Cleaning Up Our Act 3

The body count has begun–Mercutio and Tybalt slain. “Fortune’s Fool,” a newlywed, is on his way to banishment. Yes, Act III, Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet presents more twists than Tybalt’s blade. The scene contains enough action and controversy to promote engaging dialogue. I traditionally use the scene as our first Socratic circle discussion of the year and it never fails to provide engaging material. On the following day, we review the scene and put closure on the discussed topics. We also take the opportunity to dramatically reenact the fight scene.

After witnessing the classroom joy of having several students showcase their cheesy acting skills and reading voices, I shared a new mission for the remainder of the act. Groups of students would have the following day to prepare for a brief performance to be presented a day later. The expectations read:

Act 3 Dramatic Reenactment

Each group is to perform a dramatic reenactment of a scene from Act III of Romeo and Juliet

*1 Prop: unrelated to the actual scene

*Commentary & analysis by a famous, fictional character or celebrity

*All presentations must educate your classmates and entertain me 

The directions were intentionally vague, and I left freshmen with a substitute teacher on preparation day. Although I replied to a couple emails of panic while at my conference, students were on their own to problem solve and be ready to present something brilliant upon my return. And they did.

Before I allowed nervous groups to present, I increased the intensity by adding another direction, projected on the board as students entered (potentially perceived as a jerk move).

HAPPENING NOW!!!

You have 5 minutes to create a 1 minute sales pitch/promo convincing me to attend your reenactment of Act 3.

  • Hook my attention and interest
  • Be persuasive (claim–evidence–warrant)

Students focused on the task and created simple, yet effective, promotional trailers. What seemed like further torture turned into a means of getting performers in front of the class before the real deal. I was intrigued and impressed.

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How could I resist watching scenes presented as Shakespeare would have wanted, narrated by Hermione Granger or Batman? Laughter soon filled the room and Act III of Romeo and Juliet was brought to life.

Instead of a dagger, there was a water bottle. Rather than listening to the Chorus, we heard the emotionless voice of Kristen Stewart. Who is better to seek for analysis in a time of crisis than Dr. Phil? Another group moved up on my nerdy-cool respect chart by adding Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary to a modern script.

But one group was unmatched and will forever stand out with their pun-filled brilliance. Before they began, the team of freshmen captured the audience’s attention with a table full of household cleaning supplies.

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I am not making this up. And to add to the genius about to be witnessed, Scene 5 would be narrated by the clergyman from The Princess Bride (one of my favorite movies).

With permission, I am including the group’s script so all may enjoy a few laughs. I recommend returning to the image of the household supplies on the table for some good, clean fun. I proudly invite you to experience the script of Foameo and Juliet: A Parody of Act 3, Scene 5.

Takeaway: I got out of the way and allowed students to show evidence of content comprehension and critical thinking, and create something memorable with their learning, while practicing the craft of speaking. They nailed all four standards and I had little to do with their success.

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