As a high school English teacher, I know how hard it can be to incorporate Shakespeare into the classroom. Let alone generate enough interest to avoid eye rolling and near crying (on the part of the student and yourself). So, here are two films I’ve used in my classroom that were incorporated successfully, followed by ratings and my teacher tips!
Romeo and Juliet
Movie: West Side Story
Rating: PG-13. Depending on your district, you may need a permission slip to view – some death scenes mixed in with a lot of singing and dancing.
Tips: This film is rather lengthy at over 2 hours. Because the film is a musical, there are obvious scenes that are not needed to maintain the plot and comparison to Shakespeare’s play. I’d recommend previewing yourself and determining what scenes are vital to your lesson. Be prepared for students getting antsy if you try to view more than is needed. Teenagers are not fond of excessive singing and dancing. But, when they can start to make more current day connections to Shakespeare through the Jets and Sharks to the Capulets and Montagues, you’ll maintain interest. Several activities can be developed regarding family structure, societal norms, gangs, and bullying.
Taming of the Shrew
Movie: 10 Things I Hate About You
Rating: PG-13. Regardless of your district, I’d HIGHLY recommend a permission slip to view for this film – underage drinking and profanity.
Tips: Comedy, relevant teenage angst, awesome 90’s trends…This film is an easy view and can generate wonderful discussion on sibling rivalry, secrets, gambling, and popularity in high school. However, there are numerous scenes with profanity and partying. I definitely suggest previewing ahead of time to cut these scenes out or mute certain dialogue. Your students will fight to view the entire film, and you could easily do this if allowed. Several comparative analysis lessons can be incorporated with this film and the play. Names, dilemmas, etc…this film is the current day Taming of the Shrew. Because of the films appeal to teenagers, you could use this film at any point in reading the play-pre, during, or post.
These films are obviously geared to a more mature crowd, particularly when your focus is a Shakespeare unit. Speak with your district about movie guidelines prior to committing to the movies above. From my personal experience, both films worked tremendously well when digging into Shakespeare and tackling the language to understand the purpose.
Happy reading – and viewing – in your secondary classroom!