Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Simulation Activity and Critical Thinking Skills By My Students

The Simulation Background...
In History 10, we are doing a simulation activity - a mock court-case of the U.S. Government and the State of Georgia vs. the Cherokee Indians. I love doing these sorts of activities with my students because it gets them to be really creative in their wording and thinking.

The Task...which is the hard part for students...
They need to come up with a minimum of 4 good arguments to present to the jury in a variety of ways - such as through witness testimony, charts or speeches. I had the class read all the information sheets for both sides (Plaintiff and Defendant) in order for them to understand the arguments and reasons from both perspectives. I think it is important that students take a view from both sides of the table because not every situation is black/white - many times a situation is various shades of grey. The information is typically one-sided and more favorable to one party, but this is the point where students have to actually use their creative and critical thinking skills. Students tend to dislike any activity that involves them to "think about it", where the answer is not right in front of them. There are always those few students who love this sort of thing but it definitely is not the majority of students I teach!

Here they are...hard at work...


And In The End...
The end of the activity involves students discussing the outcome after the jury has returned a verdict based on the information presented. The historical facts behind the case is given to them prior to the mock case but the outcome of the factual/historical case is kept secret from them until the end of the activity where I will read it out to them and we will discuss the impact and significance the case had for the Native Americans and the Government. Knowing that we are Canadians and the court-case was American-based, the students understand that many of these land claim issues were a problem in Canada as well and we plan to cover the history of Canadian First Nations land claim rights, through our learning of Treaty Education in the classroom - which is a very valuable and interesting addition to our history classes.

Oh how times never really change...
I had a teacher once who always told us - "It's time to put your thinking hat on!" I have adapted that in my classroom and if you ask my students what I always say, they would tell you it is "It's time to put your critical thinking cap on!" - The wheels turn on different paths but the motions are the same....gotta love teachers and education!