George Lucas Educational Foundation

Yes Prep North Central

Grades 6-12 | Houston, TX

YES Prep Makes Learning Relevant

Ninth-grade English teacher Rachael Arthur makes Shakespeare come to life for her students.
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Rachel: My name is Rachel Arthur, I teach ninth grade English, and I'm also the ninth grade level chair.

Friar Lawrence is really upset, right? Why would Friar Lawrence be so upset?

The students really got into, "Romeo and Juliet." I just started with teaching them about Shakespeare, William Shakespeare, the person, and then also we just talked about Elizabethan terms, versus contemporary terms, so they can get familiar with that language.

What do you think are some problems that might arise in the fact that Romeo has not received the letter yet?

As we were reading through the story, we were collecting evidence, whether it was characterization or just different events that happened throughout the play, so that they can piece together an analysis paper by the end of the unit.

Tell me a couple of predictions that you guys had.

And we also had some creative outlets for them, where they were able to translate it into contemporary terms.

Student: What means the world to you, being lost for a guy, or being lost for a girl? To the world, you just mean somebody, but to somebody, you mean the world.

Rachel: They created their own sonnets. A lot of people made poems or raps, or you know, just visual representations, just to show their artistic expression.

You connect one or two of them to, you know, the tragedy that happened at the end?

Each year I feel like I've figured out a way to kind of make it relevant to what's going on in their life.

Student: Every time that she looked at Romeo, she saw love. So there's a heart in the eye, to signify love at first sight.

Rachel: I think one of the great things that we do at YES, is build positive relationships. We take time, whether it's during the school day or outside of the school day, to really get to know our students, and the students know the expectations and they recognize that they need this education to get to the place that they want to go to. A lot of them are going back home to, you know, neighborhoods, where they see the other side. They see what happens if they don't go to a school like YES, and they don't get to go off to college and get that successful job. They love being in an environment where they have teachers who care about them, and care about their success, and they feed off of that, so when you walk into a classroom, you will see students, you know, engaged and participating and what not, because they know this is their ticket to something great.

Have you ever seen someone who's in love, and they lost someone, and they just commit suicide? Frequently?

This job is absolutely worth it. It's challenging, I'm not going to say that it's not challenging. We definitely have long hours, and we put a lot of work, even when we go home at the end of the day, we're still thinking about YES, but it's worth it, because we see the change that's happening, not only to individual students and to their families, but even just our city is starting to transform, as they realize, we have a problem with the education system, and at YES, we're doing something to change it.

Narrator: For more information about, What Works in Public Education, go to

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis


  • Karen Sutherland

Coordinating Producer

  • Amy Erin Borovoy

Production Assistant

  • Doug Keely

Camera Crew

  • Thomas Waldron
  • Mark Angelo


  • Kris Welch

Original Music

  • Ed Bogas

Support for Edutopia's Schools That Work series is provided, in part, by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

Click on any of the titles below to download a PDF of one of YES Prep's many resources.

Curriculum and Assessment

Arthur 9th Grade Romeo & Juliet Project 930K
Assignment: Romeo and Juliet literary analysis, grade 9 English

Literary Analysis Rubric 160K
Rubric: Literary analysis

Presentation Rubric 65K
Rubric: Oral presentation

More at How YOU Can Do It: YES Prep Resources and Downloads


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