Monisha Baker teaches English at Hampton High School in Hampton, Virginia.
This is the first in a series of 25 lesson plans on Julius Caesar which follow the play in sequence.
This is a pre-reading activity for classes beginning Julius Caesar. It may be adapted for use with other plays that focus on issues of friendship.
What's On for Today and Why
Students will examine some of the issues of friendship and leadership that they will encounter in reading Julius Caesar. Through creating "friendship committees" to develop a class friendship constitution, they will begin to think about many of the issues they will read about in the play.
This lesson will take 1-2 fifty minute periods.
What You Need
Folger edition of Julius Caesar
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
What To Do
1. Break your class into groups of 4-5 students who will serve as a "friendship committee." Each group is responsible for listing 10 qualities or traits that qualify a person as a friend. They should also list 5 friendship infractions that could cause the possible absolving of a friendship.
2. When the groups are done listing their traits, have each group elect a Friendship Constitution Representative who will represent their group at a Friendship Summit. The purpose of this summit will be to derive a class Friendship Constitution incorporating ideas from each group.
3. Have the Friendship Summit meet in front of the whole class. The final Friendship Constitution should include a representative 10 friendship traits and 5 friendship infractions, selected from the individual groups' work. Each Representative should attempt to include at least two of her group's ideas in the final Constitution. At the end of the process, the Summit should vote on its proposed Constitution.
4. Conclude the exercise with a group discussion about the overall task and about the relationship of the task with the play they are about to read. As far as the final friendship Constitution, what do they feel they would alter or change? Did they find the task meaningful? How did they like working on something so subjective with a group? Could they draw any conclusions about coming to a consensus in a large group? That question can lead into more Caesar -specific questions: what is the role of personal friendships in creating a group governing structure? How easy is it to maintain friendships in a political context?
5. Post the friendship Constitution in the classroom. As you read Julius Caesar , return to the Constitution when examining the actions of the main characters. How often do the characters live up to the class expectations? How often are they in default?
6. As an optional extension, create a Friendship Infraction Committee to make decisions on friendship infractions and other issues between friends. The Committee could also pass judgment on friendship infractions in Julius Caesar .
How Did It Go?
If students found the project a bit difficult, that can work as an excellent springboard to talk about how difficult ruling Rome must have been in Caesar's day. How complete were they able to make their group handouts? Could students identify the way personal friendships worked in the Summit process?
If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.