This is an active lesson that meets the following objectives:
ALL will be able to detail events of the scare
MOST will be able to explain why Americans were threatened by Communism
SOME will be able to predict its ramifications on the political system.
I taught this to my year 12 class two weeks ago and it was easily the best lesson I have taught so far this year, they loved it and they refer back to it still to inform their understanding of the fear of communism in the US. There is no writing involved in this lesson, it is purely talking and listening, questioning and thinking. It allows students to move around the room, investigating like in a murder mystery, and ad libbing for their own characters.
Overview of the lesson:
Set up the classroom like a 1920's speak easy, or at least create a big space in the middle with some chairs around the edge.
Students get a character card, these include steelworkers, anarchists etc. They are allowed to tell the truth about their character, but they aren't obliged to - they can lie as much as they like.
They have to find out who the communists are in the room and they do this by making conversation.
One student is a journalist and this student moves events along by informing other students. You give them each event as it happens (eg bombs in the post) and they have to stir up a fuss with other students.
All other instructions are included in the downloads including the character cards, events, and questions for you to use to consolidate learning and pull out the themes necessary to help students achieve the objectives. I will admit I used chocolates to get students going, but motivation really wasn't a problem - they got fully into their characters and the whole witch hunt.