While there are countless ways we can nurture relationships and better engage our students, we’d like to talk about a specific student engagement strategy called the Walk and Talk.
In his essay, “The Power of the Walk-and-Talk Technique,” Jim Peterson asks us to consider some of the “scenes of aggression” we’ve witnessed in the animal programs we see on the Animal Planet and National Geographic channels. Other than hunting scenes, most acts of aggression begin with animals facing one another. It’s not very likely that the violence would be preceded by two animals traveling side by side.
Peterson suggests that when “higher-level organisms travel together, and in the same direction, rapport seems to build and there appears to be a progression towards harmony.”
Walking and talking helps sync our body language
In addition to walking side by side, another technique for building rapport between individuals is what Peterson calls “body mirroring.”
In body mirroring, the ideas is to have your posture subtly reflect that of the person with whom you’re communicating. Mirroring the body language of a student while sitting across from him or her can feel awkward, contrived and even insulting. That’s why Peterson suggests walking and talking. When teachers walk next to their students, they both adopt similar postures without any conscious effort.
Walking and talking takes eye contact out of the equation
Some students do not feel comfortable making eye contact. It is also worth noting that in some cultures it is a sign of disrespect for the student to look you, the teacher, in the eye.
Walking with a student takes the question of whether or not to make eye contact out of the equation. It feels perfectly natural to have a conversation with someone and not make eye contact if you are walking alongside each other.
We let off steam when we walk
Sometime, when you’re feeling irritated or angry, try walking 100 yards. At the end of that distance, note how you feel compared to when you began the walk. Chances are that you’re not going to feel gregarious, but you will have progressed from feeling bad towards feeling better.
When you walk with a student who is frustrated or upset, the student experiences a progression towards a better-feeling state. Peterson suggests that on a subconscious level, the student associates this positive feeling with your presence and contribution to it, the same way the person you delivered the bad news to made an association between you and the bad news. In the case of the walk-and-talk, however, this positive association is yet another element in the process that builds a positive relationship.
Peterson outlines an eleven-step process for conducting a successful walk and talk. Instead of reproducing all three pages of the procedure here, you can read it by clicking here.
Following President George Washington’s death in 1799, his February 22 birthday became a perennial day of remembrance. To help you pay tribute to this national holiday, we’d like to share a few of our favorite Presidents’ Day resources.
5 Resource to Help You Commemorate Washington’s Birthday
We thought it was about time to dispel one of the most common Washington myths out there: that he had wooden teeth.
Stop by Retronaut and you’ll actually find a photo of the dentures Dr. John Greenwood created for Washington. Contrary to common misconceptions, our first president’s false teeth were not made out of wood, but hippopotamus ivory, gold and brass.
While you’re browsing Retronaut, be sure to check out photos of Washington’s life mask.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Our homes say a lot about our tastes, our socio-economic status, our accomplishments and personalities. Taking a virtual field trip to George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate is an excellent way for us to gain insight into the personality of one of our nation’s most iconic figures.
Discover George Washington: An Interactive Timeline
In addition to the timeline of major events in Washington’s life, you’ll also find photos of his personal belongings including his harpsichord, toothbrush, and even a bust depicting what he would have looked like at age 19. This bust was created by a team of scientists who worked backwards from laser measurements of Washington’s life mask and a sculptured bust, both done when he was 52.
The Portrait: An Interactive
The Lansdowne portrait—named after the Marquis of Lansdowne, an English supporter of American independence and the owner of the painting—is probably one of the most famous images of George Washington in existence.
Thanks to the Smithsonian, you can explore this portrait in detail, from three very different vantage points: the symbolic, the biographic, and the artistic.
Each filter highlights an element in the portrait and provides unique information and a distinct interpretation.
While you’re at the Smithsonian’s site, check out the Patriot Papers, a collection of puzzles, quizzes and fun historical features to learn about the life and times of George Washington.
The Papers of George Washington
Here you’ll find a collection of letters written to Washington as well as letters and documents written by him. Currently there are over 135,000 documents in the project’s collection. As you browse, take note that you can customize your search by subjects including colonial life, early American culture, Washington’s friends, Mount Vernon, Native Americans, and more.
Abraham Lincoln’s birthday may not be a national holiday, but every Feb. 12, we still make it a point to recognize our 16th president. Below you’ll find 10 of our favorite resources to help you celebrate.
10 Resources to Help Teachers Celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday
National Geographic has put together a three-part, interactive map that begins on Jan. 1, 1864—when John Wilkes Booth met John Surratt, a Confederate spy—and ends on July 7, 1865 with the public hanging of conspirators Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, and David Herold.
