Teaching for Historical Understanding through Role-Play, pp. 6 of 14

a. Concept teaching

As Beidatsch and Broomhall (2010) found, role plays on their own were not likely to provide a sufficient learning environment. Students need sufficient preparation and are likely to learn best when supported by other learning experiences such as through lectures and reflections. Content concepts have to first be introduced and explained to students so that they could understand the aspirations of the different characters. As the focus for this project was on the character cards and the use of role play, this part of the lesson was not changed significantly. Direct instruction was used to explain the main idea behind each political term.

To check their understanding of the different terms, a short quiz was carried out. According to Dabell (2008), and Keogh and Naylor (1999), concept cartoons can be very useful in grabbing students’ attention and can easily draw students into dialogues about the concepts that are represented by them. The cartoons may allow them to understand better abstract or complex ideas and terms. Using concept cartoons would also engage the visual learners and students who encounter difficulty comprehending and expressing themselves in words.

b. Learning about aspirations of the different political parties and activists

While direct instruction was used to introduce the main political parties and activists to the 2N(A) class, the 2Exp students were given a research and presentation task. This was part of the experiment with the character cards featuring the political leaders from the different parties in the 1950s. Given the difficulty of the language used in websites and online articles about the political parties, the task was more suited for the 2Exp students. Direct instruction also gave the teacher more time for recap and consolidation of the content concepts and information with the 2N(A) students.

The 2Exp students were brought to the computer lab for the research part of the lesson package and were given time to read up on the political parties or groups they were assigned. They were tasked to construct an election poster and write up a campaign speech that would represent their party or group. The character cards served to provide some background information on key personalities; the quotations included were meant to allow the students to make inferences on their respective aspirations.

In the following lesson, each group was expected to present their campaign speech and to try to get the rest of the class to support their vision for Singapore. While the groups presented and gave their speeches, students had to take down the information about each party’s background, aspirations and methods in their handouts so that they would all be “on the same page” for the next lesson.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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