Romeo and Juliet Socratic Seminar Part I: Teens and Decision Making

Romeo and Juliet lends itself well to discussing the effects of youthful decisions on teens, as the main characters experience the ultimate in effects.    Attribution: By engraving by James Heath (1757–1834) after painting by James Northcote (1746–1831) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Romeo and Juliet lends itself well to discussing the effects of youthful decisions on teens, as the main characters experience the ultimate cost. Attribution: By engraving by James Heath (1757–1834) after painting by James Northcote (1746–1831) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Dave Watros and I have been collaborating on a Socratic Seminar for his Honors 9 classes focusing on the use of textual evidence from Romeo and Juliet combined with non-fiction text sources to answer the following questions:

  • What level of personal responsibility should teens have for making their own choices and accepting the consequences afterward?
  • What social/environmental factors might influence teens’ decision-making processes?
  • What intrinsic factors might influence teens’ decision-making process?
  • When do teens make the best decisions?  The worst?
  • What types of “bad decisions” are common in teens?  What are the consequences of these bad decisions?
  • What is unique to teens’ today that might influence the decisions they make (for better or worse)?
  • Is being a teen difficult?  Why or why not?
  • If being a teen is difficult, what are some ways individuals cope (positive and negative)?
  • Is true love possible as a teenager?
  • How might Romeo and Juliet’s experiences have been different in today’s society?
  • Is the romance between Romeo and Juliet realistic?
  • Should teens engage in romantic relationships?  What are the positive effects?  The negative effects?

I updated the Power Point I used in Renee Jackson’s classes (see post here for the Julius Caesar Socratic seminar referenced and bottom of the post for updated Power Point) to introduce his classes to the process and gave each student a guided notes sheet and the same Socratic Seminar Rubric used in Jackson’s classes.

Here is a list of the links for the non-fiction resources gathered to address the essential questions, along with some of my notes for each one (for a downloadable version of these questions and resources see the bottom of this post):

What’s Wrong with the Teenage Mind- Wallstreet Journal

  • This article is a really good resource for what is happening in the teenage mind and influencing factors

Teens Brains are more Sensitive to Rewarding Feedback from Peers- Association for Psychological Science

  • Fairly short article about “peer pressure” and risky behavior

Teenage Brain Development- How Stuff Works

  • Might be a little long.  In addition, other sources seem to have similar information about the brain of the teenager

Runaway Romeo and Juliet Teens- TIME Magazine

  • Very short- only content connection is “How might Romeo and Juliet’s story be different in modern times?”

When your Teen Boy Becomes Moody, Blame Biology- TIME Magazine

  • This article describes a decrease in “cognitive empathy,” or the ability to relate to the feelings of others, in teens

Teen Binge Drinking: All Too Common?- Psychology Today

  • The article explains how 90% of teens who drink “binge” and the effects of the decision to do so.  It addresses some of the “motivation” behind the destructive decision, the effects, and how parents can influence teens

A Sense of Autonomy is a Primary Reward or Threat for the Brain- Psychology Today

  • Parts of this article might be good.  Some scientific language that might be difficult for students, but it does a good job of explaining why teens need autonomy.

Teenagers in Love, an excerpt from Sticky Bonds- Psychology Today

  • Article stresses the importance of first loves and taking teen relationships seriously

Teen Love Hurts: ABC News

  • Article summarizes the negative emotional effects of teen relationships on the individual and also highlights a few positive effects

The mysterious workings of the adolescent brain- TEDTalk

  • This talk uses high-level scientific language, but it provides a good context for what is happening in the adolescent brain (15 min.)

We are all Cyborgs Now- TEDTalk

  • This presentation deals with the effects of technology on humans- especially teens and their ability to reflect and have downtime (7 min.)

Why 30 is not the new 20- TEDTalk

  • This talk discusses the importance of preparing for adulthood in one’s twenties instead of experiencing an “extended adolescence” (15 min.)

The Teen Brain on Technology- PBS

  • This news clip describes the effects of technology on the teen brain

When Jackson and I went through this process with her students, the class read the non-fiction sources together using the Non-Fiction Close Reading sheet.  These text analysis were interspersed throughout the reading of Julius Caesar at relevant points.  In order to meet the needs of the honors students, Watros decided to modify the process by giving students the full list of resources and essential questions at once.  Students then chose the sources from the list that they wanted to use in the seminar independently.  In addition, instead of a more formalized “close reading sheet,” students were asked to annotate the texts chosen.  These changes met the needs of his more independent learners and could also add to the complexity of the discussion since the textual evidence used in the seminar would be more varied.

There will be a follow-up post on this seminar after next week when students have had a chance to participate in the process.  In addition, I believe that Carrie Eneix will also be using these resources with her freshmen in the coming months.  I would be happy to work with any other freshman teacher who has interest in pairing Socratic Seminar and non-fiction text sources with Romeo and Juliet.

Here are some additional resources mentioned in the post:

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