Tell the students that they are going to play a game for which they all have to get out of their seats and meet together in an open area of the classroom. Push the desks back, if necessary. When the students are standing around you, explain the rules.
- The teacher should read these rules exactly as written. Rules: You are all middle school students--sixth graders, seventh graders, and eighth graders. At first you will all start out as sixth graders. Sixth graders have no rights. They have to squat (not sit or kneel) with their eyes closed and they may not speak unless they are spoken to. Seventh graders have the right to stand up, but they still may not open their eyes, move around, or talk unless someone speaks to them first. Eighth graders have freedom to do what they want. They may open their eyes and move around and talk without permission.
- Get a promise from the students to follow these rules for the sake of the game. Tell them you want them to play fair so they don't ruin the game for anyone else. After the game is over, you will discuss what happened and how they felt in each grade level.
- Tell the students that when they are tapped on the shoulder, they move to the next grade level and earn their new rights. So if they are sixth graders, they may stand up when they feel a tap. If they are seventh graders, they may open their eyes and move around and talk when they feel a tap. Review the rules a few times and make sure the students understand the rules and restrictions.
- Teacher Note: This game tests students' leadership potential--do they recognize that as eighth graders they have the ability to tap other students? Don't give away the point of the game by calling it a leadership exercise.
- Start the game by having everyone squat down and close their eyes. Walk around the sixth graders as you repeat the rules of what each grade level can do. Remind them that when they feel a tap on the shoulder, they may move up to the next grade level.
- Tap the shoulder once of about one-third of the people. (If you notice someone who has trouble squatting because of physical limitations, you may want to tap that person’s shoulder first.) Take your time so people have a chance to get uncomfortable. Try to choose people you think are NOT likely to move quickly to solve the game.
- Continue to repeat the rules while you slowly tap the shoulders of about half of the standing people (seventh graders). Take your time so the people in sixth grade are growing more uncomfortable. Once you put people in eighth grade, you should avoid eye contact with them as they may look to you for clues on what they should do.
- You may ask a couple eighth graders to review the rules since they are allowed to talk. Don't hint that they now have the power to tap others.
- Very slowly move around, repeating the rules and tapping a few more shoulders. Take your time so students have time to reflect in their situations. By now, the sixth graders are probably thinking they'd like the eighth graders to help them, but they can't say anything. Remind everyone that they promised to follow the rules. If no eighth graders get it, tap some more shoulders until someone figures out that they have the power to free everyone and they walk around and turn all the sixth and seventh graders into free eighth graders.
- When they figure it out, have students go back to their seats so you can discuss the game.
- Raise your hand if you were in sixth grade for most of the game. What was it like for you?
- Raise your hand if you were in seventh grade for most of the game. What was it like for you?
- Raise your hand if you were in eighth grade for most of the game. What was it like for you? How did you feel when you realized that you had the power to tap others? Why do you think it took you a while to figure that out?
- Imagine that being in sixth grade is like being a person in a developing country and being in eighth grade is like being a person in a developed country. What does this game tell you about your power to do things in the world?
- You have the power to tap shoulders in the world. What do you think you can do next time you see or read about someone in an unfair situation?
- Whose role is it to speak up when there is unfairness in the world?