I used the Reconstructing the South: A Role Play activity to jump-start the entire Reconstruction unit. It is important in my classroom to deal with Reconstruction, due to the far-reaching implications it has throughout the entire existence of the United States to the current day. Students received the Freedmen/women sheet to set the scene for the topic, then we dealt with the problems of the era sheet.
Students felt like they could bring to class their own elements of past history, as well as the problems that freedmen/women faced during the era. The prompt allowed for student freedom, as I facilitated discussion around the room. Students enjoyed this but also looked to me for advice and with questions often. The discussion students had, once into each problem, was meaningful and addressed the major challenges many faced at the time. Every so often, I would also chime in and guide students toward insight they may have missed.
Students really enjoyed the different nature of addressing history through this role play. They were able to critically think through the issues and struggled with others. After our role play, we continued to examine the role Reconstruction played in the post Civil War era. We examined its successes and failures, lastly touching on the ideas of mass incarceration and if Reconstruction truly was successful.