Today I wanted to show the kids how different history can look depending on who is doing the reporting. So, one of the other parents and I staged a sort of fight. Here's my version:
M. was scheduled to arrive 15 minutes late. The other kids and parents were on time. As the other kids were getting seated and talking and stuff, my youngest got a sliver (a rock!) in her foot, so I was a bit distracted trying to get it out. Still, I managed to look at the clock and mutter about how late it was getting several times. Some of the other parents, especially the ones who don't know me as well, mentioned later that they thought I was serious about being annoyed at the time.
I also mentioned several times how we needed to leave right after history group so that we could go to a party (which was true), and how we might even leave before anyone else.
When M. finally arrived, the plan was for him to pull in behind my car and then come in the house. He was supposed to be already frustrated at being late. He came in, with an annoyed look on his face, and I said something about him being late, and how we usually start at 1:15. Unfortunately, I'm not a very good actor, so I got nervous and set about introducing the kids who didn't know each other. I would have liked to have said something else to him to keep the tension going.
Then, I looked out the window and noticed that he had parked behind my car. Since we had to leave right after, I asked him to move his car. He gave me a look and stormed out to move it. Meanwhile, my husband went out to create a noise to make it seem like something happened when he moved the car.
When I heard the noise, I called attention to it by saying "Hey, what was that noise?" and some of the kids looked out the window.
Then M. barged back in the house, clearly angry, and went straight for our plates, picking one up and smashing it on the ground, saying "I can't believe you asked me to move my car." He then turned around and walked out of the house, slamming the door behind him.
The kids were stunned. They were looking at me like "What happened? Why was he so mad? My youngest was crying. "Why did he do that?" she wanted to know. I went to comfort her. They all looked shocked.
M. waited 10 seconds and then came back in and we both explained to the kids that it was staged. I then went and got paper and pens and asked the kids to write down what they had seen.
It was hard for them to calm down at first and start writing. They had lots of questions and wanted to talk to each other to figure out what had just happened. Then they finally got down to writing. We helped the littlest kids write down their stories.
When they were done, we asked them each to read their versions, and we all talked about the differences from one story to another, about the different word choices used and how that affected the story, about how history changes depending on who reports it, how M's children had background story (his being stressed about being late) to add, how the kids who were in the kitchen already had heard my back story (my muttering), and more. It was pretty interesting.
I asked them to take away the idea that history books are written by people just like us, that they are not the absolute truth, and that we should always keep a critical voice in the back of our head, asking "Who wrote this? What is their point of view? Is this backed up with other evidence from other sources?"
We ended the discussion by talking about the Boston Massacre and how Sam Adams had manipulated the facts to get people angry and ready to go to war.
My only regrets were that I'm a terrible actor. I got so nervous that I rushed through it too much and didn't say very much. I would have liked to say more, act more shocked, engaged M. more at the beginning so there were more details to report on. I might also have toned it down slightly so as not to upset the littlest ones (though her upset was short-lived).
The kids loved it--after they knew it was staged.