American Revolutionary War Simulation

4:01 PM

I posted this picture on my Instagram this week (@drazs_class) and got a lot of great feedback and questions, so I thought I’d use this blog post today to talk about how I used this taxation without representation activity to #SetTheStagetoEngage.

I found this through another teachers blog about 5 years ago, and have used the concept ever since, tweaking it each year as I go! 

The basic principle and idea is simple; students are given candy, tokens, whatnot and have to turn some back in based on the cards (laws, taxes) imposed by the king.

The students began by drawing a card that either read king (1), tax collector (2), parliament (2), or colonist (the rest.) I then took the king, the tax collectors, and parliament into to the hallway to explain their role.  I told the king (I had a Queen this year) that it was okay to act greedy—she wanted the most candy! The tax collectors job was to go to the crowd after a tax or decree was made, and collect the tax from them. They had the ultimate power to decide if someone had to pay the tax or not. If someone didn’t pay, or in some instances ran out of money so they couldn’t pay, parliament helped to put them in jail.  This was a sectioned off area in the classroom.

At one point, I asked students if they would pay to get a friend out of jail for 5 pieces of candy. This was interesting, because a few people paid, and then the next law was made and their friend was back in jail! This made students upset that they had “wasted” their candy.

Some of the laws that were imposed included:
  • The Sugar Act-everyone who had ever eaten sugar had to pay 4 pieces of candy.
  • The Jewelry Act-if you were wearing jewelry you had to pay 3 pieces of candy
  • Brown Hair Act-you had brown hair, you had to pay 3 pieces (I had many students saying their hair was black, but tax collectors said they were too close to call so collected anyways.)

One twist I did this year was to give some colonist more money (candy pieces) as then they were wealthy colonists.  I also told parliament to watch certain students (who’s colonist cards were marked) to see if they remained loyal to the king or if they griped, as most students did.

The best part about this activity isn’t the hateful stares I (or the queen) got from students or the bellyaching and complaining. It was the discussion that happened AFTERWARDS that was most important and the most beneficial.

We had a great conversation about why the queen got chosen (monarchy; luck of the draw, literally,) why the king needed the money (greed, French and Indian War,) and how the taxes were imposed (a blanket statement like sugar made everyone pay, or they were unfair because the tax was on things you couldn’t control like hair color, that they needed certain items like papers and pencils so it was unfair to tax a need.)

The students “Got It” y’all! They understood why the colonists revolted against the rule of England and why the taxes imposed caused unrest among the colonists.

This is for sure an activity you need to check out if you teach the Revolutionary War! 

Side note:
The #SetTheStagetoEngage hashtag goes along with Wade and Hope King's new book The Wild Card which was released earlier this week.  I have been following both of them on Social Media for awhile and had the opportunity to see them and learn from them in the flesh and blood at Get Your Teach On in Chicago (October 2017.)  I got the book on my kindle earlier this week and CANNOT PUT IT DOWN!  If you're interested, here are my {affiliate} links to the hardcover and kindle versions:


by Sara from Draz's Class

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