Phone Call to the 14th Century

Via This American Life I bring you “Phone Call to the 14th Century” (at the 26:34 mark).1

Basic idea for those of you who have yet to listen- it’s a game show based on calling a hut in the 14th century and imparting as much key wisdom as you can in one minute.

Such a simple idea and such potential for a history classroom.

Simply remove 14th century and make your call as specific as you’d like (for instance the Aztecs pre-Conquistadors). Make your time longer or shorter, but keep the time pressure on or it’ll lose focus quickly.

Students have to analyze the civilization at the time and think of all the things that might help that civilization, then it’s a matter of prioritizing them. I’d have them make the calls as actual recordings and then make it into a real game show.

I’d probably have them categorize their main points and justify them in writing. Judges (teachers, parents, previous winners?) would judge who got the most major points across to achieve the most change.

I’d consider other twists as well-

  • Try to give the worst advice.
  • Have other civilizations call. Then you’d have double the analysis going on but I’d probably do this after as a second or third round. It’d be a fun review activity.

1 There’s a link to a version on the Kasper Hauser website but it isn’t nearly as good in my opinion. An opinion that may be shaped by the fact that I can still recite the intro to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in Old English and still remember the teacher that made me memorize it with disgust and loathing.

Comments on this post

  1. Susan Socha said on August 22, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Ok, NOW you are BACK. I love this! This is what you used to do so well, and it is not a HOW TO as someone else commented. It is taking something that exists and using it creatively in a classroom context to get kids thinking. I don’t teach history, but I’ve alreay sent this to four history teachers. You ROCK!

  2. Terry said on August 25, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    T’was brillig and the slithey toves…

    Oh, no, that is a different one, isn’t it…

  3. Tom said on August 25, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    I like yours better and it’s more relevant.

    Although my judgment is suspect since I named Dr. Suess as my favorite poet in Donna Hickey’s poetry class way back when. There was a lot of snickering.

    Apparently I’ll never be an intellectual.

  4. Tom said on August 25, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Susan,

    Thanks. I’m glad it was useful to you. I do love stuff like this but it’s remarkable how little interest there is from others in it.

    I think I’ll keep wandering around topic wise but I will keep putting this kind of post up because it does make me happy and it’s awfully easy to get depressed in k12 these days.

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