In my last blog post “Don’t Just Read Shakespeare, Perform It!”, I encouraged other teachers to have students perform Shakespeare’s plays instead of simply reading them. I want students to enjoy Shakespeare, but I also want them to think about why the situations, themes, and characters in his plays have remained popular for hundreds of years.

Since we perform the play in class, students don’t have reading for homework. Instead, they complete an ongoing Shakespeare Soundtrack Project. Each night they take the scenes we’ve performed in class and pair each scene with a song. They have to write a paragraph analyzing how the song fits the scene. I encourage them to think about the following questions:

  • Is there a theme present in the song that is also developed in the scene?
  • Does the song describe a person who reminds you of a character in the scene?
  • Are the emotions in that particular song reminiscent of the emotional state of the characters in the scene?
  • Does the song mirror the action in the scene?
  • Does the pacing of the song match the pacing in the scene?

Students must include quotes from both the play and the song (if there are lyrics) to support their analysis of how the song fits the scene. Instead of collecting their soundtracks on paper, I use my Schoology site and students post their analytical paragraphs to a shared discussion thread. This makes the activity more social and exciting because they can read and comment on each other’s song choices.

Below is a screenshot of our soundtrack project for the Prologue in Romeo and Juliet.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 10.12.17 PM


Schoology 2x


Most students love music, which makes this project a fun challenge for them. I love that they are analyzing the play and supporting their statements with textual evidence. It’s a win-win!

Click here to view a Google document with a description of the project and some fun extra-credit ideas. If you have a Gmail address, simply log into your account then click “File” at the top of this document. Select “Make a copy” and it will automatically save in your Google Drive.

18 Responses

  1. I love this!! I am adapting it to use with Macbeth this week. I had been searching for a way for the students to connect the play to their lives, and this is going to be great. Thank you!

  2. I love this idea! As far as posting to forums, how do you decide between Collaborize Classroom, Schoology, etc.?

    • Hi Bonnie,

      I used Collaborize Classroom for years and just switched over to Schoology this year. I am really enjoying Schoology’s discussion functionality, and it has all the features of a learning management system if that’s what you are looking for.


  3. I love what you are doing! I’m so inspired by your creativity! My mind is reeling now how I can bring music to my second grade students to discover the theme of a song. We do fairytales soon so I’m thinking Disney songs are a good avenue. Excited! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • You’re so welcome, Jen!

      My son is in 1st grade and my daughter is in 3rd. They both love music. I can imagine your students would enjoy thinking about main idea/theme in relation to songs. That’s a great idea!


  4. Catlin,

    This is such a fantastic idea! I’m a student teacher right now and will be teaching a 9th grade class in the spring. This would be a wonderful way to engage them with R&J by making the themes of the play relevant to their world. Thank you so much for all of your wonderfully creative ideas. Whenever I get stressed or overwhelmed with student teaching (which honestly is quite often), I scroll through your blog and the wealth of engaging and fun student-centered lessons/activities calms my nerves and helps me see ways that I can reach these kids and help them be successful. Will be purchasing your books soon!


    • Hi Sara,

      Thank you for the wonderful comment. I’m so glad my blog has given you some ideas you can use and helped you manage the intensity of being a new teacher (or soon-to-be teacher). Starting out in this profession is hard. Those first few years are a bit of a blur and often new teachers are scrambling for ideas. If my blog and book can help you navigate that, I’m thrilled.

      Take care.


  5. […] their heads. I’ve tried a variety of techniques to hook my students from having them complete soundtrack projects for the plays to performing the scenes in class. These have helped to engage my students, but I […]

  6. Terrific idea! My team used to do something similar with Farenheit 451. Didn’t think of pairing it with Romeo and Juliet, but it is perfect. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Nancy,

      I assess them on two skills (1-4 scale): 1) Cites strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis and 2) examines complex ideas clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.


  7. Hello Catlin,

    I’m about 3 yrs late to this blog. I’m wondering if you’d be willing to share your pacing guide for R&J to help me with my own pacing for Macbeth (I’m teaching it for the first time this year). I love the ideas of having the students perform the play and create a soundtrack, but I definitely can’t see the bigger picture here regarding time.

    Thanks for your inspiration,

    Kevin Feramisco (@theteachingjedi)

    • Hi Kevin,

      My Shakespeare unit spans one grading period (6 weeks). I break students into acting troupes for each act and give each troupe a scene or part of a scene (if it is long). We spend one period that week reading, rehearsing, blocking. Then we spend the rest of the week performing and discussing the scenes.

      My Shakespeare is an awesome resource for students to use as they read their scenes in preparation for their performances so they understand what they are reading.

      Then they are responsible for creating a soundtrack for ONE of the scenes we covered that day. They select a song and analyze how it fits the scene and post their selections to our Schoology discussion space. I used to have them choose a song for every scene, but we sometimes get through 2-3 short scenes in a period which was too much.

      I don’t have a rigid pacing guide since there are weeks when we get through more. I try to be flexible as we move through the text.

      I hope that helps!

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