Student-Designed Histories

CCDS Ninth Grade Interactive Histories

These interactive histories were mostly (except for the 2019 entry) designed by my ninth-graders in Ancient World History at Cincinnati Country Day School as semester long projects. I am very pleased and excited to post these as exemplars of interactive history texts; exemplars of the great historical thinking and writing students can achieve. I hope they will inspire similar projects at other schools and more discussion about writing interactive texts as a history pedagogy. For now, I want to include a few caveats that I think are important to appreciating the examples.

Let me know if you have questions or comments, particularly if you’d like to try something like this in your own classes! (; @gamingthepast)

  • These were selected from among the best projects. Best does not mean always historically accurate (whatever that means anyway) or always grammatically correct/stylistically elegant. Please remember: these are ninth-graders, 14 and 15 year olds. Often an exemplary historical twine is one that shows real historical and counterfactual reasoning from the perspective of the player agent.
  • They were the product of a two quarter research and design project, that began with a short (750 word) researched paper on their historical figure. The length of the project was more than was needed, strictly, so students could take time to reflect and revise as they went.
  • They were revised after an initial grading for a revision grade
  • I gave the text one more read, just for copyediting and the students made those final changes
  • As I warn below: these are historical twines based on researching ancient figures, often figures with considerable political and military power. Content warnings apply: some include references to muder, rape, enslavement, torture, death in battle, etc. Teachers, review each twine for sensitive content before using in class
  • For more details on the project and how it has developed, check out the posts I wrote during the initial launch of the project


If you wish to have students play these, please make sure to read the Twine first to make sure the content is suitable for your students. These are interactive histories about people, often political and military leaders in the ancient world. Consequently, some of these histories refer to violent actions that include: suicide, murder, torture, rape, violence in battle, etc. They are the results of these writers’ research of the historical evidence and included responsibly, not gratuitously. Still, please preview the material, especially with younger students.

2022 Twines

Because of changes to our schedule necessitated by pandemic, there was no Twine project in 2020-21. A year off inspired me to make, I think, significant improvements in how I taught and facilitated the project for 2021-22. The main change for me was that I emphasized frequently that all of a historical figures choices had to make sense to the figure and that the figure’s reasoning had to be explained to players. I think the sense of choice and agency is the most developed in these. 2022 also just has some fantastic 9th grade writers.

Zhao Zheng (Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi) by MS

Caesar by AF

Empress Lu by LJ

Trial of Socrates by AA

Boudicca by JL

2020 Twines

Vercingetorix: The Battle Against Rome by EV

Octavian: The Coming of an Empire by GG

Julius Caesar by BAJ

2019 Twines

Caesar and Pompey, by SS (Roman Republic)

2018 Twines

Students developing the 2018 Twines in my Ancient World History used the revised approach to the research paper and design I outlined elsewhere on Gaming the Past. The improved research specifications and instructions for how to design a historical Twine really showed in these works.

The Trial of Socrates, by WJ

Alexander the Great and the Conquest of Persia, by LW

Leif Erikson, by CH

Bodhidharma, by JW

Ashoka, by EB

2017 Twines

Students developing the 2017 were the trail-blazers. What this means in practice is that these students’ exemplary twines are often rougher than those from 2022. What’s the key difference? My instruction and support. What to put in the rubric? What to emphasize when teaching the kids? What sorts of questions should I ask to get students really thinking about agency? Happily, I have improved my implementation of this pedagogy.

Props to 2017 for their hard work and historical thinking in the face of new teacher expectations!

Leonidas at Thermopylae, by BB
Thermopylae, by DM
Brian Boru, by RT
Henry VIII, by AN
Mary, Bloody Mary, by LR
Joan of Arc, by HH

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