FPD’s fifth graders have been studying the American Revolution and the British tax laws that sparked the revolt. In order to give a glimpse of the reason the colonists were unhappy with the British taxes, each year FPD fifth grade social studies teacher Ms. Brown stages a mock taxation activity. Taxation without representation for – Jolly Rancher candies!

For the activity, a small group of classmates makes all the tax decisions without input from the other classmates who represent the taxpayers or colonists. A student playing the king and two students playing tax collectors implement the tax. The parliament, king, and tax collectors want lots of delicious treats and so do the colonists. Once a tax law is passed, the student colonists must give up their valuable Jolly Rancher candies without question. This sparks a lot of controversy about what is fair and not fair.

“Fifth grade students read about ‘taxation without representation’ and will tell you that it’s unfair,” noted Ms. Brown, “but this activity gives them first-hand experience of being ‘taxed’ by people who don’t consider their input.”

Ms. Brown even makes it more authentic by assigning the roles. “The colonists didn’t vote on Parliament members, so students don’t get to choose those who will be taxing them during class,” says Ms. Brown.

In the end, students gain a different and more realistic understanding of taxation without representation. Plus, students love acting in the classroom!  Whether it’s reader’s theater, writing and performing skits, or role play activities, it gets students moving and actively engaged in what they are learning.