A modern take on Romeo and Juliet.

Humanities teacher Larry Reiff regularly seeks out ways to enhance his lessons. He uses iPad, apps, books, and movies to help his students do more than just read “Romeo and Juliet” — they interact with it in entirely new ways.

Introduce the topic. The iBooks Store has just the right choices.

There are many different versions of Romeo and Juliet available in the iBooks Store. Reiff chooses the Folger Shakespeare Library Edition because it features the play in its original form. Since this version has no added stage directions, videos, or other enhancements, students must pay close attention to the words themselves.

Putting the words first.

Reiff introduces his students to the language of the play by reading it together as a class, working through several close reading activities that help students start to decode Shakespeare’s lines. By beginning with the play’s unfamiliar and sometimes difficult language, the class has a shared starting point for the journey they are about to undertake — experiencing, interpreting, and performing Romeo and Juliet,
and truly engaging with the play.


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How do I get my students excited about 400-year-old literature? It's by doing something with it. Making it an experience, not just words on a page.” Larry Reiff, High School Teacher, Roslyn High School

Build student understanding. iPad offers new possibilities to help students learn.

Classroom reenactments are a traditional way to explore Shakespeare. Reiff and his class take it to a whole new level with interactive activities and assignments on iPad that allow them to explore and refine their performances, and ultimately, comprehend the material more fully.

Playing with direction.

Students use the iAnnotate app to add their own stage directions and voice inflections to a PDF of the play's text, so it can be acted out as they understand it. This “prompt book” exercise helps students start to grasp the variety of ways in which Shakespeare's language can be interpreted and staged.


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From page to stage.

With the notes from their playbook as a guide, students work together in groups to photograph and shoot video of their scenes with the built-in camera on iPad. They see firsthand how their directorial choices can shift the meaning of a line or the feeling of an entire scene. Watching other students' films provokes discussion about the significance of the words and deepens their comprehension of the story.


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Fine-tuning their voices.

To emphasize the power of inflection, Reiff has his students practice their lines and play with sound effects using the Voice Recorder and GarageBand apps. As they experiment, re-record, and add sound effects, they find the level of drama that feels right to them. And they understand that the way they speak the words can be as important as the words themselves.

Bringing it all together.

Reiff’s students use iMovie to edit their scene, incorporating what they’ve discovered in their exploration of staging, movement, vocal delivery, and sound effects. They share with the class and learn from their peers’ interpretations.


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Learning from the pros.

After students have produced their own scenes, Reiff has them watch a scene from two movie adaptations of the play. Students download the Franco Zeferelli and Baz Luhrmann versions of Romeo and Juliet from iTunes and watch right from iPad. Reiff encourages them to think about how the directors’ interpretations of the play’s language affect the audience’s experience and understanding.


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“No matter what level of students I'm teaching, I teach the same exact unit. So if you're an honors student, or just struggling to pass, you still get something out of the unit. The possibilities for learning are that differentiated.” Larry Reiff, High School Teacher, Roslyn High School

Applying learning. App choices let students shine.

For their final project, students compare and analyze the staging and performance of a scene from
the Zeferelli and Luhrmann films. Students can use Pages, iMovie, or one of the many other app
choices Reiff offers to create a project that appeals to his or her learning style and shows
understanding in a very personal way.

Engaging both audio and visuals.

Some students create a “director’s cut”-style commentary in iMovie. Combining clips from the films with a voice recording, they discuss Shakespeare's intent, each director's interpretation, and the impact of staging choices on the audience's understanding.


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Writing it up.

Students who prefer a more traditional approach compose a paper in Pages. They write an essay to show Reiff that they’re able to compare Shakespeare’s intent with each director’s vision and analyze how the differences affect a viewer’s comprehension.


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Identifying with the characters.

Throughout the unit, Reiff’s students learn to relate to the play’s characters using a format they’re comfortable with — social media. They assume the identity of the play’s characters and, using Facebook, create a modern-day character journal, posting and commenting in Shakespeare’s words. They “friend” each other, “like” movies and music they think their characters would like, and update their statuses to match the action in the play. Students also create 140-character tweets to express their feelings about the action in a scene.

“What I love about teaching with iPad is that it gives my students an infinite amount of methods to show me they understand the material.” Larry Reiff, High School Teacher, Roslyn High School

More ways to teach with iPad.

The iTunes Store has an extensive library of apps, books, music, movies, podcasts, and learning materials that make it easy to give students choices, accommodate more learning styles, supplement favorite activities, and completely reshape the way you use old and new material. Use Larry Reiff’s lesson as inspiration or explore your own ways to integrate iPad as you plan, personalize, and perfect your lesson. Download a guide to exploring educational content in iTunes