I teach in a humanities context, which means I am teaching both ELA and World History. Social science has always been my specialty, and I took an opportunity to create a fun, engaging lesson with my students about World War I. Our recent focus has been on wartime technology and psychological impacts (shell shock and post-traumatic stress disorder). I showed them a short video on the brutality of trench warfare and then created a learning activity that I felt all could enjoy.
I had my students pair up with someone at their table. "Now," I explained, "between the two of you, decide who wants to be the doctor and who wants to be the soldier." Once they had made their decision, I sent the doctors into the empty room next door while I passed out profile slips to the soldiers. Each slip had a description of their character and included information like symptoms, experience, physical abilities and more. I made sure to emphasize to the students to stick to their characters and try to embody their descriptions like actors and actresses do.
Next, I went to talk to the doctors. I had them download a doctor sheet that was designed to help them organize their observations of their "patients." I told them to act like real doctors. Ask their patients questions (I put some sample questions on their sheets). Notice their physical appearance and body movements. What stands out to you? Finally, after they had collected their observations, come up with a diagnosis for your patient. Once both parties were ready, I had the doctors enter the examination [class]room.
I was thrilled to see that most of my students were totally into it. Students tucked away their limbs if their description said they suffered an amputation, and were yelling crazy nonsense when the script asked them to do so. They were so compelling that campus security came up concerned that there was a legitimate problem. (Take note: notify campus personnel next time you carry out this activity.)
The only difficulty I encountered was that some students that were paired together were not already familiar with each other, and often times the distance between these two people was too great to turn this into a meaningful activity. On a similar tone, there seems to be a few students that the rest of the student body tries to avoid for reasons of personality or behavior. I inherited this class a month ago and I am still making active attempts to integrate everyone into the classroom and to create a clearer sense of equity in the classroom.
Other than that, the lesson was a tremendous success. I followed up the activity with an actual video of PTSD victims from WWI and they were astonished that some of the roles they portrayed were legitimate conditions. I welcome any thoughts in terms of how I could improve this lesson for future use!