The unit opens with students describing all they know about the region of Southeast Asia. New Haven, like many communities around the United States, has a significant population of immigrants from Southeast Asia; this is an excellent opportunity for those students to share their understanding and be the experts in the room. Students are also invited to share any knowledge of colonies and colonization; it is important to have an understanding of what knowledge they bring to the table before starting.
This task can be done in a number of ways, including a full-class brainstorming session, or small groups mapping out their knowledge and questions on large pieces of paper to share with the class as a whole at the end of the session. One strategy I find effective is to have students silently come up to the board one or two at a time and write any knowledge or questions they have. At the end of the session (which can last as long as it needs to), the board is full of thoughts and ideas, which can then be discussed and explained as necessary. Often, this helps students think more clearly, because they aren’t frantically trying to get the attention of the one scribe at the board, and the room feels more peaceful and open to their thoughts.
After consulting a map to gain an understanding of where our focus countries are located in the world, students read a brief passage about the history of the region (included under
) so that everyone starts on the same page. This passage is similar to the background written above, with an overview of who “owned” what, and when and where different countries come into play. The passage ends at the end of World War II, before any decisions are made about “rightful ownership.”
Students then divide into teams to represent each country with an interest in the region. For my own purposes, countries include France, Vietnam, China, and the United States, but teachers may expand that list as discussed below in
. Each team is given more historically accurate detail about their country’s goals and interests, and as a team they brainstorm proposals about the fate of the region. Each team must come up with one proposal, based on their country’s interests, for what should happen to Indochina. Remind students that this is a chance to be creative -- a unique proposal might be the best one.
Once proposals are presented to the class (with explanations of why the proposal is a good one), the teams should meet individually again and look over the proposals. As a team, they should decide what they like and dislike about each proposal, then explain their positions in an organized debate moderated by the teacher. This gives teams a chance to voice their point of view more carefully. Teams then meet individually to decide how to vote. Votes need to be based on country goals, not on individual feelings about the matter. Each student must write an explanation of his or her vote, and it must be based on the goals of his or her team. (“We should leave Vietnam alone because it’s mean not to” is not a valid explanation.) This explanation might also include reasons they did not vote for the other proposals. A homework assignment will be to describe what they feel will happen now that the proposal has passed.
Once a proposal is put in place, students will be faced with a crisis. This crisis may be a rebellion in the region, an economic problem, or perhaps a natural disaster. As much as possible, it needs to be based on the proposal that came out of the first vote. If the countries remain a colony, the actual rebellion that took place is the best crisis to handle; if Indochina is allowed to be independent, a humanitarian crisis such as a famine or a rebel uprising can stand in. To add to the authenticity of the debates, teams can be given a news release describing the crisis; if such an undertaking is too large, the crisis can simply be described to the students. Again students come to the table to address the situation, this time with less guidance. Again, they need to develop a strategy to handle the problem, and they need to consider the interests of their respective countries.
The crisis is handled with another discussion and vote. This time, however, each student is given another student’s name at random, and s/he must explain the reasoning behind THAT vote. This may be followed with another news release describing what transpired as a result of the crisis management. (As students’ proposals veer further away from historical fact, however, it may be increasingly difficult to formulate a news release that makes sense in the context of the debates.) Again, students must write a brief paragraph describing what they think will happen as a result of the proposal just passed.