Object – Live through a real-life teaching experience in a safe environment where new teachers can help each other out and can reflect on what worked, and what didn’t. The point is not to create a crazy classroom. The point is to create a classroom where the teacher must constantly choose between proceeding with the content of the lesson and dealing with the context.
Key Idea – As participants get stuck, or have better ideas, they may swap characters by tapping out. This keeps fresh ideas flowing and keeps the simulation moving. Tap-outs must be publicly announced so everyone in the simulation knows when two people have swapped characters.
- Plan a lesson to teach multiplication in some form. Plan it out with as much or as little detail as you, or your professor, require. If your class agrees on some other lesson, use that instead.
- Set up a class phone and a classroom door. Post the phone number for the Outsiders.
- Set up a note taking station in the back of the room for the Observers.
- Quickly agree as a class on five rules for the class to follow. For example,
- No talking
- Raise your hand
- Pay attention
- Finish your work
- Adopt one of the following characters. Make a name card to place in front of you. You may end up trading characters and name cards throughout the game so be flexible. (Note: Doing this in advance will allow some characters to prepare props.)
- Teacher – This is you. Bring all of your skills and enthusiasm.
- Observer – Sits in the back of the room taking notes. The view from the back is quite different from what the teacher experiences and can provide valuable insight. Do not spend more than ten minutes as this character.
- Outsider – Interrupts class once every ten minutes or so by phoning the teacher or even knocking on the door. Pretend to be the school secretary, nurse, librarian, speech teacher, literacy coach, another teacher, a visiting parent or even the principal. Ask for certain students to be sent to your office. Try to talk for as long as you can. Do not spend more than ten minutes as this character.
- Abby – Abby is a studious child who usually wears glasses, but can’t find them today. Ask your teacher if you can move up to the front. Sit underfoot if possible. Remember to get permission to move back to your seat. Complete all of your work quickly and quietly.
- Angelina – Angelina is gifted and impatient. Get your work done quickly then talk to whomever you can get to talk to you. If the teacher asks you to behave better, comply, but be slightly condescending in your tone. This class is moving too slow for you anyway. Revert to talking with your neighbors in a couple of minutes. Complete your work if you feel like it. Refuse to do any trivial work.
- Annabel – Annabel is an enthusiastic learner who is improving steadily. Try hard, do everything the teacher says, raise your hand often, and process your thinking out loud when the teacher calls on you. It may take you so long to come up with an answer that other students act up. Complete all of your work, but take longer than everyone else.
- Brenda – Brenda is tardy twice a week which would be fine if she would enter quietly. Enter late loudly explaining your excuse. Shout from your seat that you don’t know what page you’re on and this isn’t what you were studying yesterday. Get upset if the teacher points out that you are lost because you were tardy. Complete your work, but forget to put your name on it.
- Bryan – Bryan can be a great kid, but has a fuse that can be lit from across the room. Ask lots of questions while you do your work. Write very large and quickly. Shout loudly in protest if anyone bothers you, but lay all over the desks around you and kick kids as they walk past your desk. Have a loud and total meltdown if someone accuses you of hurting them. Complete your work only if nothing goes wrong.
- Chantilly – Chantilly is a sensitive, but willing worker who is well-liked by her friends. Participate enthusiastically and try to answer every question the teacher asks. Try to keep your friends on track as well. If the teacher mistakes your helping your friends as talking, start to cry. If anyone else in the classroom hassles you, put your head down and cry. Complete your work as long as no one is mean to you.
- Daniel – Daniel doesn’t understand class instruction easily and his attention skills don’t help. Tip your chair. Scribble on your paper or desk. Look out the window. Get someone’s attention across the aisle and ask if they have an eraser. Trip any kids who walk by. Steal something from your neighbor. If the teacher notices, get huffy and make excuses. Ask to go to the bathroom and stay there for a long time. Turn in incomplete work.
