Overview: Exploring Feudal Arts – what causes them and how they are resolved – through the lens of speaking and listening skills and the theater strategy of “yes, and”.

Grades: 7-8

Content Areas: English/Language Arts and Theater

There have always been feuds throughout history.  Perhaps one of the most well-known is the one between the Montagues and the Capulet’s in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  What’s particularly interesting about this one is that we don’t really have a lot of information about what started the feud.  Instead, we’re just told that there are two families who don’t get along due to a long-held argument and what happens next is a tragedy that is about to unfold.

In this lesson, we’re using the context to help teach speaking and listening skills in and through the elements of theater.  As with most arguments, what is communicated and what is intended to be communicated are often two different things.  This all stems from both speaking and listening.  Often, these standards are an afterthought, but in reality, they are critical to students thriving in the 21st century.  And when you dig into speaking and listening, these can be greatly effected by sentence choice, voice and gestures which are linked to basic theater elements.

Using Yes…And Strategy

This lesson offers students an opportunity to become either a Montague or a Capulet and to create the moment where the two families first enter into an argument.  The reason doesn’t have to be important: as with the play, it’s what happens next that matters.  Students on each side share a “yes, and” statement about the original offense until the argument snowballs into a standoff.  As they are doing this, the teacher is either recording the argument as an audio file, or videotaping the exchange.

After the standoff, students must then watch or listen to the recording and notice how sentence choice, voice and gestures all play a role in communicating intent.  This way, students are engaging in both the act of speaking and listening to see how one is effected by the other.

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