Freshmen Explore the World of “Billy Shakes”

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William Shakespeare, or “Billy Shakes” as he is affectionately known to the freshmen at Roberto Clemente Community Academy, is widely known to have written plays that touch deeply on human nature and eloquently convey timeless themes that are relevant to people to this very day.  In the current IB unit of study, the English I team has been digging into Shakespeare’s famous Romeo and Juliet text. Before beginning the play itself, students engaged in a discussion focused around an anticipation guide filled with thought-provoking questions about human nature and the themes in the play Romeo and Juliet.  Students chose to either agree or disagree and had to defend their positions in writing prior to engaging in a class debate on each statement.  

Students used multiple International Baccalaureate Approaches to Learning (ATL) skills during the debate.  Students demonstrated that they were knowledgeable, open-minded, and effective communicators throughout the lesson.  After making text-to-self connections through the anticipation guide, students read an informational text about a couple in Yemen who were in love but banned from marriage because of political reasons.  Students practiced essential PSAT skills and IB objectives when answering text-based questions that required students to demonstrate mastery of command of evidence and key ideas and details.  After reading this true story of a “Modern Day Romeo and Juliet,” students dove head first into William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  

To better understand the language of William Shakespeare, students practiced translating his text into modern language and summarized scenes by creating Tweets and Instagram posts to demonstrate a deep understanding of the text.  One of the most fun and energetic lessons using Romeo and Juliet was when students created a modern version of Shakespeare’s famous balcony scene.  Students summarized key parts of the plot from this scene, created their own characters with a backstory of why they were “star cross’d lovers,” and set their scenes in modern time with modern language.  Students then performed their scenes for the class.  Seeing students engaged, laughing, and having fun while learning is one of the best parts of teaching the IB curriculum.  Students engage in high level texts and critical thinking while being academic risk -takers and showing off their boundless creativity.