Friday, March 3, 2017

Conflict Resolution in Colonial 4th grade

Social studies in 4th grade at my school is American history from the Jamestown to the end of the American Revolution. We teach mostly through simulation, though we also use videos, reading, and discussion. We are at the end of the French & Indian War right now. The 4th graders all have roles that include a trade, such as blacksmith, milliner, or carpenter. We have set up an economy where tradespeople make and sell products to each other.

Our students every year are an inventive lot and we need to stay on top of all the ways that they come up for gaming the system. We have quite a few rules: once you buy something you cannot return it or resell it; you can only make your products during social studies time, you must buy your "supplies" from the ship that brings them from England. One year we had an attempted robbery that was foiled by an informer.

This year, the enterprising printers decided to sell subscriptions to a newspaper. Now, the "newspapers" are hand-outs in disguise and everyone is required to buy one. So when the first "newspaper" was for sale, the silversmiths, who had bought a subscription, thought that they did not need to play for it. Oh no, we said, everyone buys one. Whatever plan the printers had is on them to deliver.

The silversmiths claimed they did not get their money's worth, or much of anything at all. It appeared to be a stand-off. The printers didn't want to refund any money and the silversmiths were not backing down. "You should go talk to the lawyer," said my partner. "Maybe he can help you negotiate or else represent you in court." We have had court in session some years to solve problems, usually disorderly conduct.

This time, though, our lawyer, Mr. John Randolph, patiently listened and offered sensible ideas and the parties were able to come to a resolution without going to court. The printers agreed to a refund for undelivered newspapers.

Very impressive work for 4th graders!


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed your piece. I love that you create a reenactment as a way of learning. It reminded me of my fourth grade class and reenacting the pilgrims. That was years ago. Your fifth paragraph really showed the tension building!!!

  2. Thank you! I might have also added that our lawyer did not charge for his services!