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Digital Learning Day: Collaborative Romeo and Juliet Blogging Community

Written by Shaelynn Farnsworth
February 03, 2012

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

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