the music.
c. As a class project, students are asked to prepare a 5-minute presentation of their favorite music. They bring their own CD or music file to class, and write a short script that will be presented in class while playing the music.
d. These are the guidelines for the student presentation:

1. Write information on the singer (group, band)

2. What style of music is this? Do you know other singers (groups) performing a similar music?

3. What country is this music from?

4. Instruments used

5. Lyrics. Read a sample.

6. What is the message this music conveys?

7. When is the best time to listen to this music?

8. How do you feel when you listen to this music?

9. Can you dance to this music? Describe the moves or perform a choreographic moment.

10. To what type of artistic production could you see this music being applied? (opera, action or romantic movie, dance, documentary movie, cartoon, TV news, etc.).

Procedure 3
What is an opera?
a. The teacher presents information on opera development and production by playing different operas on the CD and showing video tapes with famous opera productions.
b. You may want to elicit students' responses to conceptualize the meaning of opera, musical, theater, and movie.
c. Questions for classroom discussion on opera:

1. Why do people like operas? Show pictures of the Metropolitan Opera.

2. What are the differences between an opera and a musical?

3. What are the differences between opera and theatre?

4. What are the qualities needed to become an opera singer?

Photos of the Metropolitan Opera House, New York City http://flickr.com/photos/tags/metropolitanoperahouse/
Procedure 4
The teacher presents the plot of West Side Story, and discuss how it is based on Romeo and Juliet.
a. The lyrics to the musical are on the Internet. Download them and distribute them to your students.
b. Ask students: What are the differences between Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story?
The official West Side Story: Lyrics http://westsidestory.com/site/level2/lyrics/lyrics.html
Procedure 5
Show some scenes from the movie (Maria, Coming to America). The students gather information on the following elements: message, music, choreography, actors’ performance, language, etc.
a. Ask students to take notes as they view these scenes. Discuss their findings.
b. Ask students to create groups and create a chart comparing: musicals, operas, plays, and movies. What are their similarities and differences?

Dinu Pietraru


Franklin K. Lane High School
999 Jamaica Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11208

Dinu Pietraru has been a New York City public school teacher since 1988. He has taught English and ESL at the junior high school and high school level. He is presently working as a teacher and ESL coordinator in Queens at Franklin K. Lane High School.

Important documents for this lesson plan.



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