We consistently teach at Jefferson Intermediate Traditional School, integrating drama to sneakily teach our students valuable lessons. During one class period, the teacher was interested in teaching his students argumentative writing.
His initial lesson focused on the basics of writing an argumentative paper: introduction, thesis, argument and supporting evidence, counterargument, restatement of thesis, and a closing. Then he had the students brainstorm ideas for new technologies or tweaks to existing technologies that would improve the world on a large scale. From there the students were to conduct research and write an essay to present their invention/tweak. So what does this have to do with Romeo and Juliet?
In order to get the students to understand what it means to defend an argument, we decided to bring to them a familiar tale. Most students are familiar with Romeo and Juliet. They know that Juliet chooses to love a boy from a rival family. They know that Friar Lawrence is completely on board, despite knowing the possible repercussions of such a union. These two characters make bold decisions and they have to be able to defend them.
So we had the students break into groups. In each group there was a Juliet and a Friar Lawrence. The rest of the students were instructed to argue with Juliet and Friar Lawrence about their choices and their actions. Why did Juliet pursue a relationship with Romeo? Why did Friar Lawrence help the couple deceive their parents? Through this process, the students were encouraged to develop and refine their arguments. We then brought up one Juliet and one Friar Lawrence to the front of the class to respond to the arguments of the whole class.
In the end, the lesson was effective. By taking on a character and learning about that character’s actions and motivations, the students were able to improve their abilities to make an argument and defend it. It made the argumentative essay they had to write a little more tangible.