WALES — English teacher Tony Luchini knows students want to win.

So if it means re-reading “Romeo and Juliet” over and over, they’ll do it.

“They want the victory,” he said with a smile.

In an innovative twist, Luchini assigned the Shakespeare classic to 120 Oak Hill High School freshmen this winter.

They read it and acted it out. Then Luchini assigned each student to one side of the classic family feud. Each became a member of Juliet Capulet’s family or Romeo Montague’s clan.

From there, it turned into a competition: He paired each student with another to debate, anonymously, and in writing, which member of the other family was the most responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. In each pair, there could only be one winner.

The freshmen, all of whom have Luchini for English I, assembled in the auditorium to find out whether they had won and who they’d been debating.

All was revealed.

The freshmen strolled into the auditorium, filling the room with laughter and chatter as they took their seats.

“All right,” Luchini said from the stage. “Are you ready?”

“Yeah!” students responded.

He began calling out names of students who were unknowingly paired together, declaring which had won. In keeping with the Montague-Capulet feud, scores were kept.

“Debate 44: Austin Fournier versus Mike Harper. The Montagues (Austin) won that one.”

There were cheers and jeers.

“Debate 37: Tim O’Brien versus Emma Hlister.” Initially, the judges couldn’t decide which debater won, before finally ruling for Emma. “Sorry, Tim,” Luchini said to more cheers and jeers.

And so it went.

Two friends, Evan Boston and Danny Buteau, were sitting next to each other when their names were called. They laughed when discovering they had been debating each other. Buteau was proclaimed the winner.

Luchini had a few more secrets in store, announcing that student Lexi Fuller’s debate partner was her grandfather, Roger Fuller, a retired Oak Hill English teacher, who taught for 23 years at the school.

Lexi, who was a Montague, wrote that Juliet was to blame for the couple’s deaths. “She should have known it wouldn’t work,” Lexi said.

Student Alicen Gilbert was unknowingly paired with her mother, teacher Heather Gilbert. The mother picked Friar Laurence for being the most responsible. So did Roger Fuller.

“He got them married, but he also got them killed,” Fuller said.

The goal of the anonymous debate, Luchini said, was for his students to learn the Shakespeare story, pay attention to detail and enhance their writing and reasoning skills.

“The debate aspect brings it alive,” he said. “This forces them to open the book and engage with it.”

Fuller gave Luchini, a teacher of four years, high grades for the exercise. “It’s got all the trademarks of a good lesson,” Fuller said.


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