Trying Something New With Something Old


My seventh grade class is studying Romeo and Juliet, and we are reading the play aloud in class.  This allows me to preview scenes, stop and start to think about what is happening, attitudes, emotions, word play, allusions…. but there is no homework involved with this.   I want them to come away with an appreciation for language, meter, prose, characters, and the use of literary language.  I want them to laugh and cry and worry – but not about having to read the play.

So, what should I do for homework?

I don’t always assign homework.  I don’t think that it is necessary every night. I assign it when there is a true purpose, but I did feel like I was missing an enrichment opportunity. My cousin the librarian made a fantastic suggestion, so we are using Edmodo to host book groups.

The Books

I read and read and read books that have Shakespeare as a character, as a plot device, or a motivation.  I read historical fiction, mysteries, and romances – and I settled on eight book:

  • Secrets of Shakespeare’s Grave – Deron Hicks
  • Saving Juliet – Suzanne Selfors
  • The Playmaker (and its sequel The True Prince) – J. B. Cheaney
  • Shakespeare’s Secret – Elise Broach
  • Swan Town – Michael Ortiz
  • King of Shadows – Susan Cooper
  • The Fool’s Girl – Celia Rees
  • The Shakespeare Stealer  (and its sequels Shakespeare’s Scribe and Shakespeare’s Spy) – Gary Blackwood
  • The Juliet Club  – Suzanne Harper

I book talked these in class and they used a google form sent to them on their iPads to choose a book.  In the end the Ortiz and the Rees fell away (not chosen by more than two students out of 70).  Two books had enough to split into two groups, the Lord Chamberlain’s and the Queen’s Men, and the Globe and the Curtain groups.  I am delighted that the MOST popular of all was the immensely satisfying and well written King of Shadows.

I am not sure how this will go, but we are starting this week.  I’ll keep you posted.

(and one final note – we are using iBooks because we have a 1:1 iPad program with the seventh grade. All the ebooks are great except Saving Juliet – gah! What a mess!  They must have used an OCR scanner, and the TITLE was spelled wrong on the title page. I ordered back-up hard copies for the 18 kids in the group. Nuts.)

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Mrs. E says:

    Great idea! I am quite jealous of your 1 to 1 initiative!

    1. Kate Tabor says:

      We were super fortunate with a technology grant that has allowed us to begin the 1:1. And Edmodo is web based, so no tablet needed. The hard part for me right now is staring the book discussions on-line while I’m writing semester reports (we write narratives for each student). Although I’ve read the books, my mind is elsewhere!

      Thanks for taking the time to read an comment – nice to meet you.

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