By Monica Gonzalez and Tina Harper
Middle school students struggle with the internalization that choices have consequences. Adolescence is a time in their life when, perhaps for the first time, their choices have lasting ramifications. At the same time, students are acutely aware that life is full of contradiction; certain events in life are indeed beyond their control. The choices they make in these situations may determine their direction into adulthood.
The purpose of this unit is to allow students to examine the consequences of choices made in a world that is controlled by adults. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet serves as the vehicle toward understanding the consequences of choices. At the heart of tragedy is the real world lesson that choices made by characters seal their fate. Through purposeful analysis of characterization and the elements of tragedy, students will experience how theatre exposes that the individual still has choice.
Student analysis of language and sentence construction within Romeo and Juliet will also help students to understand the effects of word choice and sentence construction. Shakespeare used grammar to illuminate the personality of characters, to provide rhythm, and to engage his audience. Students will have the opportunity to both practice and utilize sentence manipulation and word choice to exhibit their understanding of the role grammar plays in the author’s ability to effectively communicate his message.
The unit culminates in student creation and performance of an original piece of work incorporating the elements of tragedy. The final product will also incorporate the manipulation of sentence structure and word choice in the revisions process to allow students the opportunity to reveal a unique message through his/her own perspective. Through the writing and performance process, students will communicate the central message, “In the space between an action and reaction you have choice.” - Steven Covey
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