Estimated Time: 120min
Through role play, students will experience the patterns of the distribution of wealth and privilege and examine the inequities and injustices that this economic structure produces. While in role, students will explore the challenges that cultural/political leaders face in trying to distribute wealth, as well as what they as citizens can do to work toward creating a more just economic system.
Connections to Financial Literacy
Students will gain an understanding of how social and political structures impact upon personal economic realities.
Heritage and Citizenship
Knowledge and Understanding
- describe the hierarchical structure of medieval society and the types of people in it (e.g., peasants, officials, scholars, clergy, merchants, artisans, royalty, nobles) and explain how and why different groups cooperated or came into conflict at different times (e.g., to promote trade)
B.1 Creating and Presenting
- B1.2: demonstrate an understanding of the element of role by selectively using a few other elements of drama (e.g. time and place; relationship; focus and emphasis) to build belief in a role and establish its dramatic context
- B1.3: plan and shape the direction of drama or role play by posing questions and working with others to find solutions, both in and out of role
Reflecting, Responding and Analyzing
B3. Connections Beyond the Classroom
- B3.2: identify skills they have acquired through drama activities and explain how they can contribute to success beyond the classroom
At the end of this lesson, students will
- experience the workings of a hierarchy through exploration in role
- work with peers to resolve a common problem regarding the unequal distribution of wealth
- gain insight into the complex issues that leaders of communities face when managing money as they assume roles of governmental advisers
Instructional Components and Context
Expose students to readings from medieval societies that address tithes, taxes, bartering and trade systems so that they have an understanding of how money was made and exchanged during this time period.
Ensure that there are established rules for role play in the classroom where students understand that they are to work within the established limits of the drama when improvising in role. This skill will be particularly important in situations where some students may have higher status than others in the initial role play scenarios; watch closely so that this ‘power’ is not abused in the context of role play.
Feudal roles: king, knight, lord, baron, serf, peasant, noble
Teacher in role
Writing in role
Corridor of voices
Information on Feudalism
Data projector and laptop with wifi (optional)
20 tokens (could be chips used for bingo or cubes)
10 individual pieces of chewing gum
Paper for writing in role
Chart paper and markers
BLM #1 Jot Notes Organizer
BLM #2 Guiding Questions for Revisions to Token Economy Structure
Whole Class > Status Analysis Through Pictures
Show students the following images by projecting them from a data projector linked to a laptop, or print them out for class viewing:
king and feudal lord king george wealthy and common folk Japonese King tribal king powerful modern woman equal status hi and low status animated girl clique status high status in low economic status context
As they view the images, have students respond using the following prompting questions.
Key Questions for Discussion:
Who seems to be the most important/powerful person in this image? The least?
What did you see in the image that made this person seem powerful/powerless?
Does power ‘look’ different in men and women?
Does the historical time period and location of the people change the way that power is communicated? Explain your thinking.
Record students’ comments about how power was represented in the images on a piece of chart paper for future reference.
Select an evocative image from the selection above for students to view. Give students sticky notes and have them record a line of dialogue that one of the figures in the image might say.
Have students come up and stand in front of the print/projected image and assume the position of the person in the image and deliver their line.
Whole Class > Research and Discussion of Individual Control over Wealth
Inform students that you are going to be engaging in role play later on in the lesson that will explore issues of status and power that resemble the way that societies worked in medieval England.
Have students look at the following websites:
and complete BLM #1 Jot Notes Organizer as they read.
Engage in a brief discussion about the amount of control different people within the feudal system had over their status in life.
Small Group > Tableaux of Contrasting Status
Divide students into groups of 4 or 5. Write the following lists on the board:
A-king, knight, lord
B- serf, free peasant
Invite half of the groups to create a tableau showing a scene from the life of someone from list A and the other half of the groups to create a tableau showing a scene from the life of a person from list B. Encourage students to contrast the difference in status between these two people by exaggerating use of levels, stance and the context the person is in.
As groups share, tap one or two students from each group while frozen in their tableaux as a means of bringing characters’ feelings to light through thought tracking.
Once all groups have shared, have one of the A groups re-establish their tableau and give sticky notes to the rest of the students in the class. Instruct students to focus on one of the figures in the tableau and write a single word describing what factor could increase or decrease this person’s status with an arrow beside the word to indicate if this factor would cause an increase or decrease (e.g. if an actor is bowed down before a king, write the word ‘knighthood’ with an upward facing arrow to indicate that this is how a lower person may rise in the ranks).
