Lesson: Rewrite the Script of Imperialism: Imperialism Simulation

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Lesson Objective

Students will understand the different mechanisms of control used in imperialism and the effects they had on relations between dominant and subordinate populations

Lesson Plan


-       Index cards

-       4 decks of playing cards



-       mix 4 decks of playing cards together very well

-       distribute the 4 decks between 4 group tables

-       label the tables A, B, C and D

-       the tables will be assigned as follows, but students will not know this:

  • A = independent
  • B = sphere of influence
  • C = colony
  • D = protectorate

-       Give table A far more cards than other tables

-       Assign at least 2 students to each table group, and choose two students to be your “helpers”. These should be confident students who can command others naturally.

-       Prepare and distribute the following cards: (download attached lesson plan) 



            Explain to students that they will need to complete a task in groups, but that some people will have roles written on index cards. The roles have to be followed and carried out with enthusiasm, like actors, but should not be discussed with others unless absolutely necessary. Once the tasks are finished, we will talk about how everything went.  The task is that they have to work with their group to put together a deck of cards. There are four decks of cards in the room and they have been all mixed up. Groups can get the cards they need by trading with other groups, but only one card at a time.  That means they have to talk about what card to ask for, which table to ask, then go ask and report back, and decide together what to do next. It is important that they decide with their group who to ask for what card, and do so only one request at time.



            Circulate while students make decisions and trade cards, trying to build decks. Carefully monitor interactions between students to make sure there isn’t an excess of hostility, and carefully time the ending for the debriefing to be at a point where students have become emotionally involved in the game, possibly frustrated, but before they become discouraged or upset. You want them to know what it feels like to have “the deck stacked against them,” if you’ll forgive the pun, but you don’t want the emotional experience to overpower their ability to analyze what happened.



Stop the task, clarify that winning is not the focus and give students a moment to shake off their investment. Collect cards off of the tables and ask students to physically turn toward the discussion (state change).  Ask one student from each table to briefly explain what actually happened during the simulation. Try to lead them in telling their experience in the order it unfolded. If they haven’t figured it out, tell the class that this was a demonstration of different forms of control used in imperialism. Tell each group what they were representing and write the definitions on the board:

-       A: Independent – a country that makes its own decisions and can trade with any country they choose

-       B: Sphere of Influence – a country that is under the influence of another country, and mostly has to trade with only that country

-       C: Colony – a country that is completely controlled by outsiders

-       D: Protectorate – a country that is controlled by outsiders, but only indirectly through local leaders

Ask a student from each group to talk about how it felt to have the level of control they had. Support them in relating their experiences to the real-life experiences of populations in history.


Review the discussion started yesterday about cases in which outside control would be easy or not.


Independent Practice:

Students complete History, Chapter 11, Section 2 and Assessment

Students read Heart of Darkness pp.37-51



Check in with groups and review their answers to the section assessment, have students complete Project Vocabulary Cloze


Lesson Resources



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