Sunday, February 5, 2017

Making History Real for my Students, Part 3: Students Try to Mutiny!

Students' view upon arrival.
Part One
Part Two

Part Three
My students strolled into class to find most of the room (aka their lands) taped off. I quickly informed them that Spanish Land Grants were multiplying, leaving little room for the tribes. They sort of, but not really calmly found room to squeeze all 18 of them in what little space was left. After all, it was supposed to be fun, right? But,  I wanted them to be FEEL the loss of their space. It went better than I expected, in fact, I almost had a mutiny on my hands!
TEKS: 4.2 History. The student understands the causes and effects of European exploration and colonization of Texas and North America.
The initial tight squeeze was doable.

To make them feel the squeeze, I gave them an assignment they had to complete before they could move anywhere else in the room. It entailed a journal entry reflection of how their tribe might have felt about being pushed out of their lands, a timeline of events leading to this moment in Texas history, and the impact of each timeline event on the settlement of Texas.
Finally, an important decision had to be made; they had to decide whether to continue playing the role of a tribal member or change roles and play a settler. They then had to justify their thinking for whichever choice they made.

Things were going swimmingly until the kids began to feel the need to stretch out. First, a foot went over the line, then a book box, next a hand. The infractions multiplied as time went on. Every time I made them get back within their designated boundaries. As time wore on, a couple of boys decided to take a stand! They
The view from behind the Alamo! Notice all 18 4th-graders
squeezed into the front of the room. *The role of Alamo
inhabitants are currently being played by Poppy and Oreo!
wanted to stretch their legs out into the forbidden zone, and by-golly I wasn't going to let them. When I came down on them for repeatedly trying, they actually tried to rally the rest of the class. It was a mutiny! I sincerely thought I was going to lose control for a few minutes. It was AWESOME, they truly felt a measure of the frustration I was hoping for.

Here are some reflections that were written from the point of view of the Native Americans:

  • Today we realized how much land we've lost to the colonists. We were pushed out of our tribal hunting grounds and now we don’t have anywhere to go.  Right now we're very confused because they just walk in and take our land! We didn’t do anything to them so they shouldn’t do this to us. Seriously, I had a life there and they just take it away from me! This is not good, not good at all. ~Campbell
    As space began to feel smaller, the
    boys by the door tried to instigate a revolt! 
  • “NO! You can not have any buffalo!” yelled the Comanche. “We don’t even have enough to feed our own people. Now scram or die, Wolfbone.” I ran out of there as quickly as I could. Those horrible colonists had taken away our land, food, and pride. Now we have to fight each other for what is left. ~Paari (One of my mutiny leaders!)
  • Right now there are hundreds of people coming into the colonies! I don’t know what to do! I recently was adopted into the Comanche tribe and given the improved name, Animaltalker Birdsong. I don’t know what to make of all this, but I do know that I’ll never join a colony. The Comanche were also so kind when I told them what had happened to me, and how I’m one of the last remaining Atakapa tribe members. I still can’t believe that I’m with the Comanche now! ~Haley
At first, most said they would remain a Native American. But as time wore on, more and more gazed longingly at the vast open space that was the remainder of the classroom. The time arrived to make a choice. Here are two examples:
Trading for supplies.
  • I choose to be a colonist because I feel like it would fun, and it makes me feel non-surrounded. I would feel good that we get so much more space!  I finally know how the Native Americans felt. ~Eli
  • The reason why I stayed as a Native American is that all of the tribes are being forced out. I don’t like that, so I am going to stand my ground! ~Clark
Decisions made, the kids happily retreated to their chosen sections of the room to continue class. Being the amazing teacher troll that I am, I strategically split the class with their book boxes in the colonists' area and the laptops in the new Indian Territory. Now the kids have to trade with each other every day to get the supplies they need! They absolutely love the challenge.

Next week in class, Mexico will gain its independence and the pressure will be on our colonists. I've got our existing Native Americans, two Mexican Empresarios, a government official, and a tax collector ready to provoke another mutiny and launch us into our first debate.