How do I use role-play and simulation in the classroom?

3 10 2009


Meet Professor Diglit in our very own online role-play.

Meet Professor Diglit in our very own online role-play.

 In my own classroom, role-play and simulation have really been at a minimum.  While I have occasional writing prompts and comprehension questions that ask students to take on the roles of story characters and history figures, the only simulation I really do is the Spy Ring activity.  In this project, students become members of George Washington’s spy ring, and they must create a way to get a message delivered to General Washington during the Revolutionary War.  Students then interact via Skype with historians on Long Island, who also pretend to be members of Washington’s Culper Spy Ring.   

So really then…the question becomes:  how do I see these methods of engagement evolving in my classroom?  Before reading Jenkins thoughts, I was already seeing possibilities for using role-play when we study the American Revolution.  This is such a big part of our study of American history, and there are so many different points of view that could be taken on (loyalists, patriots, Founding Fathers, King George, the owner of the British tea company, Lafayette, the French government…).  Studying the different groups who migrated to America and the impact their arrival had on the Native American tribes would be another opportunity for role-play.  I’m also seeing this as a great way to engage students in discussing our read-aloud books outside of school.  This week I gave students a choice of 4 read-aloud books, all having to do with animals and animal issues.  One group chose Peg Kehret’s Saving Lilly, and an online discussion could certainly take place involving all the characters in the book and their points of view on the issue of using animals in a circus.

It seems like an impossible task to find online simulations that already exist to meet the standards of our curriculum.  In the meantime, I found this website that has learning games that engage its players in activism, wind energy, presidential campaigns and more.  I’m just not sure what ages these games would be appropirate for.

Check out this fun simulation regarding the courts and our Constitution.




6 responses

6 10 2009

Michelle, you present some awesome possibilities for role-play in your classroom to explore certain historical events and their causes. I hope our role-play stirs your thinking even more. By the looks of your avatar (nice touch with the guitar 🙂 we are in for an entertaining AND engaging role-play.

8 10 2009

(the third time I have typed this entry because when I submitted I did not enter the name and email and so when I went back it had erased the entry- frustrating)
The simulation spy-ring activity sounds fascinating. How did you connect with the historians on Long Island? I agree that using online role-play would work well in 5th grade, particularly studying the Revolutionary War. I also believe it would engage students. However, I am wondering how to make the activity most efficient for time and learning. Yesterday at the MWP we invited one of the speakers who has used ning in her classroom to come to the Edina Writing Cohort to share how she has set-up and used online learning in her classroom. See you tonight. Paul

10 10 2009

Hi, Paul. I think I fixed the “approval” problem so commenting on my blog should be a lot easier.

Our media center specialist and I have been working closely for the past few years to do the Spy Ring activity together. Every year we have received a grant from district technology to fund it, and then the MCS would contact the people on Long Island to set up dates and times for the big day. Our Media Specialist would do a few of the preliminary activities with the students (for example, she dresses up as King George and simulates what it would have been like to have a ruler who didn’t allow his citizens to have any rights), and then I’d give students time to prepare their spy ring and decide how they were going to get the message to General Washington without the British capturing them. I’d say in my own classroom I spent a week giving them 50 minutes a day to prepare for this. It was just enough time for them to discover what all the problems might be and learn what it was like to be a spy during this time period. The culmination was when the students would perform their skits for the people out in New York, and the historians who were dressed as members of the Culper Spy Ring would give us some more information about the actual Spy Ring. You can spend less time on it by not doing the skits. It’s just that the simulation really is taking on the role of a spy. I’ll pass along the information regarding the historical society when I get it from our media specialist.

8 10 2009

Hi Michelle. Your reflections on role-play and engagement are very thoughtful. I’d love to see how you make it work in your classroom.

16 10 2009
Deb S

Hi Michelle,
Loved your posting about how you use role-play and simulation in your classroom through Spy Ring. The use of Skype brings it to a different level. On-line simulation has come a long way since I used Oregon Trail with my fifth graders. I’m interested in hearing more about the methods of engagement evolving in your classroom. Thinking about the fifth grade curriculum, do other websites offer the same level of on-line engagement such as the living history museums at Jamestown and Yorktown?…/jamestown-settlement/index.aspx

18 11 2009
And the Bloscar goes to… « Professional Musings

[…] blog post that stands out in the area of design goes once again to Michelle Shaw for her posting of How do I use role-play and simulation in the […]

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