Recently, I’ve added a non-fiction element to complement each of my literature units. Yes, the emphasis on informational text in the Common Core standards was the impetus, but the former journalist in me was more than happy to dig into the periodical archives and unearth some gems.
The non-fiction lesson that twisted my students’ hearts the most this year was the case of Admira Ismic and Bosko Brkic, a young couple in Sarajevo from different religious backgrounds who died together as they tried to flee their war-torn city in 1993. At the conclusion of our study of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, I introduced my classes to Admira and Bosko’s story using a CNN video clip, a New York Times editorial, and a series of deep-thinking discussion questions. The depth and emotion of our class discussion was stunning and we ended with a compelling list of the invisible social barriers that keep people apart on our own campus.
So often kids think the hate that ruined the Capulet and Montague families is a manufactured dramatic device and that the situation facing those young lovers isn’t relevant to today’s world. This lesson challenges that thinking and helps students see that Shakespeare’s message (“See what a scourge is laid upon your hate/That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love”) still serves as an appropriate warning to us today.
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