Afterward, collect the stickies and see if there are patterns or trends in the types of factors/events that students came up with during the exercise.
Connections: Invite students to extend this exercise by creating two more tableaux of people in modern Canadian society who have different social and economic status.
Differentiation: Provide opportunities for students to prepare scenes through role play to represent these contrasting people’s lives instead of tableau. Brainstorm ideas first using a T-chart to plan their ideas. Contrast figures from a different time period in history or a different culture from the medieval period.
Assessment for learning: Assess students’ tableau work using the CODE resource Tableau Checklist.
Whole Class > Unequal Distribution of Rewards Role Play
Randomly give out tokens to ten of the students in class (in doing so, be very careful not to favour one gender or racial/ability group over another so that the injustices in the game do not too closely mirror injustices in the children’s actual lived experiences). Provide the token bearers with some gum and allow them to chew it openly, blowing bubbles if they wish.
Assuming the teacher in role as a village leader, announce that the village needs a well to be dug. Give all those without the tokens imaginary shovels and instruct them to start the role play by digging while the token bearers sit in a shaded part of the imaginary garden. Invite them to play imaginary games of cards or eat their fill of imaginary delicacies.
Ring an imaginary bell indicating to the token bearing students that it is time for them to join you in the classroom where they will learn to read and write while the token-less continue to mime toiling away outside.
Whole Class > Town Meeting Role Play
Still in role as the leader of the village, call for everyone to gather together for a town meeting, including the token-less villagers.
Script: (Enter with your head held high, slowly taking a seat at the centre of the space) This being the third Thursday of the month, it is now time for new tokens to be laid upon the palms of the worthy. Approach only if thou art named or else be still. (Proceed to call the names of 2 or 3 people and ceremoniously offer them more tokens. Silence anyone who tries to question you about your actions, going so far as having an imaginary bailiff take the complainers to jail to assert your ultimate power.) The ceremony is now adjourned. All rise. (Wait until they have done so and exit.)
Small Group > “A Slice of Home” Role Play
Signal the class to come out of role and ask students to gather into three groups: those with more than one token, those with one token, and the token-less.
Tell them that the tokens are like money in today’s society where the more tokens one has, the richer one is. Ask students to consider what the home lives might be like of those with and without tokens. Give groups 5-10 minutes to rehearse what eating a meal at their home would look like, as well as showing us what they might do to entertain themselves in the evening. Post the following prompts on chart paper for students to consider as they develop their scenes.
Prompts: Since tokens are like money, what would the home of someone with no tokens look like? How might it be constructed?
How many rooms might there be? What would the home of someone with many tokens look like?
What might you eat? Where will you get it from? Who will prepare it? How much food will there be? Where will you eat it?
What kind of entertainment is possible when you have a lot of wealth? Where might that entertainment take place in the home?
How can you entertain yourself without money?
After groups have had time to rehearse, invite them to share their role play with the other groups.
Whole Class > “Is This System Fair?” Value Line
Ask students to assume the roles of their characters in the drama and line up on an imaginary line. At one end of the line is “fair” and the other “unfair.” Ask them to assume a position that matches their thoughts on the fairness of the token distribution.
Have students at opposite ends of the line articulate the reasons that they put themselves on this spot in the line. Next, give students an opportunity to rearrange themselves on the line if their opinions have been swayed by others.
Individual > Writing in Role Letter to the Village Leader
Ask students to consider their experiences thus far and write in role as their characters to their village leader explaining their feelings about the way that people in their community are being given tokens. Prompts: Is the system fair? Should it be maintained or changed?
Whole Class > Corridor of Voices
Have students identify if they disagreed with, supported, or were somewhere in the middle on the issue in their letter to the leader. Invite them to group themselves according to their opinions. Arrange them so that they are standing alongside one another in two parallel lines facing each other, forming a corridor of voices.
Ask students to circle the phrase or sentence from their work that best captures their feelings about the way things are and to be prepared to read them aloud when cued by someone walking through the corridor.
As teacher in role and leader of the community, walk through the corridor as slowly as possible as students on either side read off their sentence or phrase, demonstrating the difficult task that the leader is faced with and the variety of points of view he/she has to consider.
