Role-Playing Events From History: french revolution


We are the freedom generation; we were born in a country that was free from the rules of maharajahs and monarchs. The generation today, often takes the concept of freedom for granted, it’s also because we don’t know what it feels like to have our freedom taken away by a monarch, who runs a state or a country as per his own whims and fancies.

The French Revolution is a classic example of this situation and highlights how people revolted against the rule of a monarch and stood united and formed a new system of governance.

Here is a role-play lesson plan to help students understand the concept of freedom and the reason for the French Revolution. The lesson plan takes students back in time, to the year 1789, where they are members of an estate and live under the rule of King Louis XVI.

Reference: NCERT – Class 9 – Chapter 1 – The French Revolution Setting the Context for the French Revolution Begin the class by announcing to students that you are Louis XVI, the king of France.

Divide the class into the following three estates (put 60% students in estate 3, and further divide them as businessmen, merchants, lawyers other professionals, peasants and labour; divide the rest 40% in estate 1 and 2):
– Estate1: Clergy
– Estate 2: Nobles
– Estate 3: Businessmen, merchants, peasants, artisans,
landless labour and servants

Give the following brief to each group:
– Estate 1 & 2: Clergy and nobles enjoy privileges by birth. You are exempt
from paying taxes to the state. Nobles enjoy a special feudal privilege that
allows you to extract dues from peasants.
– Estate 3: Peasants are obliged to render service to the King, work in his palaces
and fields, should serve in the army and build roads too. Peasants must pay tax (tithes) to the Church.

All members of the  third estate must pay taxes to the state – these include direct taxes and indirect taxes on consumption of items like salt or tobacco.

Ask members of each estate to discuss and list their feelings, allot 10 minutes for the discussion.

Ask one representative from each estate to come forward and read out their feelings to the rest of the estate members. Don’t arrive at any conclusions; let the estates just voice their opinions and feelings.

Tell them that you (the King), have discovered the following:
– The state treasury is empty
– The state owes 2 billion livres(French currency) in debt
– The state has to pay 10% interest on loans taken from lenders
– The state has to bear high costs to maintain the palace, the army,
government offices and universities

In order to make up for the deficit of funds, you, the King is not left with any choice apart from levying taxes. You have therefore called for a meeting of the Estates General to pass a proposal for new taxes. Each estate will be allowed to cast one vote either for or against your proposal.

Ask each group representative to state whether they accept or reject your proposal.

The representative from Estate 3 will most likely oppose your proposal on the grounds that it’s unfair that they pay taxes and the clergy and nobles don’t.

Tell Estate 3 to discuss what they will do if you decide to stick to your decision and impose taxes only on their estate. Ask them to present their ideas to the rest of the class.

Ask members of Estates 1 and 2 whether members of Estate 3 are being treated fairly.

Tell students that they have witnessed a monarchy system of ruling. Under this system, the king or the monarch is given full powers to run the state and the people have very little to say.

Ask them to think about what they can do to abolish the monarchy system; what new system of governance would they like to create.

Ask each group to discuss and present their thoughts to the class.

Ask all students to read ‘The Outbreak of the Revolution’ from the textbook. Do they agree with the decision of creating a National Assembly?

Ask what they think about the new political system proposed by the National Assembly.

Read through the rest of the chapter and discuss the changes that France went through after it became a republic.

Kanchan Shine has over 10 years experience in the education domain. Her firm, Episteme Learning Solutions Pvt Ltd. creates training content for schools, ranging from curriculum design, teacher lesson plans and activity guides. Her team also writes content for textbook publishers.

She conducts teacher-training workshops and provides consultancy for curriculum development and implementing experiential learning in classrooms. She is passionate about teaching and believes that children learn best through hands-on-activities and play. She is currently pursing MA in Education.