Community or Role Play? These ‘community’ activities can be found elsewhere in the Models section, mostly as role-plays. However the re-creation of a community in the past is worth a note for its own sake.
What do they offer educationally?
Two points stand out:
1. By allocating individual roles to students they identify with the individuals they play but can also develop a strong sense of the inter-relationships of the different people in the community. Doing this in role creates a much stronger sense of the relationship between lord and villein, monk and paupers, factory owner and workers than if this is described objectively from the outside. It’s also possible to show variations in these relationships – the factory owners’ attitudes aren’t the same to all his workers and his motives can be governed as much by concern for his own family as by cupidity.
2. Students will often have stereotyped assumptions about communities. This is behind the Dissolution of the Monasteries activity which sets out to challenge the assumption that monasteries were only of concern to monks. If that’s your opinion it’s hard to get worked up about the Dissolution but if you’re the town pauper, a local landowner, a merchant whose business depends on the abbot’s purchases, local workers employed in the stables – then the Dissolution affects you. So when constructing such community activities it’s important to focus on students’ existing assumptions about that community.
All this helps students care about the people in the past. It doesn’t, in that awful phrase, ‘bring history to life’ but it does bring students closer to the people they’re studying. And again it can work at all levels, even if you change the activity a little. Advanced level students could learn just as much, maybe by taking a model used by KS3 and creating their own version, identifying which people they need, what their role-cards might say and how they would discuss an issue – the Elizabethan Court, MPs in 1831 or 1867, a political gathering in London in 1938 (journalists, MPs, cabinet ministers, businessmen etc) and so on.
Put your pupils into roles, find out who survives and explore the consequences of the Black Death
A role play that focusses on people and the importance of monasteries to communities