Small Group > Role Play Discussion of a Fairer Distribution of Wealth
In role as village leader, assemble the students and deliver the following information:
Script: (Entering ceremoniously and taking time and care to assume position in chair at centre of assembly location) I sit before you, eyes strained from having examined your many letters which were delivered to me last evening. I daresay that I found the sentiments within them to be as varied as the seasons and have for you this day not a solution for that which troubles you, but rather, a request. I feel that we will not find peace within our borders until we are clear in our minds and our aims. I am but one person and will listen to no more than four opinions on the matter of our economy. Break ye into 4 groups, and debate the issue among yourselves. We will reunite in a day’s time for you to share your plans.
I leave you with this set of questions (take out piece of chart paper with guiding questions written on it and post it in a spot that is visible) to address in your discussions.
All rise. (Stand from chair and exit)
Key Questions for Discussion:
Who should control the community’s tokens?
How can people earn tokens?
Who should get the most tokens? The least?
Should there be rules about what people can spend tokens on? On what the people who control the community spend tokens on?
What obligations or responsibilities should come with having tokens, if any?
Tell students that for this part of the exercise, they do not need to be in role, but can answer the guiding questions based on what their own thoughts are about creating a fair system of rewards. Help them organize themselves into groups if necessary.
Provide each group with BLM #2 Guiding Questions for Revisions to Token Economy Structure to complete and submit after having shared the information at the upcoming town meeting.
Whole Class > Town Meeting Role Play
In role as village leader, establish the meeting space so that it appears like a meeting room. Establish conventions for addressing the leader and for expected behaviour of participants.
Invite each group’s leader to share the group’s thinking with the other citizens, using their graphic organizers to assist them.
Close the meeting by informing participants that you will take into consideration what they have shared and will meet with them again soon to share your decision.
Connections: Consider having students show their plans for a new economic system by creating scenes to go along with one or two of their solutions using a flash forward technique. (i.e. What would the world look like if...?)
Differentiation: Study different economic systems around the world and compare their affects on quality of life for their citizens. Reduce the number of guiding questions to address for students who are struggling with some of the concepts or who are easily overwhelmed. Allow several members of a group to present rather than one representative if desired by group.
Assessment for learning: Give feedback on students’ letters from the writing in role exercise and use the completed graphic organizer submitted by each of the four groups to assess learning.
Assessment as learning: Have students voice their own thinking about the lesson via the value line activity.
Individual > Journal Reflection
Ask students to reflect upon the following prompts and record their thoughts in their notebooks.
Prompts: How is what happened here similar to the way that wealth is accumulated/acquired in our current society? (e.g. First Nations Peoples’ rights/Residential schools, segregation, different number of seats in House of Commons for Quebec, people with most money are able to save it and invest it while poor almost never have left over money to save or invest). What is different? How is what you experienced in the drama similar or different from the way that wealth was distributed in other societies that you have studied?
Small Group > Making Connections Rehearsed Role Play
Divide students in groups of 4 or 5. Invite them to prepare the following rehearsed scenes. Depending on time constraints and the ability of the class, assign one or both of the paired scenarios to each group. Provide time and resources for students to conduct further inquiry into this topic if time permits.
a) Recreate the moment in the drama when the tokens were given out randomly (tableau).
b) Create a scene (role play) from modern Canadian society or another time period or culture that you have studied where the wealth or privileges that one group received was different from another.
a) Recreate the moment in the drama where the wealthy token bearers got to go to school while those without the tokens had to work in the fields instead (tableau).
b) Create a scene (role play) from modern Canadian society or another time period or culture that you have studied where those with money were allowed to do something that those without money could not.
After sharing scenes, lead a debrief discussion with students about patterns and connections they notice between the tableau moment from class and the Canadian society role play. Ask them to comment on the degree to which modern society seems to have changed from medieval society.
Connections: Conduct inquiry projects into issues of poverty in Canada. Prompts: Who is most likely to be poor? What kinds of barriers exist for certain citizens to be able to earn money in this country? Have students create a journal reflection about what they can do to address injustice and inequality in our society today.
Differentiation: Invite students to select their own moment from the drama from which to develop two of their scenes. Offer choice as to whether to capture scenes in tableau rather than in role play.
Assessment of learning: From the CODE resources, use the Tableau Checklist and Role Play Checklist to evaluate students’ final performance work. Use the journal reflection entry from Consolidation as sources for evaluation of understanding the core financial literacy and social studies expectations identified at the beginning of lesson.