Students who participate in this activity will know more about the people and events of the American Revolution, will see that major events such as the Revolution are perceived differently by different people, and will learn something about the difficulties of game creation.
1. Have students study different game boards and identify different parts of the game, e.g., tokens, spinners, layout of squares or spaces, the content of squares or spaces, cards which are drawn to advance play, other game pieces such as dice, and so forth. Discuss the different goals of each game and how the goals are achieved.
2. Explain that playing games is one way of learning something that your society wants you to learn. In this case, the game will teach you about the American Revolution.
3. Next, discuss ways in which a board game might be able to teach information about the Revolution. Use the following questions, as well as any knowledge students already have about the Revolution to generate discussion:
- How could the game board show the Revolutionary War events?
- Who were some of the major people in the Revolution?
- What kinds of tokens would be appropriate for this game?
- Should there be some "provisions" or "rewards" available to the move the game along?
- What kinds of positive or negative elements might be used to advance or delay a player as he or she tries to get to "independence"? Think of some positive elements (warning the people that the British were coming, finding food at Valley Forge, crossing the Delaware undetected) and some negative elements (having no shoes at Valley Forge, being captured by the British, getting lost on the way to Philadelphia).
4. Divide the class into five groups. First, each group should spend some time on the websites listed below under "The American Revolution", noting major events in the Revolutionary War. Then, assign to each group the task of researching a different perspective on those events, also using the websites listed below. Suggested groups are:
- Colonial Rebels -- Some colonists were more enthusiastic about the Revolution than others. The Sons of Liberty, for instance, were a group that did not hesitate to use violence if they thought it would help their cause. Do some research on the Sons of Liberty, as well as on Committees of Correspondence and other pro-rebellion groups.
- Colonial Loyalists -- many in the colonies did not want to become independent of Britain. A large group was in Maryland, but there were many such groups scattered all over the colonies. What was their perspective, and what happened to them?
- The British -- Of course, the British, from King George III, to his military commanders, to common citizens, thought that the colonists' ideas of independence were ridiculous and unheard of. What was their perspective based on?
- African Americans -- there were some African Americans on each side of the conflict; what was their story?
- Native Americans -- many Native American tribes had participated on both sides in the French and Indian War, which ended shortly before the Revolution. Who were some of the tribes and how did their positions differ?
In each case, ask students to find out what the names of some people in each group were, what the group believed about the Revolution, what events were important to them, what they did (or did not) do in terms of participating in the war. Each group should use the Research Work Sheet to record their findings.
5. Next, challenge each group to develop a board game that reflects what they've learned about the War from the perspective they've taken. Remember that the final goal of the game may change, depending upon the perspective of the group being studied. For example, independence might very well not be the goal from the point of view of the British.
6. When the games are completed, have the groups "trade around" so that that each group is playing another group's game.
7. After several rounds of play, engage students in a discussion of what they've learned. The following questions may serve to keep the discussion going:
- Before you begin this lesson, what images about the Revolution came to mind? Where do you think you got those images?
- Regardless of the perspective taken, who were the major players in the Revolution?
- What were the major events of the Revolution?
- In playing the game when a perspective other than the usual American one is evident, what surprised you?
- Do you think that creating and playing a game like this helps you learn about the subject? How?
Hibbert, Christopher. Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolution Through British Eyes. Avon Books, Feb. 1991.
Schanzer, Rosalyn. George v. George: The Revolution as Seen from Both Sides. National Geographic Library, 2004.
The American Revolution
The History Place: The American Revolution
Liberty! The American Revolution
History Central: The Revolutionary War
The Sons of Liberty
Sons of Liberty: Patriots or Terrorists?
The American Revolution: Sons of Liberty
Committees of Correspondence
The American Revolution: Committees of Correspondence
Loyalists During the American Revolution
King George III
King George III
The British Army
The British Army in the Revolution
African Americans in the Revolution
Black Loyalists: Our History, Our People
The Revolution's Black Soldiers
Native Americans in the Revolution
Indians and the American Revolution
Native Americans and the Revolution
18th Century Maps
Maps of Revolutionary America
Maps on the Liberty! website
Inspiration for this lesson came from a lesson plan on Discoveryschool.com, called "Create Your Own Native American Board Game," by Tish Raff. Development of this lesson plan was provided by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.