Thursday, June 13, 2013

Engagement Through Games & Simulations

A Common Question...

If you have been flipping your class for a while, you have probably been asked a question that goes something like this:  "If you flip all or most of your direct instruction, then what do you actually do with students in class?"

I have been asked this on numerous occasions, mostly from fellow history teachers.  One of the reasons for this is that many social studies teachers (myself from the past included) place tremendous value upon direct instruction via lecture.  Maybe it is because that is how we were taught history ourselves.  Maybe many of us history geeks truly loved that college seminar on "European Perceptions of Islam Through the Ages."  Maybe it is just the nature of our subject.

My typical response to this question is, "everything that you have always wanted your students to do, but did not have time to following your lectures."  I'll admit, that probably is not the response they wanted to hear.  I am therefore modifying it to something like this:

"Use this time to experiment with pedagogical approaches and techniques that rely less on direct instruction, and more on student-driven inquiry and engagement."

Again, not very specific, but that is the point.  Social studies teachers should view flipped learning as an opportunity to go in a new direction.   For example, you may move towards mastery learning, or instead towards PBL and other constructivist approaches.  Or both, why not?  This new direction may be different for everyone.  My main is advice is to make sure that you take advantage of this unique opportunity.

Although I have gravitated primarily towards flipped-mastery, I have tried to incorporate more games and simulations into the curriculum as well.  These experiences are not only more engaging for students, but also enhance learning by placing them in situations that required meaningful collaboration and high-order thinking.  Here are two examples from this past year.

APEH Madness

This game is modeled after the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament (my bias as a former college player and high school coach are shining through here...).  In sum, the class worked together to narrow down the top 64 most influential figures/groups in modern European History.  They then ranked them from 1-16 based upon four different historical eras.  Students then collaboratively created a 70 slide Google Presentation and presented to the class.  After this, they all filled out brackets to determine who they thought was the most influential.  Next, we had a game-by-game class vote to determine the "class bracket."  The student whose bracket was the closest match to the "class bracket" was the ultimate winner.  Here are the instructions that I provided the students for this assignment.  I also recorded each step of the process and created the following video depicting the game.

Enlightenment Simulation

The next example is a typical role-playing simulation during which each student assumed the role of an Enlightenment philosophe.  Here is a link to the student directions for this assignment.  I was able to record and produce a video for this simulation as well.  Many students actually helped by recording "first person" accounts with their phones while engaging in the simulation.

Share What You Do

I as well as the readers of this blog are always looking for new and innovate practices.  Therefore, if you have any games or simulations that you find engaging and effective, please share in the comments below!