Reacting to the Past/Learning Community Syllabus

This semester I’ll be facilitating my first learning community at LaGuardia: the cluster for first-year students is typically an interdisciplinary grouping of courses, including both composition and a research paper class (ENG 101 & 103) and two other content courses, with one shared co-taught hour (I’m responsible for the ENG classes, clearly). I proposed a learning community entitled “Reacting to the Past: Race, Violence, and US History,” with antebellum US history and public speaking courses. These classes seemed like a natural grouping for the Reacting to the Past game Frederick Douglass, Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Constitution: 1845  by Mark Higbee and James Brewer Stewart. I’ve run the Douglass game – and several other games – at LaGuardia, and they always make for interesting classes.Learning Community
For the rare person I haven’t tried to convert, Reacting to the Past is a historical role-playing pedagogy developed originally at Barnard College (my alma mater, though I didn’t play RTTP as a student there. One of my roommates did, and I thought she was bonkers as she ran around plotting political takeovers and assassinations all term. I didn’t drink the Reacting Kool-Aid until much later). Students receive a role sheet, read primary source documents (including Douglass’s Narrative), write and deliver speeches (aided by strategies learned in their public speaking class), and fulfill their character objectives to try and win the game. In addition, students will continue to explore the representation of slavery and its contemporary influence: we will screen and analyze the films 12 Years a Slave and Django Unchained. For their final ENG 103 research paper component, students will draw on a range of responses and their acquired historical and rhetorical knowledge to respond to Ta-Nehisi Coates’s essay “The Case for Reparations.” There’s a good intro video to Reacting in the syllabus below.

I played with Piktochart to make this syllabus as well (along with my AI/Sci-Fi liberal arts syllabus for the term – Julie Platt just did a great write-up on Piktochart over at Profhacker). You can click on the links embedded in the syllabus below to read prompts and rubrics for various assignments. I’ll come back and tweak materials after this run as usual, but I’m looking forward to seeing how playing a Reacting game in the context of a learning community changes the nature and shape of game-play, and how students bring the content and skills learned in their other classes to bear.

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