Engaging Learners With Role Play and Simulations

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Listen to “54-Morph Student Identities…Starring Spencer Cappel and Josh Kent” on Spreaker.

I’m guessing most teachers have employed simulations and role play in their class. It’s a great way to learn. This Hacking Engagement Podcast episode demonstrates how you can combine role play and simulations with my favorite student activity.

I love Socratic seminars! They’re the embodiment of self-directed learning and student collaboration.

Kids take a complex topic, learn about it, and then sit in a circle with their peers and apply it, discuss it, explain it, and ask questions to one another.

My experience has been that concepts, events, and topics covered in this fashion leads to deep understanding and significant engagement. But everything, even things you and your students love, will get old if you don’t alter it occasionally.

I faced this dilemma in teaching the incredibly complex topic which is the Syrian Civil War. I wanted students to engage in a Socratic Seminar, but I wanted it to be different.

We had conducted a number of such seminars and I felt the format was getting a bit stale. So, I decided that in order for my students to understand the Syrian Civil War, they needed to become the powerful actors involved.

Josh Kent and Spencer Cappel help me in this quest.

Josh Kent and Spencer Cappel

These are two outstanding young folks who will serve as this episode’s original sources. I love a lot of things about these guys, but I particularly appreciate the intellectual depth they bring to my class.

One silly note about this episode is I’ve always called Socratic seminars Socratic circles. I try to call them Socratic seminars in this episode, which I’m only partially successful doing, and it totally confuses my guests. Whoops!

Here’s a link to an earlier blog post where I explain exactly how to produce a Socratic seminar!

The Problem

Your go-to learning activity needs an upgrade.

The Solution

Morph student identities for your next Socratic seminar.

What You Can Do Tomorrow

  1. Settle on a topic.

  2. List the important players.

  3. Assign students roles.

  4. Prompt kids to research.

  5. Encourage students to be their role.

Socratic seminars are wonderful learning experiences. Keep them fresh and engaging by forcing kids to be somebody they are not!

For more student engagement strategies, check out Hacking Engagement today.

Author: James Sturtevant

James Alan Sturtevant has taught in Delaware County, in Central Ohio, for over three decades. His first book, You’ve Gotta Connect, details how teachers can build essential relationships with students. He has appeared on many popular podcasts and authored guest posts on Edutopia, the Huffington Post, and Principal Leadership. Sturtevant remains committed to helping teachers forge strong relationships with kids, but his true passion is student engagement. With his new book and podcast, Hacking Engagement, he helps educators create classrooms and schools that captivate kids and empower them to learn.