This lesson should be used as a follow up to Lesson 2 in order for students to fully understand how Aboriginal societies operated and how leadership and decision making worked in tandem.
As we saw in Lesson 2, many members of the Aboriginal community could be or were involved in the decision making process. The leader did not speak for or make decisions on behalf of the group. Decision making was up to the group. Many Aboriginal groups used what is known as a “talking circle” to achieve consensus on an issue.
The use of consensus models for negotiation and problem solving is beginning to be widely recognized. The Canadian legal system has begun to use talking circles and consensus building models in some Aboriginal communities instead of incarceration.
Begin the lesson by asking students what their approach is to resolving conflict in their own family. What do they like or dislike about this methodology?
Share with students the information from the Teacher Information section ( Talking Circle and Consensus). Have students arrange their desks in a circle format. Choose an item that would have significance to your students to serve as a “talking stick.” Ask the students what another word or term for the consensus model you described could be? The term negotiation is what you want the students to have as their focus. Ask the students to list reasons why consensus or negotiation models are positive. What do the students think is the best way to solve conflict? Use the talking stick during this exercise.
Students will practice the consensus model by sitting in small groups of four to six. One person will be chosen as the facilitator to make sure that people are using the talking stick, listening respectfully to others opinions and not talking out of turn. The facilitator will also make sure to reiterate key comments and ensure that the group is able to come up with a consensus. Once the students are arranged in small circles and have chosen their facilitator, give each student an envelope that will contain the issue or situation they will be discussing. It is up to the teacher’s discretion to choose issues that can relate to other materials or topics that have been presented in their classroom situation. Make sure to select topics that will require students to have an opinion, perspective or to take a position. The group must try their best to reach consensus. Please allow for ample time for students to reach consensus. It is also suggested that there are spare envelope topics available in case one group is able to reach consensus quite quickly.
After each group has reached consensus have the students evaluate the process by writing down how they felt about the decision the group reached, how they felt during the process, what they liked and disliked about the process etc. Discuss this with the class as a whole.