How I teach the Symbols of Romeo and Juliet

teaching symbols of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

There are so many symbols of Romeo and Juliet, but if you simplify and use visual tools you will be blown away at how much student understanding skyrockets!

Here is my MEGA LIST of symbols in Romeo and Juliet:

  • Hot/Heat
  • Fire
  • Masks
  • Time, Speed, Haste
  • Speed/Haste
  • Birds
  • Flowers
  • Roses
  • Death
  • Poison/Potion
  • Day/Night
  • Sun and Moon
  • Cupid
  • Feuds
  • Queen Mab
  • Light/Darkness

When teaching students about symbolism, it is important first to explain what a symbol is.

  • A symbol can be an object, an action, or a character that represents something else, usually an idea or a concept.

Once students understand what a symbol is, you can give examples of common symbols and their meanings. For instance, a rose may symbolize love, while a skull might represent death.

Pick 4-6 symbols of Romeo and Juliet to plan your unit and lessons

There are LOTS of symbols in the play, and as a teacher, I like to narrow our focus to 4-6 of my favorite symbols. 

This strategy allows students to dig into a select few and unpack the more profound meaning. PLUS it also simplifies my life, and helps to keep my own lessons more focused.

Introduce the Symbols of Romeo and Juliet Before Act 1

I always introduce 1-2 symbols before we even begin reading! 

This “front-loading” strategy allows students to keep their eyes and ears open as we read through the play.

Rather than me pointing out symbols to students as we read, this strategy increases the probability that students will recognize the symbols in the text on their own!

Symbols of Romeo and Juliet light and darkness and time, speed and haste
I use these Symbolism Visuals when teaching Romeo and Juliet. I always teach the symbols: Light & Darkness + Time, Speed, Haste

Displaying Symbolism Visuals

My #1 teaching hack that TRANSFORMED my teaching of the Symbols in Romeo and Juliet was using visual tools to display on the board. 

This instructional strategy aligns with the principles of Universal Design for Learning.

  • Universal design for learning (UDL) is an educational framework based on the principle that all learners are unique and deserve an equal opportunity to succeed. 
  • The goal is to create classrooms that meet the needs of all learners.
  • By using various instructional strategies and materials, educators can ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to learn.

Symbolism visuals are an example of a varied instructional strategy and material. Tangible visuals in the classroom allow teachers to make abstract concepts like symbolism concrete for their students!

symbolism visuals
Symbols of Romeo and Juliet Queen Mab, death, graves and tombs

When teaching Symbolism, I always do this:

  1. Narrow down 4-6 symbols that I am most interested in teaching.
  2. Introduce some of the symbols before we even begin so students can experience the joy of “finding” these hidden treasures.
  3. Use symbolism visuals to make the abstract concept more concrete for students.
Remember, teaching the symbols of Romeo and Juliet doesn’t have to be complicated!