Shakespeare is now centerstage for eighth grade English! Before diving into their class reading of the play, Mr. Thacher prompted students to consider what they already knew about Romeo and Juliet, encouraging them to write their thoughts on the whiteboard. They enthusiastically jumped up and filled the board with everything that came to mind: cringey love plot, death, English, two lovers, tragedy, etc.
Mr. Thacher was unsurprised, noting that “people usually understand that this is a famous love story,” but that this is often where the familiarity ends, leaving plenty of room for discovery over the course of the play, especially around the central topics of love, death, and family disputes.
After this initial exercise, Mr. Thacher presented a series of statements related to the play, with which students had to either agree or disagree. For example, all but one student agreed with the statement: When it comes to love, trust your feelings.
At times, students found it challenging to box themselves into the binary process without room for nuance or further explanation. In response, Mr. Thacher pointed out that this reaction reveals the complexity of these questions, which might initially be taken too simply, and that the students’ thoughts might shift over time. The class also had the opportunity to delve into more nuanced thought in their free-writing homework assignment.
“This is a difficult topic to cover,” one student expressed, “because we’re all 13, 14 years old.”
“Love is difficult to understand,” another student concurred.
“I teach this because I believe it is one of the most exciting, funny, enriching things that you will read in middle school,” Mr. Thacher explained. “Within this story, you’re going to recognize your friends and your friend groups. The language changes but people don’t change that much. You can see that teenagers aren’t that different from the Elizabethan era to now. It can be really funny.”
Through the course of this play, students will be led on a journey to synthesize dense material and arrive at new, expansive thought processes. At DCD, we are proud to offer this space for broad thinking and idea development, and look forward to discovering how Romeo and Juliet can help students make sense of their own personal experience!