Roles of Resistance

Roles of Resistance

Game Plans for Teachers and Troublemakers

By John-Henry Harter and Mark Leier


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Welcome to class. Today, we’ll be learning how to become (effective) troublemakers. 

In this classroom, no one gets in trouble for defying authority. Designed for educators and facilitators from the union hall to the lecture hall, Roles of Resistance: Game Plans for Teachers and Troublemakers outlines revolutionary lesson plans on how to fight the power with people power. The thirteen lesson plans in this book created by John-Henry Harter and Mark Leier can be used independently or combined to create a semester-long course. Sections include units on teaching political economy, labour history, and social activism based on democratic, experiential teaching, including role-plays, simulations, and games. The tried and tested classroom activities in this teacher’s guide—successfully applied in high schools, universities, and union classrooms—are bound to create a vibrant learning experience, enriching debates, and providing the main tool we need to change the world: collective action.

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“I have been waiting for a book like Roles of Resistance for a long time, and I will be using it—in both classrooms and organizing spaces—for even longer. John-Henry Harter and Mark Leier have given teachers and organizers a true gift with these practical activities that empower learners to draw on their own experiences in order to actively analyze fundamental questions of power, possibility, and struggle.”

– Jeremy Milloy, associate professor, Department of History, Wayne State University

Roles of Resistance is an essential tool for anyone interested in teaching and learning about capitalism, inequality, and social change. Drawing on the knowledge gained from their many years of teaching, Harter and Leier provide concrete strategies to engage a variety of learners, encourage them to think critically about the world, and show them how and why we must organize collectively to improve it.”

– Julia Smith, assistant professor, Labour Studies Program, University of Manitoba

“Harter’s and Leier’s Roles of Resistance provides thirteen excellent role-playing exercises, games, and simulations to foster thinking in the classroom about how class and class conflict shape everyday life. Historically informed and theoretically engaged, the game plans are easy to follow and fun, encouraging students to be active participants in learning rather than passive recipients of educational discipline in capitalist society.”

– Sean Cadigan, professor, Department of History, Memorial University

“Harter and Leier draw on years of experience in the classroom and on the front line to provide creative lesson plans for educators who want to teach students that collective action can create equitable alternatives to capitalism. Using examples from Canadian labour history, students will learn how solidarity has fostered coalitions between labour and community to fight back.”

– Nancy Janovicek, Treaty 7, Department of History, University of Calgary

“For those already attuned to issues of race and gender, this book gives powerful tools for creativity. It’s a great companion to Jane Slaughter’s A Troublemaker’s Handbook for teachers at all levels of schooling. Roles of Resistance is a strong pitch for play in learning.”

– D’Arcy Martin, co-author of Educating for a Change

“As Harter and Leier write, ‘we have to think a different future is possible, that capitalism is not the inevitable end point.’ This important and timely book offers playful and creative role-plays, games, and simulations to facilitate deeply political thinking about labour, class, exploitation, and organizing. Useful and inspiring in all kinds of contexts, the authors show how radical pedagogy and learning are also fun.”

– Kendra Strauss, professor, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Simon Fraser University


Introduction On Role-Plays, Games, and Simulations
Candy Trading Game
Grades for Sale! Money, Markets, and Grades
The Paper Airplane Game
Tariffs and Taxes and Boredom, Oh My!
Thinking through History: Our Roles in the Labour Movement – Free Speech Fights
On the Line: Pickets and Protests at Gainers
Fight Back: Facing a Shutdown Role-Play
Bashwood Industries: Negotiating Solidarity at the Workplace
Greenpeace, Class, and Sealing
An Alphabet for Workers—and Others
Green City Action Plan
Currency, Commemoration, and Capitalism
Learning about Wealth Inequality through Video Games