A little while back I visited my good buddy's history class. Colby Young and I know each other from studying education at Boston University. After spending an hour with him and the kiddos, there is no doubt that he is become an ace in the classroom. The activity I observed was an international relations simulation that pitted student teams in the position of different state (e.g. China, U.S.) and non-state (e.g. Al Qaeda) actors who had to problem solve and make policy decisions based on episodic issues (e.g. trade embargo, environmental crisis). There were many memorable moments to share. Some of my favorites were epic music sounding off in the background as students wheeled and dealed, teams secretly negotiating terms in the corner of the room, and one student throwing down a fist pump after his team scored a winning round.
There are a lot of elements about this activity that exemplify good teaching. The simulation brought authenticity to the academic content. Students were required to develop 21st century skills such as collaboration and problem solving. And the sense of competition engaged and drove students to excel. If you want to check out Colby's curriculum go to Learn or Die. Definitely worth a look see and the resources are free to download.