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Snapshot 3: Shakespeare on Facebook

This snapshot describes how a teacher used Facebook as a means to get her students deeply engaged with the characters and themes of Romeo and Juliet.


I was teaching an accelerated year 10 co-ed class in a decile 4 school. The students were working at level 6 or beyond on the English curriculum. All were digitally literate and had access to the internet at home.

Relationships and interactions in the class were positive but the students had had an intensely academic year and were close to burnout.

I wanted to offer them Romeo and Juliet in a way that was refreshing and invigorating, and that would make its relevance transparent. I also wanted an approach that would be student-driven and collaborative.

I asked the class for ideas, saying that I’d like to find an approach that would allow them to respond digitally to the text. After discussion, they decided that they would like to try using Facebook for this purpose.

Curriculum focus

In previous units, the class had worked hard on language and structural elements, so I wanted this unit to focus on thinking about ideas, and deep understanding, rather than deconstruction or critical analysis of text. Essentially, I wanted the students to make meaning of the text as a whole – to engage with and respond to character, situation, events, and ideas.

My expectation was that students would develop understanding and discrimination as they engaged fully with the play and that they would understand the nuances and experience the conflicts as if real.

Level 6

  • Creating and making meaning in response to text(s).

Levels 6-7

  • Reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing, with a focus on ideas, and purposes and audiences.

Teacher action

Facebook became the vehicle for a class study of Romeo and Juliet.

Each student was randomly assigned (by drawing names from a hat) a character from the play. Only I knew which students had been assigned the various roles. Each student then created a gmail account in the name of their character and used that account to set up a Facebook page for them.

Two students took responsibility for setting up a class Romeo and Juliet page, which all the students joined. Students then created Facebook profiles for their characters. Protocols for the use of these Facebook accounts were discussed and established. Parents were informed of these protocols and invited to log in and follow the action.

Interactions began immediately – before we had even begun reading the play in class. As the reading progressed, the students’ homework was to respond in character to the unfolding events.

In addition to class reading, we looked at different film versions of selected scenes. The students would compare their interpretations with those of the directors and the actors.

At the end of the unit, we had a celebration in which the students who had assumed the various roles were revealed. A class vote established which three characters had been most effectively characterized in their Facebook page. The students responsible for these pages each received a small prize.

What happened?

The students responded to the events and relationships in the play as if they were real and happening now. It was exciting to see their characters developing in new and individual ways.

Because the students were following their particular character it was easier for them to find a path through the play and they were more interested in decoding the language so they could see what to comment on. And because they had greater ownership of characters and events, their responses to film versions were far more opinionated than would otherwise have been the case.

Responding via Facebook reinforced the idea that the characters had an “offstage” life, and that Romeo and Juliet were part of a community who were all reacting to events.

From their responses, it was clear that the students had met the level 6 outcomes that were the focus of this unit. In terms of the key competencies – a second focus – the unit gave them the opportunity to further develop all five competencies. Facebook provided them with an ideal means to collectively manage and solve problems.

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Last updated August 28, 2012