Charlotte Bourne, Deputy Head of Learning at Shakespeare’s Globe, shares four examples of free resources available via the Globe’s 2019 website on Romeo and Juliet, focusing on the development of Assessment Objective 2.

My last blog selected four resources from Shakespeare's Globe’s 2019 Romeo and Juliet website and explained how these could be used to address the needs of more able learners, within a context of challenge for all. Here, I want to drill down into one specific assessment objective within GCSE English literature and discuss four more resources that can support teaching and learning within this area. As ever, these resources are provided free of charge and form part of the Globe's commitment to increasing access to Shakespeare.

Studying a different play? Fear not… Through the Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank project, Shakespeare's Globe also offers dedicated resource websites on: You can also visit the Globe’s Teach Shakespeare website for hundreds of free resources, searchable by play, key stage and resource type.

AO2: analysing the creation of “meaning and effects”

Assessment Objective 2 (AO2) requires learners to “analyse the language, form and structure used by a writer to create meanings and effects, using relevant subject terminology where appropriate.”

Many of our resources begin with the “meaning and effects” that have been created. It is incredibly hard for learners to analyse a feature if it creates no effect on them, or if the meaning is obscure. Start with what interests them, or what stands out, then break it down to consider why and how this is the case.

This positions them as active learners and moves them beyond feature-spotting at word-level – important as better GCSE responses discuss the structure and dramatic impact of the text.

Furthermore, broadening learners’ understanding of ways in which meanings can be shaped – particularly in relation to Shakespeare and drama – will support their further study within the subject. Finally, this also supports learners to appreciate the text from the outside: as a conscious construct, a myriad of the writer’s choices, and the characters and plot as vehicles to carry the text’s meanings.

Read on for four free resources to help your learners develop in AO2…

Assistant Director’s blog: week 1

The weekly blog by the Assistant Director takes learners behind the scenes of a theatre production. For AO2, this is helpful to reiterate the form, as the process – and fluidity – of interpretation of drama texts is brought to the fore: this is what we mean by “text in performance”.

The lesson activity accompanying week 1's blog looks at how Romeo changes his speech when speaking to Mercutio as opposed to speaking to Juliet, and what Shakespeare is therefore trying to suggest about his character. As well as familiarisation with different parts of the play, the comparative element draws on a higher-order thinking skill.

This activity is invaluable in foregrounding the form: as James Stredder notes, plays “are essentially speech utterances” (2009). It begins by grounding the real-world application of communication accommodation theory (see Howard Giles), applying this to Shakespeare's craft. The text-work starts with reading aloud to allow pupils to feel the different meanings and effects of each Romeo-construction (speech!). Learners then return to the blog to examine the “how” of these constructions, comparing the use of verse and prose.

Character interviews: Mercutio

This resource uses an interview with the actor playing Mercutio as a springboard for exploration. Linked to AO2, this is another way of emphasising the form and its impact on interpretation. The activity invites learners to examine textual evidence in order to decide to what extent they agree with the actor's interpretation. To add challenge, learners are asked to compare Mercutio's language with Romeo's on a particular theme: love. This pushes learners to unpick how each character's speech is used as a vehicle to convey different conceptions of love.

The next activity uses the actor's interpretation to analyse the impact Mercutio's character has on the dramatic structure: they compare Mercutio's timeline with the main events of the play, and consider to what extent Shakespeare uses Mercutio to drive the events that lead to the tragedy. AO3 is integrated with AO2 through the option to debate Mercutio's primary purpose as exploring the relationship between comedy and tragedy.

Both of these activities demand learners use references from different parts of the play and use a range of higher-order thinking skills to draw out the effect of Shakespeare's choices in constructing Mercutio.

Assistant Director’s blog: week 3

One of the most complex, but also wonderfully rich, episodes in Romeo and Juliet is Mercutio's Queen Mab speech. The week 3 blog provides an insight into how the cast worked with this, and the accompanying lesson activity builds on this. It starts by asking learners to draw the images Mercutio creates at each stage of the speech (bar the last one), which helps in untangling the meaning. They then specify which words and phrases contributed to each section of their drawings, supporting with the precision of their analysis.

Learners then create freeze-frames of each image, reflecting on which words and phrases have had the greatest effect. The chronological sharing of these freeze-frames facilitates an interrogation of the structure: how does the speech change as it progresses? Learners then predict what the last image of the speech might be. After the revelation, read-aloud work furthers the focus on learners making choices about which words create the greatest effect here, only afterwards drilling down into language techniques. Learners finally consider how the messages within this speech could link to the wider themes of the play.

Article: Love and Hate

This resource is comprised of an article from the production programme on the language of love and hate in Romeo and Juliet, with accompanying lesson activities. The article deepens understanding of antithesis and oxymoron by exploring the relationship between them and providing examples from the play; however, perhaps most crucially, it models the relationship between the writer's message and how this is expressed in the language patterns of the play.

Patterns are key here: the lesson activities focus on speeches by Romeo and Juliet from different parts of the play to examine how Shakespeare uses the oxymoron to link the eponymous characters while simultaneously drawing important distinctions between them. Thus, learners are asked to analyse language and then consider how the structure impacts on the meaning of each instance.

To access these resources, plus a wealth of additional resources to support a challenging curriculum, visit Remember: the website tracks the production so please keep coming back to see what else we have added!

Charlotte Bourne is Deputy Head of Learning at Shakespeare’s Globe, with a focus on learners aged 3-18, plus the educators who support them. The Globe’s on-site Lively Action programme welcomes close to 80,000 learners per year, while its international outreach work sends practitioners to China, the US and Europe. A qualified English teacher and AQA examiner for GCSE Literature, Charlotte has worked closely with ITTs and NQTs across multiple subjects. 

Header photo: Ned Derrington as Mercutio in the Globe’s Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank production of Romeo and Juliet. Credit: Cesare de Giglio

Friday, April 12, 2019