- Deejay – Deejay is smart, but highly distractible and spends a lot of time distracting himself. Bring toys to play with. Keep them under the edge of the desk so the teacher can’t see them. Don’t work unless the teacher is watching, then go right back to playing when the teacher looks away. Try to get other students to play with you. If one toy gets taken away, get out another one. Turn in incomplete work.
- Deion – Deion’s family is falling apart, the last place he wants to be is in class, and he will do whatever it takes to get kicked out. Ignore the teacher’s instructions. If the teacher threatens a consequence you don’t want, like losing recess, comply with instructions, but do so very slowly while staring the teacher down. Pick a student to bully, walk by that desk and say ugly things at every opportunity. Turn in blank work.
- Elena – Elena suffers from asthma which has her miss school at least one day a week and has put her far behind. Smile, try hard, pay attention, write down everything the teacher says, but understand nothing. Work with other students and copy their work if necessary to get your paper finished. If you get special help from the teacher, quietly beam from the attention. Complete half of your work plus anything the teacher helped your with.
- Ella – Ella had a fever yesterday, but came to school sick anyway. Stare at the board with glazed eyes. Volunteer no answers and write everything down slowly. Put your head down on your desk to rest. Eventually leave it there. Don’t complete your work.
- Elvis – Elvis has no desire to be in school because it takes away from his hunting/fishing/gaming time. Don’t start your work until the teacher notices, then tell the teacher you don’t have a pencil. Once you have a pencil, take forever to put your name on your paper. Shrug when the teacher calls on you. If you work in a group, let everyone else do the work while you goof off with one of the group members. Turn in a mostly blank page.
- Ernie – Ernie is a great soccer player, but struggles in class and doesn’t just play games outside. Today you have a cough, and strangely, it seems to be a lot worse when the teacher is talking. Use it as an excuse to get drinks of water. Take a roundabout way back to your desk and visit with your friends. Drag your hands across other students’ desks and bump into them while you walk around the room. Complete your work reluctantly.
- Frisco – Frisco has been to more than a dozen schools and this is his third school this year. Show no interest in what the teacher says. Whisper cusswords at other students to get them to leave you alone. Draw guns and knives on the margins of your papers. Write scribbles instead of answers and cuss under your breath at the teacher in any language you know.
- Glenda – Glenda, who tends to be hyperactive, is making it part of her persona. Sneak candy to school and eat it out of your pocket. Hum. When the teacher tells you to stop, whistle. When the teacher tells you to stop, sing. When the teacher tells you to stop, say you will if you get cookies. Stick your hands in your partner’s hair. Put your hands in other people’s faces. Crawl under your desk. Tip your chair. Get a surprising amount of your work right, but don’t finish it.
- Hailey – Hailey is on medication for ADHD, but remains hypersensitive. Participate enthusiastically in puzzles, group work, or manipulatives. Hate, hate, hate repetitive worksheets to the point of fuming in anger and erasing holes in them. If the paper or pencil feels rough or funny, struggle to work on it. If the class slows, poke your neighbor with a pencil. If the class is well-managed, complete your work accurately. Draw cats in the margins.
- Imelda & Maria – Imelda & Maria speak little English, but are determined to learn everything they can. Whisper to each other all of the time, but make it clear you’re talking about schoolwork. Figure every answer out together. Dare each other to ask the teacher for help. Run up to the teacher for help together but be very shy about asking. Complete your work with lots of erasures and get hard questions wrong.
- Izzy – Izzy is the true genius of the class, but none of the other students know it because she is so introverted. Sneak read a book at every opportunity. Answer every teacher question correctly even if you were just reading. If asked to work in a group, remain on the periphery making outstanding suggestions that get ignored because you don’t know how to get anyone’s attention. Complete your work in advance, totally correctly, and go back to reading.
