Role Playing in the Classroom

Role Playing in the Classroom


One of my favorite resources is a company called Interact. They publish a variety of interactive simulations for all ages although the bulk of them are at the upper elementary and Jr.. high level. The following is a cut and paste from a recent email post I wrote about Interact:

I have been a big proponent of role playing/simulations and I am a little envious of those of you in middle schools and high schools because there is so much out there for you to use. However, even at the fourth grade level I have found a few valuable and worthwhile activities. INTERACT, a company out of California publishes a variety of well planned out role playing/simulations for all grade levels. They have a large variety to choose from in the areas of geography, world history, American history, government and economics. There are many I have wanted to try but are not appropriate for my age level.

Heritage is a simulation of research and travel to American historical sites. Students travel across America visiting national parks and historic sites which introduce them to important events and periods in our history. Students use geography and map skills, keep travel logs, write diary entries and presents oral and written research projects on the significant sites they have visited. The first team that has visited 15 sites and reaches Bangor, Maine is the winner. I use this at the end of the 3rd quarter to wrap up our study of U.S. Geography.

Pilgrims, a simulation of the first year of the Plymouth Colony. As Pilgrims in the seventeenth century Massachusetts Bay area, students establish the Plymouth Colony in the New World. Activities include:
bullet boarding with other team members 3' X 6' Mayflower ships outlined on the floor in order to cross the Atlantic Ocean
bullet writing Pilgrim Logs - individual journals recording each day's events
bullet cooperative learning survival activities in which the groups simulate colonial life: finding food, building houses, raising crops, etc.

We have both used Pilgrims successfully with out classes. At the end of the school year it is mentioned as on of the activities they enjoyed the most.

Math Quest
An adventure simulation focusing on math problem-solving skills. Cooperative learning groups explore strange worlds in search of great treasure. They apply several math problem-solving strategies while trekking through Dinosaurland, Fantasyland, Sportland, and Numberland. Through scripted lessons provided at three student ability levels they master the 6 problem-solving strategies:
bullet Use a table, chart, or list.
bullet Draw a picture.
bullet Act it out.
bullet Find a pattern.
bullet Guess and check.
bullet Work backward.

The fourth grade students really enjoyed this activity using the lessons at the lowest ability level. This simulation is appropriate for grades 3 - 8.

Science Fair
A simulation of a school mystery teaching science skills needed to create a successful science fair project for grades 4 - 8. Students discover a note left by thieves who have stolen all of their school's science fair projects. They have two weeks to recover the lost projects and figure out who took them. Activities include:
bullet working on individual investigations assignments that provide practice on some aspect of science fairs
bullet making science fair notebooks, constructing science fair display boards, and role playing science fair judges
bullet using points earned to move their teams around the school to collect detailed floor plans and search for places where the science fair projects could be hidden
bullet handling clue cards whose activities teach the scientific method

Science Fair proved to be to difficult for 3rd grade and it can be quite challenging for fourth grade students. We've made modifications to allow for more success at the lower grade levels.

American Revolution
I have been tempted to purchase the American revolution one and modify it to my grade level. In this simulation, students become either Loyalists, Patriots or Neutralists through research tasks, challenge projects and debates, students increase their influence. As delegates to the Stamp Act Congress and the First and Second Continental Congress, students get to debate the actual historical issues.

Anyway these are some of the many simulations they have to offer. I've had a few minor quibbles with each of the three simulations but overall they are excellent and well thought out.

I've written Interact for permission to post some sample material from their simulations and I hope to add this soon.


Another excellent source of materials for role playing and simulations are the wide variety of Law-Related Education materials that are available.

Go to Law-Related Education

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