Simulations and games

Please note: this guide was written before the 2014 National Curriculum and some of the advice may no longer be relevant.

Simulations and games can recreate in children's minds almost any situation that faced people in the past. They are infinitely flexible tools, providing richness and variety in the classroom, with pupils' emotions and intellects actively engaged as the past is brought to life.

Simulations and games are closely linked. They are highly structured and controlled kinds of drama - the children stay in their seats as they work through them. Both deal with real problems and their development. The pupils take on the roles of historical characters and react to the problems these characters face. The difference is that in games chance decides what happens, whereas in simulations the children make the decisions.

In a simulation the activity has been pre-designed, based on, say, Drake's circumnavigation of the world, with key decisions to be made at various points along the way. When the ship lodges on a reef, should Drake jettison food stores or captured treasure to lighten the ship? When his ship is becalmed in the Doldrums and the sailors become mutinous, how should he react?


Each simulation can be broken into two elements:

1. The historical situation (the place, the people, their problems, decisions they have to make). Decide the structure beforehand. What problems and decision points will face the pupils? What will be the consequences of each decision taken?

2. The roles of the participants. You need to develop each role in enough detail for the player to make realistic decisions. They must be clear about their aims.


Short lesson exemplars



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