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Monday, 12 October 2009 17:55

Lesson 1: The Russian Revolution

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Part 2 – Structured Academic Controversy



  1. Students will analyze the rise of totalitarian governments after World War I.
  2. Students will understand the causes and consequences of the Russian Revolution, including Lenin's use of totalitarian means to seize and maintain control (e.g., the Gulag).


Step 1: Introduce the Content Question:

Did Communist leaders use violence to achieve equality for the peasants/working class or to establish their own personal power?

Two Positions:
“Communist leaders used violence to achieve equality for the peasants/working class” 
“Communist leaders used violence to establish their own personal power”

Step 2: Lecture:

Causes and Effects of the Russian Revolution Notes

  1. Causes
    1. Poor Leadership (autocratic ruler) Czar Nicholas II (political problems)
    2. March Revolution (economic problems):
      1. government started rationing bread because of rising prices.
      2. Women protested, along with soldiers and workers.
    3. WWI – Russians were frustrated that resources and lives were being lost fighting in WWI.
    4. Bolsheviks wanted to distribute land to peasants, transfer companies and industries to committees of workers, and to transfer political power to the Soviets.
  2. Effects
    1. Set-up communist government.
    2. Red Secret Police – Cheka – killed all those who opposed the government (Red
    3. Increase Russian patriotism.
    4. Tensions between Russia and the Allies (democracy v communism)

Step 3: Introduce SAC (Structured Academic Controversy)

Question and Documents

  1. Explain what a SAC is and the basic steps:
    Explain to students that a Structured Academic Controversy consists of adopting a perspective on an issue, advocating their perspective, and then adopting a larger view of the issue that includes the opposing perspective as well.  If this is not possible in the group then come up with your own understanding of the question. Go over the SAC question with the students and the three documents and have students read the documents and answer the questions in preparation for the SAC.

Step 4:

  1. Form groups of four.  The two students with birthdays closer to today will argue that Communist leaders were more concerned about people’s welfare than establishing their own power  (Pair One).   The two students with birthdays farthest from today will argue that Communist leaders were more concerned with establishing their own power than people’s welfare (Pair Two).
  2. The pairs have 10 minutes to look over their primary and secondary sources and questions and discuss their position.

Step 5:

  1. Pairs come together as a foursome and present sides.  Pair One (Communist leaders were concerned about people’s welfare) presents while Pair Two listens, then repeats main argument back to Pair One’s satisfaction.  Then Pair Two presents (Communist leaders were concerned with establishing their own power), while Pair One listens and then repeats the main argument of Pair Two until they are satisfied. (4 min. each, 8 min. total)

Step 6: SAC

  1. General discussion between groups of four.  (See and review norms for participating in SAC below) During this point you can abandon your position, come to a consensus, or reach your own. (10 - 15 min.)

Explanation of  the Discussion Norms for Participating in a SAC
Go over rules with class.

  1. I am critical of ideas, not people
  2. I focus on making the best decision possible, not on “winning.
  3. I listen to everyone’s ideas, even if I do not agree.
  4. I restate (paraphrase) what someone has said if it is not clear.
  5. I try to understand both sides of the issue.
  6. I change my mind when the evidence clearly indicates that I should do so. Ask students if they have any questions of the rules.

If groups finish early they can start writing the reflection.

Step 7: Debrief on SAC

Ask students what they learned from the activity and how they like the format as opposed to a debate.


Write a 1-page response to the SAC (to be turned in on a separate sheet of paper.)  
What is your answer to the content question? Did this activity help you gain a broader understanding of the motives Communist leaders had in organizing the Russian Revolution? Did your group reach a consensus at the end of the SAC?  What did you learn from this activity?

Last modified on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 06:26

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