Breathing Life into History: Using Role-Playing to Engage Students

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Alternately referred to as historical role-playing, dramatic improvisation, sociodrama, or first-person characterization, role playing is a teaching strategy that often uses official accounts, personal narratives, and diaries to recreate a particular time period, specific event, or breathe life into a character from history. Historical role-playing helps students tap into this inherent interest in historical events and the people that experienced them. As students take on the feelings and voices of peoples of other times and places, the learning of historical content becomes more natural. In this article, the authors describe two historical role-playing projects conducted in a fourth grade classroom in Tampa, Florida. One of the projects is the "Dear America" series, which is published by Scholastic, features adventure-filled, historical fiction "diaries" that reflect common experiences of American citizens from the Colonial era up through the Vietnam War. The second project requires each student to choose a famous person that they would like to know more about, research this person's life, and use this research to write short monologues in the voice of this individual. The students then present these monologues as part of a Living History Museum exhibit.

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Social Studies and the Young Learner, v. 18, no. 3, p. 4-8

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