Government can be boring and abstract, especially if my students lack an understanding of the fundamental basics of American history.

They do.

That’s where fun little simulations come in handy. My master teacher and the department have a wonderful one on how a bill becomes a law.

For a week, students are to research the provisions of an almost ludicrously far-reaching bill that would limit tobacco usage, advertising and acreage.

As part of the fun, all students have roles to play.

Some represent the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a bureaucratic agency against tobacco use but also against the bill because the agency would rather focus on fighting terrorism than smoking. Some represent the DARE prevention program, a group lobbying in favor for the bill almost as aggressively as the students representing the advertising industry lobby against it.

These lobbyists and bureaucrats speak to a student-led committee. These students are graded on how well they present their information, and on its relevance and abundance it has. Committee members are charged with hearing the testimony, and those students are graded on how often they speak and how much sense they make.

Once everyone has testified, students begin work on their essays and committee members begin work on revising the bill. Then, once we’re done with that, our class suddenly becomes a general assembly of representatives who debate and eventually vote on the bill.

Students learn by doing and speaking. There’s a no shortage of either here.

On a side note, the funny thing is that there was quite a lot of lecture involved — without explanation or background of the material, they would have had no idea how to even do the activity.

After all that, though, they’ve pulled it off spectacularly. I’m going to hold on to this one.

Moral of the story? Solid simulations take weeks of preparation and execution. Years of practice also help.


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  1. 1 Spoken Like a True Libertarian « On the Tenure Track

    […] moral, representatives, student, student teaching, teacher, tobacco My students debated the tobacco bill today. It got pretty […]




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