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Activity Overview


Themes, symbols, and motifs are valuable aspects of any literary work, and they add richness to stories. Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to analyze without assistance. Using a storyboard, students can visually demonstrate their understanding of these concepts, and master analysis of literary elements. For best practices, see our supplementary article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities to teach themes, symbols, and motifs.

As a classroom activity, students could track the rich symbolism William Shakespeare uses throughout the play. In the example storyboard above, the creator has focused on the particular use of light and dark imagery in the play. Although generally light is seen as good and dark is seen as evil, the roles are reversed for these young lovers. This may be because their love must remain hidden, and darkness conceals their secret, making the darkness good.


Themes and Ideas to Discuss

Love Causing Violence

Throughout the play, the actions of the impetuous and rash lovers cause misfortune, often leading to the death of other characters, and eventually, themselves.


Individuals vs. Society

In much of the play, Romeo and Juliet struggle to be together against external forces. They have an ‘us against the world’ mentality, defying their families and the Prince of Verona.


Fate

The idea that our lives are not controlled by chance, but rather by a predetermined fate, keeps the audience in suspense. In the end, a series of coincidences leads to the tragic death of the star-crossed lovers.


Motifs and Imagery to Look For

Light/Darkness

Darkness concealing the lovers' relationship adds to the play's urgency and drama. Romeo and Juliet are the only light in each other's life.


Dreams

In the play, the idea that dreams are only fantasies is most notable in Mercutio’s "Queen Mab" speech. Romeo, the dreamer, quickly falls hopelessly in love. Mercutio can’t help but create a satire around this idea.


Poison

Early in the play, Friar Lawrence remarks that everything has its purpose and that certain things are only made evil by human hands. Specifically, he means the poison that will make Juliet appear dead although she is merely asleep. However, Romeo visits an apothecary and buys a lethal poison that ends his life.


Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 9-10

Difficulty Level 5 (Advanced / Mastery)

Type of Assignment Individual or Group

Type of Activity: Themes, Symbols & Motifs

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/1] Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/5] Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/10] By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

    By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently


Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)



Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes, symbols, and motifs in Romeo and Juliet. Illustrate instances of each and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from Romeo and Juliet you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for an example that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Add cells as needed.



Rubric

(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)



Themes, Symbols, and Motifs (Grades 9-12)
Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes, symbols, and/or motifs in the story. Illustrate instances of each and write a short description that explains the example's significance.
Proficient Emerging Beginning Needs Improvement
Identification of Theme(s), Symbol(s), and/or Motif(s)
All themes are correctly identified as important recurring topics or messages in the story. Symbols are correctly identified as objects that represent something else at a higher level in the story. Motifs are correctly identified as important recurring features or ideas in the story.
Most themes are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete. Most symbols are correctly identified, but some objects are missing or incomplete. Some motifs are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete.
Most themes are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most symbols are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most motifs are missing, incomplete, or incorrect.
No themes, symbols, or motifs are correctly identified.
Examples and Descriptions
Quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motifs that are being identified. Descriptions mostly accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s), and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are minimal, incorrect, or unrelated to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions contain inaccuracies in their explanations, or do not highlight their significance to the story.
Examples and descriptions are missing or too minimal to score.
Depiction
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are accurate to the story and reflect time, effort, thought, and care with regard to placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are mostly accurate to the story. They reflect time and effort put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are inaccurate to the story. The depictions may be rushed or show minimal effort, time, and care put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Most depictions are missing too many elements or are too minimal to score. Little time or effort has been put into placement and creation of the scenes.
English Conventions
There are no errors in spelling, grammar, or mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions reflect careful proofreading and accuracy to the story.
There are a few errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions show accuracy to the story and some proofreading.
There are several errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. Most writing portions do not reflect proofreading or accuracy to the story.
Errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics in writing portions of the storyboard seriously interfere with communication.




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Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet





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