Perfect Mate: An Introductory Lesson for Romeo & Juliet

A lesson plan by Dan Diercks, Hagerstown, IN

Subject: 9th Grade English
Duration: Half period to explain; one period for results

This lesson plan was one of the winners in a lesson plan contest sponsored by TeachersFirst in 2002. TeachersFirst editors have added technology options where appropriate.

Rationale I use this lesson in preparation for teaching Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. It immediately makes students aware of their connection to the theme of this ageless story.
  • Students will articulate the differences between their ideal mate and their parents' idea of a perfect mate for them.
  • Students will relate their discoveries about parental vs. individual choices to the themes represented in Romeo & Juliet when we read the play shortly after completing the lesson.
Materials Student-parent survey Print it two-sided.
Procedure Students are given a two-sided survey to complete as homework. One side is for them to fill out; the other side is for their parents to fill out.

The student side asks two questions. The first is, "What are specific qualities that describe the perfect life-long mate for you?" The second question asks, "What are specific qualities that you think your parents want for you to find in a life-long mate?" The other side of the survey--the one for parents--also asks two questions. The first is, "What specific qualities to hope your child finds in a life-long mate?" The second is, "What qualities do you think your child values most in a life-long mate?"

I write a note to parents explaining that we are preparing to read Romeo & Juliet, and I ask them not to look at their child's answers before answering their own questions.

When students return to class with completed surveys, I ask for volunteers to report to the class answers to both sides of the survey. Inevitably there are big differences not only in what students want in a life-long mate and what their parents want for them, but also in what students think their parents want for them versus what they really want for their children and in what parents think their children want for themselves.

If you wish, have students write a blog or journal entry on what they have learned from the contrasts between their responses and their parents'. Use this writing as the start for a later essay connecting Romeo and Juliet to today's teens.

It may sound confusing, but the form I have developed makes it pretty easy to get good information from both students and parents.

Students begin reading Shakespeare immediately, prepared to see themselves and their parents in the play.

I have used this lesson for five years and it is always VERY successful. The kids love it, and I almost always get notes from parents telling me how much fun it was and how valuable they think it is in connecting Shakespeare's play to their own lives. I've even had parents go back and re-read the play which they haven't seen since 9th grade.
Evaluation Since this lesson is an introduction to the play, student understanding can only be evaluated by teacher observation during the sharing session and as part of the discussion and any follow-up essays. If students write blog or journal entries, these can be used to assess student articulation of differences between their view and their parents'.