Home » Blogs

< Back
Shaelynn Farnsworth's picture
Feb 03 2012

Digital Learning Day: Collaborative Romeo and Juliet Blogging Community


Three years ago, BCLUW, the school I teach at, implemented a 1 to 1 laptop program which provides students grades 9-12 a laptop to use during the school year. Every day at BCLUW is Digital Learning Day. Technology is not viewed as a separate entity needing a specific time to be etched into the classroom for use, in fact it reminds me a lot of the dichotomy between reading and writing; technology infused curriculum is the norm here, a natural part of pedagogy and student learning. 

This year on February 1, the day marked as Digital Learning Day, I reflected upon my own practice pre-laptop and found my freshmen English class providing the perfect example. When I first started teaching in 2000, I taught basically how I was taught in high school. When I found myself expected to teach Romeo and Juliet in the classroom I knew that I wanted students to read the whole play out loud, color-coded notecards for characters' families, and to watch the Zeffirelli version of the movie at the very end of the unit. Students would take quizzes and complete work sheets at the end of each act, and a large test as a final assessment; I was set! 

Fast forward to 2009, years of experience and the opportunity for equal access to technology in the classroom and at home transformed this unit into a relevant, engaging, and collaborative PBL. Students from BCLUW are connecting with students in Eagle Grove taught by English teacher Aaron Schmidt. Here is a brief summary:

Essential Questions: Why do we still read Shakespeare today? Why is Romeo and Juliet relevant to you?

Projects: Blogging Community - each student is assigned a character and creates a blog in which they will write posts answering questions/prompts posed throughout the play. This has taken place of the "Act Quizzes" I used to give to students. They answer such things as "Define foil and provide an example from the play" or "what would you do if you were in their (Romeo and Juliet) spot?" 

These blogs links are on a google document and shared with BCLUW students and students from another school reading the play at the same time. Students love connecting to each other, but when collaborating with peers from another school audience changes and engagement increases.

Last year, superintendent Ben Petty blogged in the role of Queen Elizabeth, challenging students with trivia questions of the time period. I always blog as Shakespeare, posting examples and questions for students to answer. Here is an example of a student blog started this year as Tybalt

Twitter Chats -Challenging students to summarize scenes in acts on Twitter is another way to have them connect to the reading, apply understanding, and discuss with a global audience thoughts/reaction to the classic text. Students use Twitter daily at BCLUW, and so they will set up a new account specifically for this project tweeting in the voice of their assigned character.

Acting -Students from both schools will will recreate a scene from the play and will share via voicethread. 

Business Letter -The final project will be a business letter written by the student to the school board. Students will argue for or against Shakespeare in the classroom offering thoughtful analysis, and textual support to make their point. These letter will ACTUALLY be given to the school board members. 


Technology helps bring classics such as Romeo and Juliet alive to students. Most of them have grown up watching Lion King, Ten Things I Hate About You, and other contemporary movies all based on Shakespeare's works. By maximizing technological opportunities in the classroom, students' view of Romeo and Juliet is transformed to one or relevance and engagement. 

Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions! Twitter: @shfarnsworth


Creative Commons Licence
<p>The way you have incorporated technology in the classroom is awesome! I think as a first year teacher I too would approach a unit on Romeo &amp; Juliet the same way you originally did by doing a read aloud of the whole novel in class with students and utilizing quizzes, worksheets, and a test. Although I am partial to Baz Luhrmann's version of the movie which is what I watched in 9th grade English. Giving student's character roles to blog in is a creative way to get them involved in the story and utilize a technology that may be familiar to them. Even if they are not familiar they would be excited to participate in this online journaling culture. I never would have thought to use a business letter to the schoolboard as a culminating project, I think that is a good way to analyze both reading and writing comprehension. It also gives the students relevancy because you actually send them to the schoolboard to encourage or discourage Shakespeare in the classroom. I am curious do students usually choose to support Shakespeare being taught or are they still against it at the end of the unit?</p>
<p>I love all of your ideas, and the fact that they are being applied to Shakespeare. I recently confessed my anxiety about Shakespeare to my classmates in graduate school. After reading your ideas, I wish the assignments I completed in high school mirrored the ones above. Unfortunately, that was not the case. While I believe that his texts can be challenging, I think that they are a beneficial aspect of English classes, and should be implemented in the classroom. Using social networking sites are a wonderful tool for students to use, because it helps them connect their two realities: life inside and outside of school. Moreover, it helps them interpret Shakespeare in a new fashion, one that makes more sense to them. I looked at the student blog you included above, and could not help but laugh at the character’s description. It made me think about the many ways students can interpret a character, and manipulate his or her voice. &nbsp;In general, focusing in on a character can help students understand a text more, because in order to channel the character’s voice, they need to closely examine the text. In terms of Shakespeare, students will most likely feel less intimidated by his plays if they are interacting with his characters and themes in a modernized fashion. All of your ideas are a great representation of incorporating technology in the classroom, and I think that teachers need to do more of this. Our students are living in a technology driven world, and as teachers, we need to understand this and present assignments in a more creative way. What you describe above is perfect! Great job. &nbsp;</p>