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MAY - PLAYING THE PAST

Several years ago, James Francis was frustrated with wanting to push his students into deeper levels of analysis and critical thinking but finding that they lacked the basic knowledge of history needed to do this successfully. He needed to find a way to motivate students who had little interest in ancient civilizations to learn the basic content before they explored the deeper reaches of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

 

Expanding on an idea he developed during his years in the Peace Corps, he began to work up different “learning games”—simple competitive activities that piqued students’ interest in the material and made it meaningful. With a background in computers and knowledge in history, James developed several topic-specific games in PowerPoint® that helped his students gain a foundation of knowledge in World History and helped them engage in conceptual thinking. Playing in the Past: World History Computer Review Games works well in conjunction with another James Francis authored World History unit Living the Past, featured in the January Lesson of the Month.

 

Playing the Past works great for students reviewing content for tests or preparation for extended assignments such as term papers, projects, or debate activities. Ideal for interactive whiteboards, the program also works on a computer attached to a projector. These activities are fun for students because they work as a team to advance in the game. Students correctly respond to short-answer, multiple choice, and term definition questions on core topics and key concepts. They gain the fundamental knowledge of important eras of world history and this helps prepare them for more conceptual learning. The PowerPoint® slides are editable for customization of modifying the questions or adding your own.

 

There are eleven titles in Playing the Past, aligned to World History standards[1]:

ERA

Playing the Past Unit

Unit Description

Era 1: The Beginnings of  Human Society

Becoming Pharaoh

 

 

Covers Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, and the Stone Age. Students answer Trivial Pursuit-style questions on a game board.

River Civilizations

Covers topics from prehistory through the Babylonian Empire under Hammurabi. Student teams assume the roles of city-states competing for dominance by answering more questions correctly than their opponents.

Era 2: Early Civilizations and the Emergence of Pastoral  Peoples, 4000-1000 BCE

Becoming Pharaoh

 

 

Covers ancient Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, and the Stone Age. Students answer Trivial Pursuit-style questions on a game board.

River Civilizations

Covers topics from prehistory through the Babylonian Empire under Hammurabi. Student teams assume the roles of city-states competing for dominance by answering more questions correctly than their opponents.

Era 3: Classical Traditions, Major
Religions, and Giant Empires,
1000 BCE-300 CE

Mandate of Heaven

 

 

 

Covers early Chinese history from its origins to the fall of the Han Dynasty. Student teams compete through a series of "combats" in which two teams answer questions until one gets one wrong.

Peloponnesian War

 

Covers the origins of the ancient Greek culture, its struggles, Alexander’s conquests, and the spread of Hellenism. Students are divided into five city-states and compete to eliminate the others in order to become the dominant polis in Greece.

The Rise of an Empire

Covers the origins of Rome, its transition from Republic to Empire, its decline, and the origins of Christianity. Student teams, representing six Roman provinces, compete against each other to control other provinces, raise their prestige, and answer enough questions correctly to gain the emperor’s throne.

Era 4: Expanding Zones of
Exchange and Encounter,
300-1000 CE

The Five Pillars of Islam

Covers the origins of Islam, the establishment of an Islamic Empire, and Islamic culture in the ancient world. Student teams are each assigned a different pillar of Islam (faith, prayer, alms, fasting, or hajj), then have to answer questions correctly to move up the pillar.

Era 5: Intensified Hemispheric Interactions
1000-1500 CE

Jousting

 

 

Covers the emergence of the Germanic Kingdoms, the early Middle Ages, and the Byzantine Empire. The class divides into eight "Orders of Knights" and competes in jousting "tournaments" in which teams face off and try to answer more questions correctly than their opponents.

Shogun

Covers the early history of Japan, China, the Mongol Empire, and ancient Korea. Student teams move around a game board and win or lose "honor points" by answering questions and through random "events" that occur. The team with the most points at the end gains the title of shogun.

Era 6: The Emergence of the First Global Age, 1450-1770

Age of Imperialism

 

 

Covers European imperial endeavors in Africa, southeast Asia, Latin America, and India. The class divides into six nations (Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Portugal, France, and Italy), each of which tries to conquer and hold onto as many colonies as possible on a map of Africa.

It’s Good to be King

Covers events and developments in 16th- and 17th-century Europe, including the wars of religion, the rise of absolutism, and cultural changes. Assuming the roles of noble families vying to win more power in order to gain the throne, students move around a game board and win or lose "honor points" by answering questions and through random "events" that occur.

Era 7: An Age of Revolutions, 1750-1914

Vive la Revolution!

Covers the time period just before the French Revolution, through the Reign of Terror, to Napoleon’s rise and fall. The class divides into four rival factions (the Herbetists, the Montagnards, the Les Enrages, and the Girondins) that compete to win the most supporters for a vote in the National Assembly.

Era 8: A Half-Century of  Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945

 

 

Era 9: The 20th Century Since 1945:
Promises and Paradoxes

 

 

Like its companion unit, Living the Past,  Playing the Past provides teachers with much flexibility for instructing a wide range of ages and abilities and presents opportunities to integrate academic content surrounding different World History eras. Students are engaged with the visual displays and sequential activities competing for dominance amongst ancient civilizations or engaging in “information combat” to eliminate others who pose a threat or gaining understanding of the ancient customs and religions, all the while gaining a deep understanding of these important eras in World History.



[1] World History Content Standards. National Center for History in the Schools http://www.nchs.ucla.edu/Standards/world-history-standards

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