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Stepping into the Picture

Bring a picture to life by scripting a plausible conversation between ancient Athenians or members of the Iroquois Confederacy that accurately reflects the relationship between their values and their model of government.

Suggested Activities (selected) Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

Students identify the relationship between societal values and government structures by bringing a picture to life through the scripting of a conversation between ancient Athenians or members of the Iroquois Confederacy.

Use think–pair–share to prepare class rules
Tell students that you want to prepare guidelines for making decisions that affect the class this year. If a set of class rules has already been established, tell students that they will be able to suggest guidelines for making future decisions.

Use a think–pair–share activity for students to reflect on their recommendations for class rules. Pose the question, "What should be considered when creating a guideline for classroom decision making?" Allow students one minute to reflect by themselves, and then invite them to use one minute each to exchange ideas with a classmate nearby. Finally, allow one minute for whole-class discussion.

Gather and cluster class rules
Invite students to share their rules in a popcorn activity during which students call out answers rather than putting up their hands or waiting to be called upon. Write student answers on the board or chart paper.

Ask students to work in small groups to sort the ideas into related clusters. For example, gather all rules related to providing equal votes or listening to all voices or respecting rules. You may need to assist students in identifying appropriate labels for their clusters.

Relate suggested rules to values
After the rules have been gathered into clusters, ask students to consider what their response to the question reveals about their values. Does the student value equality or inequality? Fairness or might makes right? Equity (gender, status) or privilege for a few? Help students identify the values related to their choices.

Relate Alberta's government to values
Tell students that past societies have used a variety of decision-making models ranging from all power resting in the hands of a monarch or a small group to power coming from the citizens. We can often learn much about a society by examining its political system. Does the society place a greater value on safety and security or on allowing citizens a voice in decision making? Does the government consider the needs of the people or put the country first?

Use a think–pair–share activity for students to reflect on what their discussion suggests about their views. Invite students to reflect on what they have learned about Alberta's political system and ask them to share their thoughts about what the political system suggests about the values of Albertans.

Introduction to ancient Athens and the Iroquois Confederacy
Tell students that several models of political systems from the past can provide us with insights into how we can best ensure the existence of the four principles of a democracy— equity, freedoms, justice and representation.

Two democratic societies were the ancient Athenians and the Iroquois Confederacy. Help students to locate both societies in space and time by asking them to identify the physical location on a map and a temporal location on a timeline. Point out to the students that given the vast separation in space and time, it is unlikely that either society influenced the other. So what, if anything, did they share in common?

Inform students that their challenge will be to determine how the social values of ancient Athenians and the Iroquois were reflected in the decision-making models they used. The students will share conclusions by writing plausible scripts that reveal the social values that are reflected in their decision-making processes.

If students have not studied ancient Athens or the Iroquois Confederacy, provide a focused reading or a brief lecture. Students will need to understand the social and political structure of each society.

Ask powerful questions
Divide the class into two groups. Assign one group the Iroquois Confederacy and the other ancient Athens. Inform students that they will need to gather information about the organization of the society they have been assigned with a particular focus on:

  • how decisions were made that impacted or affected the community
  • the people responsible for making decisions
  • the role of various groups, such as men and women, children and Elders.

You may wish to use Asking Powerful Questions (Modelling the Tools) to help students prepare questions to guide their research.

Gather resources
Ask students to identify resources, such as the authorized student resources, to help them find information. Remind students that the sources they include in their bibliography should have these characteristics:

  • credible—the source of information is reliable and accurate
  • relevant—the information helps to answer the questions 
  • user friendly—the information is concise and readable.

This is a good opportunity for students to use Internet searches to find credible Web sites. Students can use the questions they generated to identify relevant keywords to use in a search engine (see References).

You may want to use Assessing Website Credibility (Modelling the Tools) to guide students with their research.

Gather evidence
Ask students to gather evidence about how decisions were made in ancient Athens or the Iroquois Confederacy and to consider the roles of various members of society.

Review with students the criteria for effective note taking:

  • concise—in their own words; summarizes key information
  • relevant—information pertains to the central issue and the questions asked
  • important—contains no trivial information; focuses on the central issue.

Peer review research notes
Ask students to form pairs with other researchers on the same topic—Athens or the Iroquois. In peer assessment, partners should make constructive comments that will ensure the notes are clear, concise and contain the required information.

Draw inferences on values and governments
Form groups of three or four students who have researched the same topic.

Provide students with an adaptation of the chart Observation, Conclusion and Evidence in Supporting Conclusions (Support Material).

In column one, students write what they learned about the decision-making process and the social structure. In column two, students infer what their information suggests about the values of the society studied. In column three, students record the conclusions they drew about the relationship between social values and the government.

Interpret a picture of life in ancient Athens or Iroquois Confederacy
Provide students with the picture they will bring to life with a script—either the Iroquois longhouse scene or Raphael's School of Athens. See Ancient Athens and Iroquois Confederacy (Background Information). Remind students that they will write a plausible script to match the picture and to highlight both the values of the society and the political system.

If needed, provide additional background information.

In addition, suggest that students do a quadrilateral examination of the picture by covering ¾ of the picture and looking closely at the remaining ¼. Students repeat the process for each quarter until all quarters have been carefully examined.

You may want to adapt the chart Looking for Clues in Supporting Conclusions (Support Material) to help students record their observations.

Develop a plausible script
Ask students to develop a plausible script that could bring to life the picture they examined. Students should consider the evidence they gathered and what they know about the political system. Using this knowledge, students imagine conversations and actions that might have preceded and followed the scene.

The script must accurately reflect the life in the society, the society's values and the political system. The script could praise or criticize the system as long as it remains true to the evidence on social values, class and gender roles and the nature of the political system.

The script must also be consistent with the situation (a discussion taking place in the Agora or in a long house) and it must address issues pertinent to the society. The script must also be consistent with what is known about the social values of the civilization:

  • Were decisions made authoritatively or collaboratively?
  • Were both genders part of the decision-making process?
  • Did majority rule or consensus dominate?

Feedback on student drafts will be important to confirm accuracy and to ensure that students avoid stereotypes and presentism, which is the imposition of our current values or issues on the past.

A script might begin as follows:

As they strolled in the shade of the trees in the Agora, the young men debated who should be ostracised from Athens.

Youth 1: Do you not think Socrates has become a dangerous man? He seems to suggest that our democratic system is not working well.

Youth 2: Actually, Socrates helps keep our democracy working well as he encourages open discussion.

Use scripts to create tableaux
Ask students to recreate the pictures in tableaux. To do this, students arrange themselves and any props they need to portray the scene in their picture. Students freeze motion in the tableau and, on cue, the picture comes to life as one figure in the picture speaks, then another and so on. As each figure speaks, it comes to life until the entire scene becomes a dramatic recreation.

As an alternate method of sharing the scripts, ask students to use technology applications to create their presentations.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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