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Aethelflaed's avatar

What is the point of the assignment where students must create a soundtrack for Romeo and Juliet?

Asked by Aethelflaed (13752points) May 28th, 2012

What is this assignment supposed to teach? Why is this such a common assignment? Why is this an assignment that teachers keep assigning, instead of all agreeing to bury it in the desert and never speak of it again? I know we have many teachers on here, so perhaps one can shed some light on this baffling phenomenon.

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13 Answers

ninjacolin's avatar

I never cared about shakespear and I always thought he spelled his name wrong.
The soundtrack assignment is clearly to create some sort of interesting thing to do with the guy since he didn’t provide anything in that regard.

lillycoyote's avatar

Do you have examples of this? As something that is common? I saw something here, asked several days or a week ago but I don’t really know how an assignment like this might be useful unless it is an attempt to help students connect the study of Shakespeare with there everyday lives. Maybe there is, but I don’t necessarily, see anything wrong with that, when you are talking about possibly middle school and high school students.

Shakespeare is about 400 years less relevant than what is going on in their lives today. You do what you have to do to try to make it matter to them, maybe.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@lillycoyote Right here, Fly mentions how common this assignment is, and how freakishly hard it is.

Shakespeare is more relevant than you might think. Midsummer Night’s Dream is about people getting, well, high and having an orgy, which many students which they could do. Hamlet can speak to students with a dead parent, or who have a remarried parent, or an emotionally unstable romantic partner. Much Ado About Nothing has a sexual pun right in the title.

Jeruba's avatar

I’ve assumed all along that it was a lame and rather brainless attempt to make the play seem “relevant” while also (a) trying to force kids to read it and (b) trying to come up with an assignment that kids just might do themselves instead of plagiarizing a paper.

My son was no more than 10 or 11 when he remarked to me with scathing contempt that the meaningless exercises teachers come up with to make learning “fun” just make assignments take twice as long as they have to, with at least half of that time given to the nonlearning portion.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Jeruba I was hoping you would bring the scathing wit to this question!

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

I had no idea this was a common assignment nowadays, but I do agree with @Jeruba that it’s an attempt to make the play relevant to a generation that (in my opinion) reads far less than earlier generations, and an assignment, that (again, as @Jeruba notes) isn’t as easy to plagiarize (although if this is a “common assignment,” it certainly is going to be fairly easy to plagiarize, isn’t it?).

I also agree with @Aethelflaed, though; Shakespeare, if taught right, is most certainly relevant. I’ll add another one to the list there: Othello is at heart about jealousy in relationships, and how we idealize our partners. What high school student hasn’t idealized their romances, or experienced extreme jealousy?

Aethelflaed's avatar

@AngryWhiteMale I left off Othello, because it would simply lead to me listing all the plays and how they’re relevant.

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

@Aethelflaed, true; then we’d probably end up answering someone’s homework question. :p

JLeslie's avatar

I agree with @Jeruba‘s son that the extra work for some assignments to make classwork seem relevant is annoying. I am not very fond of having a lot of subject crossover. If a student is not very creative and not very into music are they more likely to get a poor grade on the Shakespeare unit because of this assignment? Or, does everyone get an A who does it? Understanding Shakespeare is what is important in English/Literature class, not being able to add a soundtrack.

I guess they use Romeo and Juliet often because that is what is most often taught of all his writings.

wundayatta's avatar

My guess is that teachers think the only thing kids care about is music. Therefore, this assignment should be easy. They know all the words to the songs they like. It should be easy to pick out music that fits a particular part of a play.

Of course, it is not at all clear whether anyone thinks about lyrics and what they mean, these days. Perhaps love songs. But in a time lyrics go, “ooooooo, do me, do me, do me, do me, do me,” I would challenge anyone to think about those lyrics without going insane.

No. Don’t take the challenge. I don’t want to be responsible for ruining your life.

Mariah's avatar

These sorts of assignments can be educational and interesting if the students are required to justify their choices by analyzing the lyrics and how they relate to the theme of the play.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Personally, I think it’s a bullshit assignment. Mere busy work with a faint air of relevance and lacking even the minor virtues claimed by most other busy work. When a math teacher hands out assignments for no other reason than to assign homework, or when an English teacher makes you copy out spelling or vocabulary lists, at least the repetition reinforces some lesson or another (even if superfluously). Moreover, such assignments can often be done rather mindlessly by those who already understand the lesson.

The soundtrack assignment, meanwhile, seems to have no redeeming value whatsoever. It’s homework for the sake of homework that serves no educational value. I suspect that many teachers imagine it to be an “activity,” rather than homework, and thus somehow “fun.” The wealth of questions on Fluther and Yahoo! Answers suggests otherwise, however. Instead, it strikes me as an outgrowth of a lazy approach to multimedia education.

Multimedia education is great: it allows students who are not best engaged through traditional methods to learn at a higher level than they otherwise would. It seems to me, though, that too many young teachers fail to realize that doing it correctly involves just as much attention and effort on their part as any other approach to education. It’s the same attitude that makes some teachers think the presence of visual aids relieves them of the responsibility to teach.

Thus you get assignments like this one that look like the right kind of thing while functioning as nothing more than filler. Students will find their education interesting when their assignments go beyond merely informing them and instead begin to enlighten them. There’s nothing more galvanizing for students than the feeling that they’ve grasped something. The “eureka” moment is addictive, especially when the student is not simply handed the information. Students achieve when their education is an actual achievement. They do not learn when it is just one more hurdle in a race.

@ninjacolin Shakespeare’s work is actually plenty interesting. The problem is that it is meant to be performed on a stage, not read from a book. The common approach to Shakespeare in classrooms these days is quite unfortunate, so I do not blame you for getting nothing out of it. I encourage you to go see a Shakespeare play live sometime, though. If you can read about it beforehand, so as to get some background information about what’s going on, all the better. Understanding breeds appreciation.

Uberwench's avatar

Wow, this sounds like a crap assignment. If the point is to get the students interacting with the play, why not just have them act out scenes? Do it in small groups and make them come up with some simple staging. That would be much more educational than spending a night scrolling through your iTunes library.

@SavoirFaire I would seriously pay money to take one of your classes.

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