Crash Course: US History
You can’t talk about President Lincoln without talking about the Civil War. In this two-part crash course, you’ll learn about the causes and motivations of the war and why the North won.
In part two, host John Green covers some of the key ways in which Lincoln influenced the outcome of the war, and how the lack of foreign intervention also helped the Union win the war. Green also covers the technology—specifically weapons and photography—that made the Civil War different than previous wars.
A Word Fitly Spoken
Here you’ll find an interactive timeline of Lincoln’s most famous speeches.
I Heard Lincoln That Day
This is one of our favorite resources, an audio recording of William V. Rathvon, a nine-year-old boy who watched and listened to Abraham Lincoln deliver his address at Gettysburg in November 1863.
The recording dates back to Feb. 12, 1938. If you’re wondering what makes this recording so special, keep in mind that no other Gettysburg eyewitness is known to have recorded his or her memories in audio format.
Booth: The Final Days of Lincoln’s Assassination
Following the shooting at the Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth fled to southern Maryland and eventually to a farm in rural southern Virginia. He was tracked by Union soldiers and eventually killed two weeks later.
This interactive map, produced by the folks at The History Channel, allows users to follow Booth’s flight, view historical artifacts, and learn about Booth’s co-conspirators.
Lincoln Home: Virtual Museum Exhibit
This virtual exhibit, produced by the National Park Service, highlights the lives of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln, their family, and their home in Springfield, Illinois.
Lincoln’s New Salem
Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site is a reconstruction of the village where Abraham Lincoln spent six years of his early adulthood. Here, he clerked in a store, split rails, enlisted in the Black Hawk War, served as postmaster and deputy surveyor before being elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1834 and 1836.
Lincoln’s Life Mask
Lincoln never had a death mask, but according to the folks over at It Thing, he did have two life masks made during his lifetime. When you compare photos of the two masks, you’ll be able to see how great a toll the Civil War had taken on his health.
Ford’s Theatre: A Virtual Tour
Take your students on a virtual tour of Ford’s Theatre, experiencing it as if you were here in Washington, D.C. Look closely at artifacts from the Ford's Theatre Museum that shed light on the assassination and the fateful night.
Photo of the Secret Message in Lincoln’s Pocket Watch
Retronaut is one of our all-time favorite sites. Here you’ll find a quirky story and accompanying photo of the “secret” message that was engraved in Abraham Lincoln’s watch by a watchmaker who was repairing it in 1861 when news of the attack on Fort Sumter reached Washington, D.C.
Leaving work at work is truly an art form—especially when you’re a teacher.
It gets easier with time and experience, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve spent restless nights and early mornings replaying the day’s events, recalling the conversations I had, the cringe-worthy lessons I gave, and all the things I didn’t say—but should’ve said— to my students.
If you haven’t experienced these feelings, I’d like to know your secret to success—but my gut tells me that most teachers, particularly those new to the profession, often feel like they’re hanging on by a thread. In times like this, I reach for one of my favorite resources: a book by Neila Connons called If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students. Below you’ll find 10 of her tips to help teachers keep the fire burning.
10 Ways for Teachers to Keep the Fire Burning
Make “me-time” a part of the job
Your students are important, but they cannot—and should not—be your sole priority. Beating yourself up at night and working through the weekend are both counter-productive activities. Your students need you to be at your best…how can you possibly be your best if you are exhausted?
You-time is a part of the job. You owe it to yourself to pursue healthy relationships, hobbies and life outside of work.
View problems as challenges
You can waste a lot of time and energy talking about what’s wrong, but healthy people spend 5 percent of their time discussing problems and 95 percent looking for solutions. They enforce this philosophy in every aspect of their lives.
Don’t be a finger-pointer
This is an extension of the point we made above: Blame has never accomplished anything. Instead of spending time trying to figure out who is at fault, use the time to make things better.
Analyze your stresses and frustrations
Know what sets you off and avoid it when you can.
Set personal goals that are not associated with vices
Too often we associate resolutions and goal-setting with vices. We know we should stop smoking, start exercising more, eat less red meat, and so on. While the aforementioned goals are certainly worthy of our pursuit, it is important to also set goals that relate to our passions. What have you always wanted to do? Making it happen may not occur overnight; it may take a lot of work, but you owe it to yourself to pursue your passions.
Do not vegetate, procrastinate or complain
Be active, organized, and positive. Get involved and be a part of the accomplishment. Healthy people are doers.
