Well, we’re on the final stretch of the school year now… We still have a couple of weeks left, but it’s mostly testing, exams, and work days. When do kids get out in your area?!?
Anyway, today, I’m sharing the Roman Election project I’ve done for the last two years as a final assessment for my sophomores after teaching Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. It has become one of my very favorites, and my students love it too. Plus, it is perfect for evaluating their understanding of the characters in the play AND their ability to use persuasive techniques and appeals. If you teach Caesar, I strongly recommend some variation of this activity!!
To begin, I have my students take a fun quiz (I used this one) to determine which Julius Caesar character they are most like. This is mostly ridiculous, but they had fun with it, and I used it as the basis for their small groups for the project.
Speaking of groups, students were then divided into four large(ish) “campaign teams” based on the four major characters/leaders from the play: Mark Antony, Marcus Brutus, Gaius Cassius, and Julius Caesar (Spoiler Alert: for the purpose of this activity, we have to pretend he wasn’t killed).
The Campaign Teams are given the following assignment and told to complete all four components of the project by “Election Day” —
Imagine you are the campaign team for your assigned character’s race for “President” of the Roman Empire. 😉 It is your job to create an effective campaign that advocates for your candidate (and against his opponents).
You are responsible for brainstorming and producing the following campaign components in small groups:
One-page Candidate Profile (20 points)
Campaign Poster (20 points)
Positive Campaign Commercial + Analysis (40 points)*
Negative Campaign Commercial + Analysis (40 points)*
*Parts one and two will be done by the larger group as a whole. Parts 3 and 4 will be split between members of each group so that every student works on ONE COMMERCIAL only.
I ask for specific information on the one-page profile like a catchy campaign slogan, a political platform/ the issue most important to him, a list of his strongest leadership qualities, specific evidence (i.e. a quote) from the play showing the character’s leadership abilities, and a quick list of reasons why the other three candidates aren’t good for the job. (I also give them this link to see examples from Clinton & Trump’s campaign in 2016: http://www.businessinsider.com/one-page-trump-clinton-resumes-2016-6)
The Campaign Poster must have a photo of the candidate, the slogan, and a quote from the play that communicate’s the candidate’s political philosophy/goals for Rome. It is also scored based on neatness and creativity. (Again, I provide this link to sample campaign posters for inspiration and review: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/presidential-campaign-posters_us_569e635fe4b0cd99679b6001)
Both the one-page profile and the campaign poster is due a week prior to “Election Day” so that other students (in my case, the freshmen and junior classes) have time to review them. This also kicks off “campaign season” where students are allowed to start distributing buttons, stickers, and other bribes and hanging additional posters and flyers around the classroom. (This is everyone’s favorite part and really hypes up the fun-level and excitement leading up to the election.)
Finally, the major part of the assignment is actually TWO campaign videos – but I ask the larger groups to split in half to complete this. One group makes a Positive Campaign Video highlighting their candidate’s best traits and leadership qualities, and the other group creates a Negative Campaign Video that “throws shade” at the three opposing candidates. (Once again, I include this link for examples of campaign videos from the most recent Presidential election:
See examples of positive and negative campaign videos from the most recent election here: https://newrepublic.com/political-ad-database)
The goal of these videos is, first and foremost, to be persuasive. Students are required to include appeals to logos, ethos, and pathos AND turn in a brief write-up of the persuasive techniques they used in their commercial. This is printed and submitted with their videos on the last day of the unit.
Note: I’m obviously pretty spoiled here because, since my students are all part of the Mass Communications speciality center, they have access to some pretty great cameras and editing equipment. BUT, you’d be surprised how well students do with videos even just using their phones, iMovie, Movie Maker, etc. I’d really recommend trying to include this portion of the project if at all possible – but, beware, it can take some time if you’re allowing them to do it in class.
Election Day itself is really pretty simple. I pull all three of my classes together (again, this is easier for me than it would be for many), we watch all the commercials (eight total), and I pass out little ballots for anonymous voting. The team that “wins” gets bragging rights (very important for high schoolers) and 5 points extra credit on the final grade for the project.
So, there you go.
This project really is so fun, and I’m always surprised how much my students get in to it. It also really does serve as a great review of the play and the elements of persuasion we’ve been learning all year.
Feel free to email me or leave a comment if you have questions about implementing this in your classroom!