The Constitutional Convention lesson was the most successful role play I’ve done yet with my 8th graders. The students really embraced their roles. Even those students with difficult roles (the plantation owners and bankers) did not shy away from their arguments and play beliefs.
The discussions got pretty heated at different points, but not so much so that we couldn’t reel things back in. There is much scientific evidence to support the idea that emotion is essential to learning, and this role play is a good case in point.
Students were talking about the convention outside the classroom, letting students in later periods know what was about to go down, so there was a lot of excitement in the 8th grade hallway and during PE throughout the week. Students were saying those magical words “this is fun” during the convention as well (and that is great praise from middle school students).
I love the Zinn Education Project role plays because they give every student an opportunity to participate in some way. Even the students who are normally shy about speaking in front of classmates are at least engaged in the dialogue and writing notes furiously.