Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Simulation - Exploring New Worlds!

Available roles to choose from.
Prior to studying the 13 colonies and the American Revolution, we first cover the early explorers in 5th grade.  I love ending the unit each year with a simulation created by Scholastic called Easy Simulations: Explorers.  This book contains everything you need to have a fun and imaginative adventure with your students.

I begin the simulation each year by going through a Keynote with my kids explaining what a simulation is and the basics of the one we are going to do.  This is where students are first introduced to the "characters" they can play and the ins and outs.  I put them into groups of 4-6 (depending on the number of students I have in my class that year) and their first job is to create a name for their boat and design a flag for that boat.  Here is an example from the past:

Once students have created their flag and have decided upon their "role" in the simulation, I hand out hats that I purchased relatively cheap.  I have the Navigator wear a bandana instead of a regular sailor cap.  This is the person who is the spokesperson for their ship and crew and bandana allows me to easily know who it is.  Additionally, I purchase quills and ink sets for the students to take turns writing in their journal (see regarding journals below) at least once using an old fashion quill and ink. They LOVE THIS!!  And it was a good investment - I've had the same ones for the past 4 years and they are still going strong.  

One of my favorite journal entries
Finally the actual simulation begins - it takes place over five days and the book walks you through the different episodes.  In the beginning students need to make decisions regarding which charter they care going to accept - Spain or Portugal.  Both have pros and cons depending on what they decide to do. At the end of each episode, the students are required to write a journal entry describing the adventure they experienced.  (This is where the students take turns writing with the quills and ink - they only get to do it once, not for all five).  Students must write their entry in character which makes them always enjoyable to read.  Some of my class really get into it!

Throughout the simulation a lot happens.  There are decisions to be made, hardships to overcome, sickness and disease, mutiny of the crew, discovery of new lands and people and some of the group even lose their lives (which the kids always get a kick out of - some even write about pretend funerals that they end up having for their lost crew).  Depending on the choices the group makes and a game of chance will determine whether or not they are successful.

There are a lot of copies that need to be made for this simulation which is one of the reasons this year, I scanned the pages instead and uploaded them to Dropbox.  The students then accessed the pages from there and using PDF notes opened the pages up and modified them on their iPads using their stylus.  This way, the only printed out papers, were their journals.  They used the Pages app to write their journal apps and uploaded them to me in Edmodo.  (With the exception of their one journal entry which was done with the quill pens.)

Overall, this is a fabulous cumulative project to do.  I love how the book has everything I need to successfully roll it out (including a rubric to grade them on) and yet allows me to add in little fun elements of my choosing.   I always hear positive comments from my students about it and they always want to know when we are going to do another one.  Enter Easy Simulations: American Revolution......  ;-)

Do you do simulations in your class?  Which ones?


  1. I've never done a simulation before, but I have the American Revolution one sitting on my desk as we speak. It seemed so overwhelming to start this week! I got nervous and went to Plan B!

    1. I've done the American Revolution one in the past as well. It's fun! They are definitely a bit overwhelming the first time. But once you do it and figure out what needs to be copied, etc it becomes like second nature. Good luck!! When we did the American Revolution, my kids made hats to go along with it. They turned out super cute. :-)


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