Have positive role models and mentors
Teachers are surrounded by lots of brilliant and resourceful people. Swallow your pride and learn to depend on them.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
When challenges occur, ask yourself if this will make any difference tomorrow, next week or next month. Take your job seriously; take yourself lightly.
Be proud and confident
Even on the days you don’t feel your best, fake it ‘till you make it. A walk of confidence and pride definitely adds to the positive climate of a building.
Don’t ever stop playing and laughing
A day without laughter is also a day not fully lived. There is so much to smile about in our business; and we know that we don’t stop playing because we grow old—we grow old because we stop playing.
There are a number of ancient misnomers about teaching, but today we’d like to take on four of the most common myths about the profession.
My students are resistant
Sure, some students resist, a few my act like they couldn’t care less, but often those we label “resistant” are simply unsure of our expectations.
For example, when we ask students to “try harder to pay attention in class,” we think we’re issuing a straightforward request. In actuality, this request is vague, lacks specific instructions and does not give the student a clear picture of what we expect from him or her.
Instead of asking students to try harder to pay attention, say something like this: “During class, I want you to keep your head off the desk, keep your eyes open and on me, and have all of your materials out on the desk.”
Always give your students concrete steps for making the investment.
Teachers shouldn’t smile until Christmas
This is one of the most ubiquitous teaching myths. Although we disagree with this adage, we see the line of reasoning: “It’s better to be feared,” as Machiavelli says in The Prince, “than it is to be loved.” Rule by fear may be appropriate for a dictator-prince, but we’ve never believed dictator-princes to be very effective teachers.
Most students begin the school year enthusiastically: they are quiet, attentive and respectful. From the outset, students need to know that they can trust us; they also need a reason to invest in the journey they’re about to embark upon. If you want them to set sail with you, make the first day—and every day thereafter—a celebration. Smiling doesn’t make you a pushover.
Teachers have to be the smartest person in the room
Give yourself permission to be human and admit it when you make mistakes or don’t know the answer. Students respect teachers who admit their mistakes and take steps to correct them. Why? Because it lets them know that the classroom is a safe place—a space where both students and teacher are free to make blunders, take risks and learn from them.
Students don’t read anymore
It’s funny how many of our students vehemently claim that they don’t like reading. Teachers reinforce this fallacy when they echo their students’ claims.
Students read. In fact, they read all the time. Ask your students if they text. Ask them if they update their Facebook account or read and write comments on their friends’ walls. Do they send email? Do they read magazines, comic books or celebrity gossip blogs? You bet they do.
Like it or not, if we want to nurture a love of reading in our students, we must acknowledge that these are legitimate forms of reading. Believe and reinforce this.
Photo credit: Tilemahos Efthimiadis
When Apple released the first-generation iPod back in 2001, many of us—after finally figuring out what iPods and podcasts were!—dismissed the device as simply the latest techno-gadget in a long line of portable distractions.
Teachers are resourceful though…so it didn’t take long for them to transform these “distractions” into tools. Here’s how we’ve been using podcasts over the years.
5 of Our Favorite Ways to Use Podcasting in the Classroom
Connect with a global audience
Before you get started, you’ll have to find another classroom to connect with. Edmodo, a social-networking and learning platform for teachers, is an excellent place to inquire. Once you create a partnership, it’s time to swap podcasts.
We have our students collaborate on a podcasting script that describes their school culture, their routines, their daily activities and other sundry things that our sister class might find interesting.
It’s roving reporter time
A lot of newsworthy things happen in our schools every day. One of the best ways to highlight these events is by sending students out into “the field” with their digital recording devices (smart phones) where they can interview teachers, thespians, musicians, student athletes and anyone who is doing something worth talking about.
Create audio tours for incoming students
What’s it like to be a student at your school? What might make your school unique, welcoming, and intriguing to new students? Have students answer these questions by creating an audio tour of their school. Post this podcast on the school website, or email it to incoming students.
Increase reading comprehension and fluency
Here’s an idea we picked up from Jill Janes over at We Are Teachers.
To help students improve their reading fluency, we’ve taken Janes’ suggestion to have students create monthly podcasts about current events. First, students practice their comprehension skills by reading and summarizing nonfiction news articles. Then they prepare a "script" and record their digital podcasts before posting them on our classroom blog.
Podcasting book reviews
We love hearing book reviews on National Public radio, so we started having our students do something similar. Included in our book review criteria are the following:
- Give a brief summary of what happens in the book
- Recommend the book to a certain age group and type of reader
- Explain why this book is worth reading.
