At the beginning of the school year, I used the lesson where students put Columbus and others on trial for the decimation of the Taíno. This was my first time using The People vs. Columbus, et al, but based on student engagement, learning outcomes, and interest, it will not be my last!
I divided students up into groups, where each group was responsible for defending their own group and accusing another group of guilt. This was a superb way for students to put into practice many of the initial skills I was emphasizing — using evidence, developing claims — while remaining highly engaged. On the much anticipated day of the trial, jury members fielded questions and asked their own questions of each group before a final vote. Not only did this expose my students to the history of the Taíno and the histories of those beyond the textbook or “winners” of history, but this role play also allowed my students to build and utilize real historical skills.
Finally, as a teacher of many ELL students, I cannot say how much I appreciate that this resource is available in Spanish. The accessibility and engagement of these activities makes these learning opportunities highly relevant for a huge range of students.
This role play ended up being one of mine and my students’ favorite activities of the entire semester.