I have been using Zinn Education Project materials for about two years now and the role plays and mixers from this website have been my absolute favorite lessons I teach throughout the year. I love how detailed each of the steps are, with real student thoughts and answers, so I can predict how my students might react and problem solve.
I found this website with a search to replace the more typical Constitutional Convention simulation. I had previously assigned roles of the signers to my students, given them placards with information about their views, and then left it up to the students to debate what they thought should be the new rules of our country. I was unsatisfied with this because my students just did not have the depth and historical background to take on the role of a specific person in history. Their arguments were limited to the research they had been given. That’s where the Zinn Education Project is different. Instead of focusing on these specific men, my students were able to see through the eyes of groups of people. They were given the understanding they needed to argue for what would benefit their role the most. The arguments came from a place of understanding and quickly my students had extremely meaningful conversations about how we should hold power in our country and why.
Obviously, that simulation was completed in the classroom and I did several more throughout the year which gave students more confidence to understand the flow of history as they saw groups like merchants and farmers repeated over and over. They were able to guess how that group might respond without even reading the description page.
Since the time of “distance learning” I have completed the Reconstructing the South: A Role Play which asks students who have learned about the fight for freedom during the Civil War, to decide what THEY would want at the end. I gave them the questions ahead of time and several days to thoughtfully read through and make their own decisions. Then, on our day of live class, with just me prompting the questions, they lead a thoughtful discussion of what they wanted but also what they thought would be reasonable to ask for. They appreciated a way for us to digitally discuss issues that are important, even when we couldn’t be together. In fact, we hadn’t finished all of the scenarios when our time was up and they begged to do more!
I am just so thankful to these FREE resources and the many articles that have pushed my own thinking as a teacher. Thank you!