These activities are designed for use with any level of junior or senior high school students. In order to make history come alive, it is very useful to engage in exercises that invite students to utilize their own creativity. While traditional lectures by teachers are informative, they can become a tedious routine. To inject new life and meaning into the study of history, it is a good idea to allow students to showcase their youthful exuberance in dramatic role-playing. Admittedly, this class activity is not for all groups; it depends upon the “personality” of the class. Yet, at any rate, it does constitute a varied teaching technique.
Ideally, the teacher should divide the class into different states, with each pupil assuming an historical identity. Thus, a group of three students might comprise the Connecticut delegation to the Philadelphia Convention. Each person would then be responsible for conducting research on his or her historical personality. Moreover, each state “delegation” would have to confer collectively to plot their strategy for the upcoming convention. As a result, the students would also be investigating the size of their state in 1787, their economic situation, and other modes of lifestyle.
Finally, on convention day, the historic re-enactment would begin. By this time, of course, the teacher will have provided as much assistance to the “delegates” as he or she deems necessary. As for the script to this drama, the teacher need only consult any source that contains James Madison’s notes of the convention. Perhaps the most useful text would be Saul Padover’s
To Secure These Blessings
Each actor would then merely play his or her role. The teacher may serve as “director” and choose the dialogues that would be most entertaining and educational.
To further promote interest in the play, students might be encouraged to dress in the attire of eighteenth-century America. And, since many school systems now have them, if a video-recorder can be used to capture for posterity the day’s proceedings—all the better!!!