A few years ago, I was reading two books at the same time, Gordon Wood’s The Radicalism of the American Revolution and Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick. Both books were fascinating to read and offered insights that helped me improve my skills as an educator. In Made to Stick, the Heath brothers emphasized the importance of using metaphors and analogies to help people remember complex topics. This was not a revolutionary idea at the time, but it still made me reflect on how I structure activities in my social studies classes. Gordon Wood’s history of the American Revolution opened my eyes to many different interpretations of the past. Dr. Wood pointed out that many of the arguments between the colonists and their British counterparts were compared to a parent-child relationship. For example, British officials would tell the colonists that they should respect the monarchy just like a child should respect their parents. As I read both books, I thought there was a good opportunity to create a fun and engaging lesson that would help students make connections to the causes of the American Revolution.
I begin the lesson by projecting the Causes of the American Revolution presentation on an interactive whiteboard. Students are then broken up into response groups of 3-4 people. One person in each group is designated as the spokesperson for the group. That role can rotate throughout the game to make sure that each person in the group shares the responsibility of being the group spokesperson.
Students are then presented with a series of dilemmas in which they are asked to develop a response as a group. The first dilemma that students are confronted with appears simple and ordinary. After I read the dilemma to the class, I give the class 1-2 minutes to discuss and develop a response as a group. I then allow each group to share their responses. This method is repeated as the class proceeds through the remaining dilemmas. Each dilemma gets a little bit more ridiculous than the previous. What the students experience is an increasing amount of agitation and disgust with the fictional parents in the scenarios (just like the colonists would with their mother country).
After the groups respond to each of the scenarios, I reveal to the class that each scenario serves as an analogy for a specific event that pushed the colonies closer to declaring independence. I distribute a handout that helps students scaffold their understanding and search for the analogies/connections that were hidden in the parent-child disputes. The handout can be completed as homework, in response groups or reviewed together as a class.
Typically, I like to use this lesson at the beginning of an American Revolution unit. It allows me to reference the analogies throughout the rest of the unit and helps students strengthen their historical memory and chronological thinking skills. I’ve found that students really enjoy this activity. From my point of view, any day that is filled with laughs and an investigation of history is a great day.