Ania Musielak

The first time I met her and heard Ania‘s work was at TESOL France, where she had a workshop on using drama in the classroom. All of us who were there absolutely loved her tips. When I asked her to write a guest post for the blog, I was absolutely delighted because I love her enthusiasm and the kind of educator she is. I was also happy she chose one of my favourite topics – poetry! She informed me that this was her second guest post. Her first one, I found out later, was for another person I admire a lot- Ken Wilson. You can read Ania’s post for Ken’s blog here.

Ania, thank you so much for your workshop and your post!

Why do we have to read this? „Sigh”

Is it really necessary? „Sigh”

But it sucks….. (A series of „sighs” here)

Those are the comments I heard from my advanced teenaged students when I asked them to read a play by the Bard himself. As a lover of Shakespeare’s work (and a huge literature freak in general) I was determined to make the lesson work by all means. So I decided to put a twist on it and … loosen up a bit.

Leonardo di Caprio and Claire Danes in Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo and Juliet" (Image from http://celebrities09.blogspot.com)

The first step was to show the students that Shakespeare really did write about timeless topics –  and what is more interesting to a bunch of 18-year olds than some love stories?  And to add a modern flavour to the lessson I introduced a contemporary poem too. And so the time for the lesson came.   They knew to expect something different as I asked them to leave the coursebooks at home. They were a bit anxious anticipating a test or something worse;) They were not that relieved to learn that we were doing poetry…

The reading I chose was an excerpt from Romeo and Juliet and Benjamin Zephaniah’s poem Serious Luv. But first I presented them with a picture from Baz Luhrmann’s film Romeo and Juliet and just the title of Zephaniah’s poem and asked them to predict the content of the texts. That was supposed to  focus my students on the theme and give the purpose of reading.

Serious luv

That grabbed their attention and they came up with topics such as puppy love, fancy dress party, unrequited love, angels and demons (!) or tragedy. Now it was time to check their predictions about the texts and start reading. I also set a couple of activities to help them understand the text and make it more user-friendly. 

SERIOUS LUV

Benjamin Zephaniah  (from Funky Chickens)

Monday Morning

I really luv the girl that’s sitting next to me

I think she thinks like me an she’s so cool,

I think that we could live for ever happily

I want to marry her when I leave school

She’s the only one in school allowed to call me Ben

When she does Maths I luv the way she chews her pen,

When we are doing Art she’s so artistic

In Biology she makes my heart beat so quick.

When we do Geography I go to paradise

She’s helped me draw a map of Borneo twice!

Today she’s going to help me take my books home

So I am going to propose to her when we’re alone.

The next day

I used to luv the girl that’s sitting next to me

But yesterday it all came to an end,

She said that I should take love more seriously

An now I think I really luv her friend.

  William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

 (screenplay)

ROMEO

It is my lady. O, it is my love!

O that she knew she were!

JULIET

O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?

Deny thy father and refuse thy name.

Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,

And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.

(…)

Romeo, doff thy name,

And for thy name, which is no part of thee,

Take all myself.

ROMEO

I take thee at thy word!

Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized.

Henceforth I never will be Romeo.

Vocabulary sheet

NEW WORD SENTENCE OTHER FORMS MEANING
 e.g. baptised (adj)        I’ll be new baptised.  baptism (noun)baptise (verb)  christened 

To make them more “at ease” with the text we did a group miming activity. While  I was reading the text aloud ,my group acted it out silently walking around me. The use of mime and movement helped  my students concentrate on gesture, facial expression and body language. It created an imaginary context and, for some, lifted the immediate pressure to speak.

Then it was time for some stimulating discussion and creative use of the language. I wasn’t familiar with the wonderful world of word clouds tools so my words sheet wasn’t as pretty as it is now. (Vicky’s comment: I apologise for not being able to insert Ania’s beautiful word cloud here.)

After distributing the word clouds (no projector in my classroom unfortunately) my students were asked to decide which of these words were relevant to the text and had to choose three and put them in order of importance. An animated discussion followed:) 

The next activity concentrated on the the relationship between the main characters. We used  cut out figures stuck with some tack on chopsticks. I asked my learners to represent the relationship of the key characters by arranging them close, far away from, next to, under or on top of each other. Of course they were happy to oblige and started comparing (and criticizing) the arrangements of others.

The lesson was a success and a lot of project works followed. As the group was preparing for CAE exams we did a lot of writing tasks (such as changing the verse into prose, as well as constructing a report and a letter) and at the end of the year – a short performance was put together. The poetry reading proved to be creative and fun and it helped my students build fluency not only in reading itself but also in writing and speaking.