Most students are probably not aware that copyright protection laws are relatively new, so they might be surprised to learn just how many famous authors like Shakespeare borrowed and adapted others’ ideas. They should already know (I hope) that Stephanie Meyer’s books aren’t entirely original vampire stories, but they probably don’t know how many earlier “versions” of Romeo and Juliet you can find.
Common Core Standard 9. Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare).
Although there are many authors who treat themes and topics from earlier works in their own, Shakespeare is one of the easiest to approach with students simply because one can find more information online about him than nearly any other author. If you are lucky enough to have one-to-one technology with your students, the online Shakespeare editions are countless, and many include interactive elements like those in the Interactive Romeo and Juliet text.
In the Classroom
An excellent lesson plan for exploring Shakespeare’s source material is “Pyramis and Thisbe, Page to Stage” at the Folger Library site where students can learn about the ways that Shakespeare used both themes and actual plots from earlier work by Ovid. In this hands-on lesson students not only consider Shakespeare’s use of Ovid, they also decide if Ovid’s story works better as a tragedy like Romeo and Juliet or as a comedy like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and they create their own dramatic scenes.
Effective Tech integration is all about developing problem solving skills, so why not present your students with a challenging twist to this lesson: have them write a script for radio. B-SideRadio.org has great tutorials for creating a radio broadcast and it would also be fun to explore Old Time Radio broadcasts like those at OTR.net. Limiting their artistic expressions to audio recordings will challenge students who are used to the highly visual culture of the 21st century to consider alternative modes of expression. Audacity is a powerful, free, cross-platform application useful for creating and editing recordings. The possibilities are endless, which is what makes integrating technology fun. Enjoy!