The Stamp Act was a pivotol event as our country headed toward revolution. As usually happens, there is more than one point of view. I want the kids to practice the skill of distinguishing between points of view, because it can be a complex skill. I read a portion of the excellent picture book, George vs George: The American Revolution as seen from Both Sides cover Website for it here. It's a book I use throughout the unit from the first day, as we reach each of the pertinent events. Today, we read "The Trouble with Taxes" pages 18-21. It's a good idea to read the first few pages on the two Georges before this lesson, if you have not done so earlier. I also highlight the two points of view in different colors Read aloud portion with POV sections highlighted so I'll be reminded of when to advise the kids to listen closely to those differing perspectives. More of the highlighted reading
In addition to the narrative reading, there's a quote at the bottom of page 18 attributed to anonymous English Poet. Read the quote to the kids, and give them the opportunity to interpret it either with a partner share or through whole class discussion before beginning the activity.
~This Stamp Act, no doubt, may be good for the Crown, But I fear 'tis a pill that will never go down.
This book is a good way to introduce the kids to the background of the Stamp Act because immediately following, they will be participating in a simulation which will immerse them in the subject further.
The French and Indian War was the catalyst for the offensive taxation endured by the American Colonists. My students were introduced to this war in flashback fashion at the beginning of our unit. I presented the facts of the conflict and they responded in their journals as though they remembered the event or had been told about it as a young child. With this background knowledge, in addition to the direct historical information in the George vs George book, they're prepared to enter into the study of the Stamp Act.
I tell the kids that they are going to be held accountable for something they did in the first quarter of the school year. It can be an assignment that kids didn't turn in (or I tell them this) or perhaps a paper assigned that most didn't do well on (again, this can be so general that no one can identify.) I inform them that they don't need the specifics, they just need to know that I'm displeased and it must be made up in some way. If these ideas aren't appealing, another option is to create an assignment I'm aware will not be successful at the onset, and use that to my advantage. Regardless, whatever I use is the catalyst in taxing them. Next, I ask for two volunteers. Kids usually don't ask why...just automatically raise their hands. Once they're picked I say, "I'll let you know when I need you," and leave it at that.
They are told that due to their unfortunate circumstance, they will need to "pay" a tax to me each time they use paper, pen, pencil, their notebooks, their texts, and the like. These are all products of paper or used with paper, which was the basis for the Stamp Act. This will seem like a ridiculous task. Some will decide that paying the tax is not worth it, and declare that they'll avoid the assignments instead. Not a good choice, as I remind them that not being prepared and/or not completing tasks will go against their class records.
Before beginning the simulation, I instruct them to take out their colonist journals and express opinions Student 2 Journal Entry of this new development in the classroom. They should support their point of view with reasons and facts. This can also take place directly after the simulation.
Journals: Student 1 Journal Entry..
To begin the simulation in full, distribute tickets, coupons, or Colonial Money for the kids to retain...or lose. My Colonial Money Colonist Money is a souvenir of replica money I bought at Valley Forge's gift shop that's been color copied multiple times then laminated. I've included a photo of the money in the resources, and it can be purchased from an online store at any Revolutionary War tourist site. Although not necessary to use- anything to which you attach value is fine, it's just fun to bring authenticity aboard whenever possible.
Attaching value is the key. The kids are told that their "money" is worth something, although I'm not at liberty to tell them what it is, yet. This should be enough to whet their whistle and interest them to participate without issue. I determine the value- be it in candy, trip to the treasure box, cool pencils, etc. This won't break me because most of the money will be eaten up in taxes and only a few students will come out ahead. Having said that, I usually have a little treat on hand for the whole class at the conclusion, just for fun.
Another key point, I don't distribute evenly. Some kids will begin with more money than others. The way I explain this is that not everyone has the same source of income, as in real life. Throughout our simulations, when I throw in the "real life" component, it seems to pacify potentially irritated students. When passing out the "money" I'm sure it's random. This can be achieved through putting "money" in envelopes and letting the kids select the envelope. If I have a class where kids aren't picky, I just pull "money" from the stack and hand it to them.
I begin by asking the kids to take out a paper and pencil and write their names at the top. As soon as they do this, I collect two "dollars" from each kid in tax collector baskets Tax Collector baskets with collected colonial taxes with the help of the volunteers of earlier. These students didn't realize they were volunteering to be the tax collectors. As they collect the two pieces of "money" from each student, I expect there to be noise because now they really don't want to give it up. Continuing the lesson, I ask them to open their Social Studies textbook (to a page about the Stamp Act). Once they've opened the text, it's a must stop again to receive the tax of one dollar. As is evident, the focus of this lesson is not typical in that I'm stopping quite a lot to collect payment. I invite a student to read the Stamp Act section from the textbook (most textbooks don't have too much written) after the taxes have been collected. Next, I have a worksheet on the Stamp Act Stamp Act Information Page: student to pass out. Of course, things come to a halt again as the tax collectors pick up the taxes. There is a bit of chaos due to all of the stopping and uniqueness of the situation, but it's all fine, an interesting break from the norm. The kids fill out the worksheet. After they've completed, I tell them to take out a pen so that their names stand out on the page. They'll groan knowing this means another tax, which it does. By this time, I'm ready to bring the lesson to a close and count the King's "money." No doubt, my students are also ready to see how much they have left and find out its worth.
I make each piece of "money" worth a piece of a favorite treat. By this time in the year, I'm aware of my kids "likes," so if it's Jolly Ranchers, they earn one JR for each. With the worry of obesity and too much candy in the schools, I sometimes alter it to pretzels, etc. It doesn't matter a whole lot because in the middle of the day almost any food source is popular!
Summing up the simulation directly, pass out the "Cause and Effect" Cause and Effect worksheet page and have the kids write down three causes and their effects. Student I completed Cause and Effect paper...Student II completed Cause and Effect paper. They may use the simulation itself, but it may only be used as one of their examples (ie. Cause: I used a pencil....Effect: I owed money). They also should refer to their reading in the textbook and/or the worksheet they filled out about the Stamp Act.
Using the worksheet Character Perspectives in Contrast the students will fill in Character #1 as "American Colonists" and Character #2 as "King George III/Parliament." The Big Event between them is, of course, the Stamp Act. They summarize the Stamp Act and the perspectives of each to compare and contrast the differences between the two. Student I Character Perspective in Contrast...Student II Character Perspective in Contrast. I also have them complete a Stamp Act Feedback sheet for homework. Student Example 1 Simulation Reaction...Student Example 2 Simulation Reaction
Although the kids are split into the Patriots and Loyalists in the classroom, it's a good time to remind them that they are ALL American Colonists. The Loyalists back in 1765 weren't any happier than the Patriots as far as taxes went, they just happened to take it better because their priority was to remain loyal to England and their king. This, I remind the kids, was quite noble. When I note that it's a good time to remind them that they're all American Colonists, it's because there are students who will continue to make the mistake that the Loyalists are part of England. I've tried to approach my presentation of this in different ways throughout the years, but have come to the conclusion that for some, it may take fifty times of repeating before it sinks in.