Simulation: The King's Candy

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Oral Language, Listening, Speaking, Social Studies, United States History

Grade 5- 8


Students explain why Americans were upset with British tax laws, such as the Stamp Act, after the French and Indian war. They will also identify two tactics colonials used to demonstrate their displeasure with these taxes.


Prepare the Role Cards as directed on the pages.

Cut out the Object Cards. Label the six cards with names of items commonly worn or possessed by students in class--e.g., jeans, running shoes, glasses, pens, jewelry. You do not need to use all six cards; three to six cards seem to work well for this simulation. In the corner box of each of the object cards, write a number ranging from one to three. As will be explained later, these numbers will represent a taxable value.

At the start of class give each student a paper cup containing ten candies. Instruct students not to touch the candies.Randomly pass out the Role Cards to students. Explain that those possessing King, Parliament, and Tax Collector cards should proceed to the front of the room. The king should take a designated seat of honor, and the members of Parliament should also have a specific area from which they will enact their roles.Members of Parliament (those students possessing Parliament Role Cards) will draw from your previously compiled and prepared group of Object Cards. Parliament members announce to the Colonists what item is to be taxed (e.g., blue jeans), and anyone possessing that item will have to pay out the number of candies equal to the number written on the Object Card. So if the card marked blue jeans-3 is pulled, each colonist wearing blue jeans would relinquish three candies. Those students possessing Tax Collector role cards do all of the collecting using plastic spoons or gloves and all taxes (candies) are returned to Parliament. (Each tax collector has charge over half the room,) Taxes should be levied for at least three items but not more than six. If you have a good idea of what is popular in student dress, four items seems to be an optimum number for successfully relieving several students of all their candy and leaving many more with just one or two of their original total.

After all taxes have been levied, these funds are to be dispersed. The tax collectors each reap ten percent of the take. Parliament receives fifty percent (these funds are to be used to run the empire) to be split equally among the two students in that role. Finally, King George pockets the remaining forty percent for himself. (These percentages have no real historical significance and are only an arbitrary breakdown for purposes to fit this simulation.) It is quite possible that while some students will have had all of their candies confiscated, members of Parliament and the king will have upwards of thirty to forty pieces each to show for their efforts.

Some students may show definite feelings of displeasure just as some on the receiving end of this taxing generosity may gloat just a bit too much. The objective for this lesson should be completed during the withdrawl from the roles. Understanding how the colonists reacted to the tax collectors and the various tax laws from the Stamp Act and beyond will be relevant to the class at this crucial moment. Discuss the following


  • What was so unfair about how the class was taxed?
  • How could it have been handled more fairly?
  • Why were tax collectors tarred and feathered?
  • What methods and organizations were devised by the colonists in order to resist and circumvent these laws?
  • How significant were these laws to the ultimate break of Great Britain?
The frustration that the students feel with the unfairness of the way they lost their candy can be easily compared to the substantial give and take on one of the central issues leading to revolution--taxation without representation.


  • one 8-ounce (224 grams) bag of candy
  • Role Cards and Object Cards, reproduced on index paper or heavy stock
  • one small paper cup for each student
  • two plastic spoons (or surgical latex gloves)

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