First, I created my "matches," or pairs of historical figures that I had taught throughout the year that had some clear connection to one another. Some examples of the pairs that I used are:
- Samuel de Champlain and Robert La Salle (both French explorers)
- Paul Revere and Samuel Adams
- Lord Cornwallis and King George III (whom I refer to as KG3 after a student of mine who was a Redskins fan suggested I do so)
- Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony
- Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson
- Cyrus McCormick and Jo Anderson (both credited with the invention of the reaper)
For each pair, I wrote down one of the 2 names on a notecard in blue and the other in red. The students that sit in the outside of the speed dating square (see below) would be assigned an individual whose name was written in blue, and the students on the inside would get the ones in red. It is important that individuals in a match are not both assigned to students sitting in the outside of the circle or students in the inside, they should be separated--which is why I use the colors.
The objective of the activity is for students to take the perspective of the individual they have been assigned and find someone with whom they have a common bond. As you can see above, the students will be sitting across from a partner. The pair of students will have one minute (30 seconds each) to discuss their interests, hobbies, and notable accomplishments WITHOUT SAYING THEIR HISTORICAL FIGURE'S NAME.
For example, the student assigned to Frederick Douglass might say, "I was born into slavery, but escaped to the North. I am an activist who has worked hard to extend rights to women and African Americans. I wrote a newspaper called the North Star in the hopes of advancing the abolitionist cause and was a friend of Abraham Lincoln's."
The person across from them may or may not be their match. For example, if they were Samuel de Champlain they would talk about their explorations along the St. Lawrence River and the establishment of Quebec. In that minute, they will realize, that they really don't have enough in common to be a solid match.
However, if the person across from them sounds like the match, which in this case is William Lloyd Garrison, they might say something like, "Wow, I wrote an abolitionist newspaper too. Mine was called The Liberator. I fought for the immediate emancipation of slaves, and, like you, wanted to extend rights to African Americans."
Once the one minute timer concludes and the buzzer sounds, the students who have found their match stand up and say something like, "I've found the one!" or "This is a match made in heaven!" or "I've discovered my new BFF!" This adds a bit of fun and silliness to the activity. Then, I ask them to reveal who they are. I then ask the students to share what they think the common bond between the two is.
Once a pair has discovered their match, they stay put. Everyone in the outer circle in search of their "soul mate" will rotate one seat to the left. They now have a new partner that they will share their interests, hobbies, and accomplishments with. The steps repeat until everyone has found their match.
This activity requires students to know about the accomplishments of notable people in history, take the perspective of a historical figure, and make connections. It also requires students to practice their conversation skills--including good listening.
Depending on the age group, content, and school where you teach, it might not be wise to call the game Speed Dating. Try Fast Friends, Common Bond, or Match Made In Heaven.