Eighth grade ELA Civics students recently went back in time to explore the challenges that faced American Colonists prior to the Revolutionary War. Students debated in a "Revolutionary Town Hall" where each participant assumed the identity of a historical figure.
Some notable guests included Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Paine. But lesser known guests such as Peter Salem, Deborah Sampson, and Olaudah Equiano were also portrayed by students. A few students even created their own characters such as a South Carolina widow, an apothecary from New Jersey, and a privateer from Massachusetts.
After significant research into their character's history and completing several writing prompts, students prepared to debate the important political issues of Colonial America such as taxes, slavery, and voting rights. In addition, they reacted to major events such as the Boston Tea Party, the publishing of Common Sense, and reports of tax collectors being tarred & feathered.
Contrasting the actual delegations in Colonial America, this Revolutionary Town Hall intentionally included diverse perspectives in our meeting to include women, enslaved Africans, immigrants, low-income farmers, religious minorities, Loyalists, and Native Americans. Students playing these characters provided valuable insight to the conversations about whether or not declaring independence from Great Britain would truly be in everyone's best interest.
Whether a student declared themselves a Patriot or a Loyalist, they had the opportunity to hear the complex range of views that exist on a variety of political issues, some of which still resonate with Americans today.