Last year my district had an after hours book club that focused on Teaching for Black Lives and utilizing lessons from the text in our classrooms. In order to prepare for the Reconstruction Role Play, I first divide my class into several groups to teach the events that led up to that moment in history. Students are give three days to prepare a 40 minute lesson in small groups, which they then present to the class. The lesson must include a bell ringer, a main activity, and then some sort of assessment to check if everyone understood the information. Between presentations I have three days to teach anything the students missed.
The first group to go discusses the transatlantic slave trade. This is not the first time the students have heard of the slave trade but it is the first time it is the focus of the whole week. Following the first group is the Civil War, and then comes a group that introduces Reconstruction. I find that by having the students study each subject in a group and then teach it, they are more invested in the material than if I was to present it to them on my own. We then follow up our week on Reconstruction by completing the Role Play and finish our unit looking at the triumphs of Black soldiers and citizens during the era, including the growing number of voters and politicians.
As I do not wish for Reconstruction to be something the students memorize and forget, we revisit the subject/time period during our Women’s Suffrage unit, again in our Industrialization/Railroad unit, for a third time during the Wild West, and then recap all four units at the end in a Legacy of the 1800s section. Highlighting important figures like Bass Reeves and Sojourner Truth helps students to connect to the issue on a personal level and see Black figures as the heroes of their own story.