In high school, we did none of these things, and if we did, the impact did not stay long with me. Angela and I decided to tackle this play because we felt that Shakespeare can be one of the most difficult texts to teach in a high school classroom. Students are far removed from the time period in which Shakespeare wrote, let alone the time in which the events of his plays reportedly took place, and so it is our goal to make one of our least favorite plays relevant to the lives of our students.
Our research has only just begun for this project, but what we have found a few websites that provide some great ideas on teaching Shakespeare, as well as books which I hope will add intrigue to a sometimes dull subject. One way that we intend to discuss Julius Caesar is to provide double historical background--essentially, we will talk about the period in which these characters lived, but also how the use of this period reflects what was happening while Shakespeare was writing in the late 16th and early 17th century.
Historical context is so important in understanding the events in Shakespeare's plays. He takes events and characters, many of whom actually lived, and uses them to highlight problems during his own time period. This is something that art does all the time, and yet students can sometimes fail to see the application of "outdated" or old texts to their lives. Romeo and Juliet is used, I sometimes think, because of the age of the main characters and the relationships to their parents. Other plays can provide aspects of interest to students, as well.
Here are two sites which I discovered, the contents of which Angela and I are going to peruse thoroughly. The first, The Folger Shakespeare Library, is an excellent source for teaching Shakespeare and provide free materials for all teachers. The second is a teaching guide from Penguin, which also provides some helpful ideas. Though Julius Caesar is not my favorite play, by any means, I want to challenge myself as Angela and I create a unit plan that will hopefully engage students and make learning about Shakespeare relevant and interesting.