“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” – Stephen King
As an English teacher, it’s basically a given that I love books. I find books to be an opportunity to step into a new, unique world with people that intrigue me. Being a voracious reader, my mind is always quick to take the vivid descriptions of settings and character appearances and build a pretty good picture of what is happening.
However, for some, this is not so easily done, especially if reading is not a daily hobby. In some cases, it takes a bit more than mere imagination to really get into a story or step into a book. So, how then can English teachers help students to experience the “uniquely portable magic” that, according to Stephen King, books possess?
This was a question myself and many other English teachers sought to find an answer to at a workshop that took place this past June in Lexington, KY. This workshop, aptly titled, “Keeping the Wonder,” aimed to provide secondary English teachers with ideas of how to create a wonder in reading that sadly tends to vanish after students leave elementary school. One of the strategies suggested involved a few extra pops to help set the mood of the book and its setting along with a little bit of improv; while our freshmen were reading Romeo and Juliet a few weeks ago, we decided to give this strategy a go.
When students entered my classroom the day of Romeo and Juliet’s wedding, they heard Frank Sinatra’s “L.O.V.E” playing and found two sets of desk rows. They were told that one row was reserved for Montague guests while the other was for Capulet guests. Additionally, there was a rose-petaled walkway through the middle of the rows.
Students were quick to volunteer for the parts of Romeo, Juliet, and Friar Lawrence as we read and acted out the wedding scene with the use of our new “stage.”
After discussing the important aspects of this scene, we then celebrated with a sparkling grape juice toast and wedding desserts brought in by myself and students.
Suffice to say, Romeo and Juliet’s wedding will be a memorable reading experience, as we created a portal into one of Shakespeare’s many unique worlds.