- Jasper – Jasper has ADHD, and his parents are committed to not using medication. Bounce, bounce, bounce. Kick your feet out. Lay across your desk. Hop like a frog on your chair. Answer all questions at an inappropriate volume. Pull out the lead on your pencil. Peel the paint on your pencil. Sharpen your pencil while the teacher is talking. When the teacher corrects you, say, “What?” like you don’t know what the problem is. Be annoying, but absolutely loveable. Get your work done accurately, but sporadically.
- Julio – Julio’s education in Mexico was off and on so he has his multiplication tables memorized, but not his addition facts. Multiply everything even if it says to add. Don’t read any directions because you can’t. Do any math that comes with an example exactly like the example. If there is no example to follow, copy off of your neighbor’s paper even if they are wrong. Complete the rest of your work with random numbers.
- Kenta – Kenta is a wonderful, sweet girl who needs peace and quiet to get her work done. Do everything the teacher says. Keep your eyes on the teacher. Work well with the other smart girls, but cave in to everyone else. If the classroom gets too noisy, or if anyone picks on you, look at the teacher with huge eyes waiting for him or her to get a handle on the room. Complete your work perfectly.
- Latonia – Latonia transferred in mid-year and has been to school on more than one continent witnessing both extreme poverty and the gifts of an education. Be serious about your work, respond when the teacher asks for answers, refuse to let anyone engage you in anything distracting, and complete your work thoroughly and perfectly.
- Lynn – Lynn is sure that she’s sick because there has to be some reason her mother takes her to the doctor so much. Pay attention, try hard, but notice everything wrong with your body. Rub your leg, head, or whatever else hurts. Wonder if you have a fever, toothache, or sprained ankle. Take off your shoes to check your toes. Ask to go to the nurse every time something hurts. Complete your work willingly, but make mistakes on independent work.
- Mary – Mary gives up before she even opens the book. Ask to go to the bathroom as soon as the teacher starts the lesson. Take forever to put your name on your paper. Pretend that writing is difficult. Announce angrily that your pencil doesn’t work. Fall behind and refuse to let another student help you. Also refuse to skip ahead to where the class is until you get the next problem on your page done. Basically make the teacher choose to either teach the class or teach you.
- Melinda – Melinda is super smart and well aware of it. Overshare. Every time you think of a remote connection to something that the teacher says or even a bad joke, raise your hand excitedly and share it. Laugh at what you said. Complete your work before the teacher finishes talking. Make one or two mistakes due to excessive speed.
- Nancy = Nancy has average abilities and average behavior. Try to disappear in the classroom. Don’t misbehave, but don’t raise your hand. Don’t avoid attention, but don’t seek it out, either. Glow if the teacher notices you, but accept that you’ll probably be invisible. Complete your work with a surprising number of mistakes because no one notices that you don’t really get it.
- Ralphie – Ralphie has been spoiled by his absent father and guilty mother. Treat your clothes like they’re expensive. Pull your pants low on your hips. Demand that the teacher call on you first and have a mini-tantrum, kicking your desk, crossing your arms, and disappearing into your hoodie, when the teacher makes you wait. Do the same if your work is too hard. Mutter, then shout, “That’s not fair!” when the teacher helps other children first. Throw another tantrum if you don’t get called on twice in a row. Get your work done mostly correctly.
- Randy – Randy grasps math intuitively and quickly, but explains it in a circuitous way and can only write down numbers, not words. Do your work in non-standard ways, but get to the right answer. Run up to the teacher to explain your work because that’s the only way you feel understood. If written explanations are required, skip them.
- Sam – Sam gets math as long as he can work at his own speed. Work deliberately and slowly. Raise your hand only if the teacher gives you time to process by waiting for answers. Get lost if you feel rushed, otherwise complete your work slowly and carefully.
- Shelly – Shelly means to do well, but gets off track almost before she starts. Wear jewelry. Take it off, play with it, suck on it, and even break it. Crawl all over the floor to pick the pieces up. Sneak over to the stapler and tape and take them back to your desk. Use them to work on an art project while the teacher is teaching. Keep forgetting to write down what you are supposed to. Run up and ask the teacher about what he or she just taught. Turn in incomplete work.
