Culture Shock: The Early Republic

posted Dec 22, 2016, 8:52 AM by Kevin Roughton   [ updated Jan 10, 2017, 11:41 AM ]
My students really enjoy the Culture Shock labs I do for World History. It is an opportunity to discuss daily life and some of the more unique aspects of a given society. I have them play charades to simulate the language barriers of the Columbian Exchange, build houses of cards to simulate to loss of knowledge after the Fall of Rome, perform Sumo wrestling rituals, speak to them in French to simulate Latin in the Catholic Church and analyze multiple paintings of daily life among many other things. They are always engaging and memorable.

I've sadly found it harder to do that with U.S. history. Spending a full year on one society doesn't leave a ton of room for uniqueness. I noticed though that I had a bunch of little mini-activities for the Early Republic period that I couldn't make into a full lab. So, why not see if I could make a Culture Shock with those? I did and I'm excited to try it when we get back.

Culture Shock: The Early Republic (Download the file and run it through PowerPoint to see it all properly)

Here's the break down of how each Shock works if you want to try it.

Shock 1: Use it or Lose It

Last time I used this activity with a short reading on the Sedition Acts. I like it here better. The set up is that students need to use their rights for them to really matter. We've just learned about the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Sedition Acts. They will write a formal protest letter to the principal. As they are doing so I will walk around the room and censor their papers with a black marker (without warning of course) and explain that their words are just too harsh to be taken seriously. 

Let the indignation flow.

Shock 2: Time to Party

Students read a paraphrase of some incendiary editorials against John Adams in the 1800 election. They then write their own against a new candidate for president: SpongeBob SquarePants. This worked out extremely well. The students had a great time turning his flaws into absolutely tyranny. It also helped to get them to see how tense things had become between the early political parties and why the Sedition Acts, crazy as they were, made some sense to the Federalists.

Shock 3: More Cartoons

Students analyze a political cartoon blasting a Democratic-Republican as a tool of the devil. Avoid saying too much about the cartoon. Most of it can speak for itself. I over-explained and weakened some of the analysis.

Shock 4: Dating Advice (From a Real Man)

Students take a Cosmo-style dating quiz hosted by George Washington. This is built on a letters he wrote to his grand-daughters from www.mountvernon.org. There are great video clips there from Martha Washington giving her own dating advice. My students had a ton of fun doing this. It was a good way to a sense of some of the more "normal" day to day life at the time.

Shock 5: Leaf me Alone!

Students will go outside and find leaf, rock, stick or other object from nature. They will then draw and describe it in a Lewis & Clark Journal-like way.

Shock 6: Name that Animal

Students will try to figure out what animals were being described in various entries of the Lewis and Clark Journals.


I'm not at all convinced that I'll get through all these in a period. In fact, I'm quite sure I won't. I'm not sure which I'll cut yet. I'm wishing I had done the Sedition Act simulation already as that would make it an easy fit but it also flows well into the other two.  In the sure-to-come-eventually version 2.0 I'd like to add one more activity dealing with the political parties (maybe a "Which side are you?" kind of quiz?) and move the two Lewis and Clark activities to their own day and build them out further.  For now though, this is it and I think it will be a great back-from-vacation lab to kick the new year off.


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Merry Christmas! Here's a bonus lesson I'll also be doing when I return. I stole the idea from my colleague Anthony Gomez who is doing some amazing design work as a relatively new teacher. It is modeled after the DFTT: Caravan lab I built last year. His lesson was so in-depth I actually am breaking into two different ones so my simple brain can manage it! Here's the first part.
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