We are thrilled to feature the following guest post from Lora Wissmann, 7th and 8th grade Language Arts Teacher at Preclarus Mastery Academy in Grand Center. Lora's students have been exploring the similarities and differences between Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story. Lora shared her thoughts as the unit was coming to a close at the end of December 2013. To celebrate their hard work, some of the students will have the opportunity to attend West Side Story at the Fox Theatre.
For the past 8 weeks, the students in room 200 at Preclarus Mastery Academy have been digging deep into Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story. The classroom has been split down the middle, with half of the students on one side and the other half on the other. One half began with reading Romeo and Juliet, the other half reading West Side Story.
A “cast list” was posted, and the students competed daily for points. Points were earned through participation in whole class and small group discussions, as well as the completion of each night’s assignment. Four weeks in and the students switched texts. Their conversations never ceased to impress me. Topics regularly included foreshadowing, irony, and the parallels between the two texts. The West Side Story students often found themselves in tough conversations about the controversies of the text, as well as the moral decisions being made by the characters, and how their own morals lined up (or didn’t) with those of the characters.
For the past three days, the students have been completing the final assessment. It included identifying parallels, character counterparts, differences between those counterparts, change in character, treatment of Puerto Ricans and what that says about America during the time period, causes of tragedy in both texts, the ineffectiveness of authority figures, the danger of society being bystanders, the lessons we’re being taught, and the faithfulness of the film versions, or lack thereof, to the texts. Not to mention, some pretty tough vocabulary! Three days, and not an ounce of pushback.
They have been working incredibly hard, knowing that what they are doing, is not being done by many peers their age. Today, at our classroom holiday party, I was able to give a very special present to the top 6 performing students: tickets to see West Side Story at the Fox! One student cried, and said he couldn’t ask for anything more for Christmas. The other students cheered for and celebrated with the winning students. The unit has been most enjoyable for all of us. We have learned so much and grown as a class. We have debated and laughed, sung, danced, and acted. It will certainly be a tough unit to follow. :)
7th and 8th grade Language Arts Teacher
Preclarus Mastery Academy
Dream Big :)
West Side Story returns to the Fox Theatre Friday, January 3-5.