- Stacy – Stacy’s mission in life is to be involved in everything. Race to answer the phone or door. Erase the whiteboard even if the teacher didn’t ask. Run up and ask if you can pass out supplies while the teacher is still talking. Talk to the person next to you as much as possible. When the teacher isn’t looking, run to other desks and make plans for recess or try to sell them gum. Run up and tattle on the other students. Complete your work in red pen, crayon or highlighter as soon as it is passed out. Get it all wrong.
- Sue – Sue is an enthusiastic learner who needs lots and lots of positive attention. Finish your work as quickly as possible without reading the directions. Run up to the teacher to get it checked. Rush back to your desk and fix one thing. Run back up to the teacher. Rush back to your desk. Repeat until the work is complete, then loudly ask, “What do I do now?” and finish that work as quickly as possible.
- Tanesha – Tanesha seeks lots of attention, more than any one person can provide. Watch what the teacher lets other students do and run up and ask for the same thing. Ask if you can sharpen everyone’s pencil, erase the whiteboard, answer the door and the phone, pass out papers, etc. Feel sick and ask if you can go to the nurse. Twice. Complete your work if you get positive attention. Collapse into a small ball on the floor if you get negative attention.
- Tessa – Tessa is behind in math, but is a serious student who tries hard. Write down everything the teacher tells you to write down, but fail to get the concept. When you move into group or independent work, be confused. Require more explanation. If the explanation includes manipulatives, you get it. If it is words or drawings, you don’t. Complete your work correctly if you are copying from the board or another student, correctly if you have manipulatives, incorrectly otherwise.
- Tomoko – Tomoko studied all of this math, but not all of these methods, in Japan. Do all of the math exactly along with the teacher, but do not raise your hand. If asked to work in a group, defer to other students unless they are wrong and/or loud. Complete your work accurately unless the directions are lengthy. Doublecheck all of your work.
- Tony – Tony loves math. It’s his thing. Participate enthusiastically. Drive the lesson forward by answering all possible questions and helping out those around you. Do what you can to push the teacher to hurry up so you can learn more. Complete your work and write down the extra stuff you know in the margins.
- Tonya – Tonya works hard, has a good attitude, and requires some practice to capture new concepts. Look puzzled during the first part of the lesson. Draw incorrect conclusions the first two or three tries before grasping the big idea. Let the incorrect conclusions persist if no one, student or teacher, steps in to correct you. Complete your work using your ideas, wrong or right, consistently.
- Wynn – Wynn is bright and mature, but didn’t qualify for the gifted program. Still, learning comes easily and she finds poor behavior exceedingly annoying. Cooperate, do your work as the teacher asks, don’t misbehave, and cross your arms and sit back in your chair if class gets interrupted for any reason. Don’t tell other students to calm down, simply stare at the teacher and wait for the class to get back to work. Complete all of your work correctly.
- Write your own character – Name _________________________________________
One sentence describing something essential about this child. ______________________________________________________________________
Two sentences describing how this child will behave. ___________________________
One sentence describing how this child will complete work ______________________
Game Play – Begin the lesson with everyone in character. Some of the louder characters need to remember to let the lesson flow from time to time so the quieter characters have space to play their parts. Remember, the point is to create a challenging classroom, not a chaotic one. Every ten minutes, the observer & outsider need to tap out. The teacher can tap out whenever he or she gets stuck or when someone has a great idea for how to handle a certain student. Continue for as long as time permits.
Reflection – Have everyone stop to write down their own thoughts, then hold group or class discussions. Refer to the observers’ notes and compare the teachers’ experiences to the observers’ and students’ experiences. What went well? What could have gone better? How much did the students learn about multiplication? How much did the students learn about the teachers? What did the students wish the teachers had done? What other choices did the teachers have? How could the teachers have helped the students make other choices?