Friday, June 03, 2011

Simulation Activity - Review and Reflection

I know many of you seemed interested, commented on and read my post about my simulation activity in History 10 and I wanted to post a bit of a reflection on the process, and share the results of during and after the activity.  

I mentioned that many students of mine don't really enjoy this kind of learning activity - some are strictly read and dictate in notes kind of kids, and some are just plain old hard to make happy, and it is difficult to engage or at least inspire kids to be enthusiastic about learning....well, this was definitely the case for me. I had a student who didn't really enjoy this topic and proceeded to distract, pester and be ultimately a big nuisance for everyone involved. Once the behavior issue was dealt with, things went smoothly.  Isn't that how it always goes - you plan forever on an activity and on the day of the event, someone has to make it tough on you. 

Anyway, we set up the desks and had the witness stand and bench where I was the judge and we had a few students playing the jury. Each side presented opening arguments, followed by calling on one witness at a time - each group had a total of 2 or 3 witnesses (one group was a bit larger). The students stood up and played the part - I must admit reflectively that I wish I could encourage students and have them actually act out the part which would've made this a lot more fun for everyone - but they did their task and read off the paper for their statement. Their opening statements were concerning their point of view of what the basic outline of the story was until the point where we were now (the trial). The jury and I heard some really convincing arguments in their speeches and couldn't wait to hear from the witnesses to give their evidence and testimonials of the events that affected them. The student moved into the witness box after swearing in and we were off. Of course because of time constraints and trying to deter from more behavioral issues, we did not engage in a cross-examination process (maybe next time I will but at this way was a lot faster). We did one witness from each side at a time, then had a different student present their closing arguments and reiterate the facts presented by their side. We worked for quite some time on how to develop a persuasive paragraph to convince jurors of your "correct" position. These were extremely well done and convincing. The jury and I were actually on the fence for a while about what swayed us more, the evidence or some of those awesome speeches! 

We went outside the classroom and deliberated for 3-5 minutes about the evidence presented by the witnesses, and the points of view of both parties. We discussed who did a more convincing job of each area and when we came back in the room we discussed this as a class, being sure to give credit where it was due. All students were able to participate and to me it seemed as though they all had an enjoyable learning experience. It was a lot of prep work to develop the information packages for each side - I wanted to make sure students were getting a fair amount for each side to work with and it was accurate to the time period and true events (thus why I did not let them Google everything themselves). All in all it was a success and I hope that you get an opportunity to try something like this in your classes because it is a worthwhile activity for students to engage in and it really involves a number of different skills such as reading, inferring, connecting, thinking critically and creatively, writing persuasively, organizing information and thoughts and presenting and sticking to an opinion with a courageous amount of believability. 

I hope you were able to take away something of value from this activity review and reflection, and that you will post some comments and share your own experiences in the classroom and/or your thoughts on my activity. I would love to hear from you!