The Power of Simulations in Your Social Studies Classroom

One of my regular teaching practices is including short (or sometimes longer) simulations. After all, simulations are incredibly powerful in the secondary classroom. I was reminded of how important simulations are the other day. It’s the regular practice of my school to have teachers observe one another in “Learning Walks” so we can learn from other brilliant teachers and improve our own teaching practice. It’s non-judgmental and it’s so normal for us to share classrooms and have others observing that it’s not really a problem for anyone.

Anyways, a new teacher happened to observe during my rent control simulation. It’s one of my favorites. Students are split into renters and landlords and given a certain amount of money they can afford or charge. Of course there are far more renters than landlords and the simulation is not only hilarious as kids scramble to get landlords to choose them, but it illustrates the issues created by rent control. Then we debrief and tease out the lessons before I show them graphically how the housing shortage is created. It’s incredibly low prep, it takes about 5 minutes, and it illustrates my point better than any lecture alone could accomplish. Afterwards, the teacher came up to me really excited. She asked more about how to integrate simulations in her classroom.

So here’s my advice: start small. Do quick simulations. Look at your lessons and think of interesting ways to teach the concept that incorporate movement, student choice, etc. I’ve found some simulations for free online. For example, google the “dot game” for the Cold War. It’s low prep and hilarious. Students start accusing each other of being “dots” and it beautifully illustrates the ridiculous hysteria surrounding communism in the 1950s. The power of these simulations is that students remember the concepts much better throughout the year and into the rest of their schooling. They’ll come up to me later and say “remember when we…” or during review for a test I’ll say “remember when we…” and it jogs their memory.

Because simulations are so powerful!

Need a little inspo to get started? Check out two of my simulation resources below.

Stock Market Simulation Economics Project

Rise to Power Simulation for Introducing Hitler, Dictators, & WWII
With love,
Mrs. P

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