The King's Taxation M & M's

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SWBAT...complete an activity using M & M candies to realize the depth of taxation by the British and the effects on the colonists decision to establish their own government

Big Idea

It is not until you have lived through difficult times that you can fully understand them.

Rules of Play

10 minutes

I begin the activity by sharing that we are going to reenact the scenes from the colonial times when the king decided to implement the Stamp Act and other taxation laws to build revenues for Britain. He felt he needed to do this to help pay for the cost of the French and Indian War to gain land for the colonists in America. To get students to understand this concept at a deeper level I need to recreate the sense of "having" and then "losing" which signifies their money and taxation - thus in comes candy representation.

Now that I have set the scene for our activity - I introduce that each student will get a cup of M & M's on their desk with 10 candies inside. They are instructed that these are their wages for a month's work and that they are not to touch them until all their taxes have been paid to the king. I like to use M & M's because their cheaper so I can afford to buy them for the entire class, they are liked by the majority which helps to create the sense of loss and unfairness I am going for and their tasty which helps to bring in the fun factor which increases student involvement)

I go on to share that I will be passing out role cards and that some students will represent British roles and some will have colonial roles (funny thing is at this point they all want to be colonists - at the end of the activity they all want to be British because of the increased candy "taxes" received).

Each student gets a card and those who are "king", "Parliament" or "tax collectors" come up to the front and take their places in the labeled seats. They are directed to their roles per the worksheets and collect the cups and taxable items supplies they may need. Please see my reflection on how I adapt these tags to best fit student needs.


Playing the Activity

20 minutes

 I project the game directions on the board and share that we are going to start the activity now. 

"Colonists" are asked to listen to the proclamation of the Parliament as to what taxation the king is demanding of the colonies (SL 5.1b). Anyone possessing that item on their body will have to pay the amount of tax (M & M’s) to the British Government.

Parliament members share that their appointed Tax Collectors will be coming around to collect the taxes and that Colonists are not allowed to touch their money (M & M’s) until all taxes are collected (SL 5.1b) (eg. Jeans for 3 would be anyone wearing jeans would have to pay 3 M & M’s to the tax collectors).

Here's my Parliaments first taxation law (alot of time went into thinking about how they could get the most money from their peers!) (SL 5.6):

Tax Collectors circulate the room and collect taxes from each Colonist who fits the category called using plastic spoons or gloves. Parliament continues to pull taxable item cards until the bag is empty. Tax collectors continue to collect taxes from their Colonists until the cards are all completed (RI 5.1b, SL 5.6).

Last taxation and reaction from the "colonists" (SL 5.6) 

Tax Collectors each lay out all their M & M’s collected on napkins. The funds now need to be dispersed in the following manner (I write this on the board to demonstrate the dispersal of funds. I also have all students complete these amounts on their whiteboards so that they can do some mathematical calculations (5 NF B.6) and get a better understanding of the unfairness of the taxation "laws".

Parliament gets 50% of the taxes to be used to run the empire and to provide protection to all the people (students with this card get to split the M & M’s between themselves)

King gets to keep 40% of the taxes for his use or to help build his kingdom (student in this role gets to keep all the M & M’s given to him/ her)

Tax Collectors get to keep 10% of the taxes as wages for their labors – (students in this group split the M & M’s between themselves)    

I have students determine this on their white boards to keep them involved and practcing some math calculations at the same time

    This is a great way to practice percent equivalencies - Parliaments pay - quite a reaction to this amount





Follow-up Discussion

20 minutes

At this point students are either upset at the unfairness of the policies or excited at the role they played because they ended up with more candies/money than the others (SL 5.1d). 

Here's some of their reactions to the different jobs and opinions:

Now I want them to use this understanding to apply what they know from the previous lesson with this new conceptual knowledge to write responses to questions on the topic from the opinion of their character and the personal influence the gain or loss of candies made to them (SL 5.1d, W 5.1). 

Each member of the class (even the ones in the front of the room) get the opportunity to complete the M & M discussion worksheet so that I and they can see the differences of opinion from the various perspectives (W 5.1, RI 5.6)). 

Students come together when completed to discuss and share view points on the issue and the reactions it created in the colonies and Britain (RI 5.6). My lesson goal is for them to show that they understand the resentment created on both sides and the purpose for the colonial efforts to win their freedom from British rule.

Here are some questions I asked to ensure students had a high level of understanding of the effects of taxation and the overview of why this issue happened and the reactions to it by both sides.