The French Revolution can be a very interesting area of study for children. There is a lot that the class can examine, including everything from the causes to the historical figures and culture of the time. Creating activities to aid in teaching the unit can generate even more interest in the topic, as it gets students involved and helps them to understand the reality of the event.
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This activity simulates the start of the French Revolution and helps kids to understand the points of view of all involved. Separate the children into three groups. Assign one student to be the First Estate: the clergy; two students to be the Second Estate: nobility; and the remainder to act as the Third Estate: bourgeois, peasants and working class. You will act as the queen or king, namely Marie Antoinette or Louis the 15th, wearing a crown for added effect. You will then start giving special treatment to the first two Estates, handing out cookies or candy to them, and offering them privileges that the third does not get. Explain that you are going to have to raise taxes for France, and that the Third Estate, despite being the poorest, pays the highest taxes already.
Give students more information on the Estates, including the rights for the first two and the lack thereof for the third. The children of the Third Estate will become angry. Ask them questions regarding what they think they can do to defend their rights, making it clear that they have little resources or weapons, until they realise that they want to make changes to the government.
Having students act out skits surrounding the French Revolution is a way for them to learn about new viewpoints and facts. Separate them into small groups, giving each group a different script to act out and present to the class. Different plays may include a conversation between the King and Queen, the storming of the Bastille, or a scene from peasant life of the time. Children will have the chance to get creative and really get into character, gaining deeper understanding of figures that they may not have given consideration to in the past.
Having children complete a scavenger hunt is a way to get them motivated and eager to learn. Hide photos and items around the classroom or learning area, relating to the French Revolution. For example, you can include replicas or photos of important paintings, garments and food of the time. Students can be broken up into groups of two or three for the game, and you may give them clues as to the location of each item. After the hunt is complete, students must explain the importance of each item that they found to the class. They can work together to come up with the right answers.
Use a simple match game to get students acquainted with the names of important revolutionary figures and groups. Separate students into two groups. Give each group a pile of photos of figures, and a pile of names and titles. This can include figures such as Marie Antoinette, and groups such as the peasants and bourgeois. They will have to work together in order to match the names to their proper photos before the other team does. Once complete, check to see which team got the most correct answers to determine the winner. Or you can choose not to declare a winner until one team has matched each one correctly.
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