As with the current-events podcasts, students upload their finished products to the classroom blog.
Most of us would agree that excellent teachers are masters of their subject matter. They know how to challenge, engage and inspire students, too.
But extraordinary teachers are extraordinary for another reason: They know that patience, kindness and mindfulness are transcendental values that must be present in themselves, their classrooms, and their students.
Yesterday we read about an inspiring teacher in a blog by New York Times best-selling author Glennon Melton. We pulled an excerpt from the larger article and hope you find it as enjoyable and inspiring as we do.
I’d emailed Chase’s teacher one evening and said, “Chase keeps telling me that this stuff you’re sending home is math – but I’m not sure I believe him. Help, please.” She emailed right back and said, “No problem! I can tutor Chase after school anytime.” And I said, “No, not him. Me. He gets it. Help me.” And that’s how I ended up standing at a chalkboard in an empty fifth grade classroom staring at rows of shapes that Chase’s teacher kept referring to as “numbers.”
I stood a little shakily at the chalkboard while Chase’s teacher sat behind me, perched on her desk, using a soothing voice to try to help me understand the “new way we teach long division.” Luckily for me, I didn’t have to unlearn much because I never really understood the “old way we taught long division.” It took me a solid hour to complete one problem, but l could tell that Chase’s teacher liked me anyway. She used to be a NASA scientist (true story) so obviously we have a whole lot in common.
Afterwards, we sat for a few minutes and talked about teaching children and what a sacred trust and responsibility it is. We agreed that subjects like math and reading are the least important things that are learned in a classroom. We talked about shaping little hearts to become contributors to a larger community – and we discussed our mutual dream that those communities might be made up of individuals who are Kind and Brave above all.
And then she told me this.
Every Friday afternoon Chase’s teacher asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student whom they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.
And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, Chase’s teacher takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her and studies them. She looks for patterns.
- Who is not getting requested by anyone else?
- Who doesn’t even know who to request?
- Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?
- Who had a million friends last week and none this week?
You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down- right away- who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.
As a teacher, parent, and lover of all children – I think that this is the most brilliant Love Ninja strategy I have ever encountered. It’s like taking an X-ray of a classroom to see beneath the surface of things and into the hearts of students. It is like mining for gold – the gold being those little ones who need a little help – who need adults to step in and TEACH them how to make friends, how to ask others to play, how to join a group, or how to share their gifts with others. And it’s a bully deterrent because every teacher knows that bullying usually happens outside of her eyeshot – and that often kids being bullied are too intimidated to share. But as she said – the truth comes out on those safe, private, little sheets of paper.
If you’ve experienced the Smithsonian, George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, Colonial Williamsburg and a slew of other historical landmarks, you know that these experiences can be transformational. As much as we’d love to take all of our students to these places, most of us lack the time, budget and pixie dust to make it happen.
Virtual field trips may not give your students the opportunity to tap into all five of their senses as they “visit” historical landmarks, but they can still help bring history to life and take them beyond the classroom without ever actually leaving it!
Below you’ll find five of our favorite virtual field trips for history and social studies teachers.
Take a virtual, self-guided, room-by-room walking tour of the entire Smithsonian museum. And while you’re at it, browse a list of past exhibits, click on museum hotspots and get a close-up view of some of the museum’s spectacular relics.
Explore Ancient Egypt
This virtual field trip gives students the opportunity to walk the perimeter of the Sphinx, putts around inside the Great Pyramid of Giza and explore the tombs and temples of ancient Thebes.
These tours are multi-layered and interactive, giving students a 360 degree, panoramic view of some of civilization’s most breathtaking architecture.
Thanks to the generous donations of its patrons, The Colonial Williamsburg fund is now offering live, virtual field trips covering a wide variety of historical topics including:
- 18th-Century Trades and the Continental Army
- The Bill of Rights
- The Balance of Power: The Three Branches of Government
- Women of the Revolution
- Harsh World, This World: What Slavery was Really Like for Slaves and Their Masters
To download a PDF of the 2013-2014 virtual field trip schedule, click here.
The National WWII Museum
This museum, located in New Orleans, offers a variety of live presentations on topics including:
- A Day of Infamy: The Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor
- Iwo Jima and the War in the Pacific
- D-Day: The Turning Point of the War in Europe
- Don’t You Know There’s a War On?! The Home Front During WWII
- Double Victory: African Americans in WWII
- And more
Unlike the rest of the virtual field trips on our list, The National WWII Museum does charge a $100 fee for theirs.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Our homes say a lot about our tastes, our socio-economic status, our accomplishments and personalities. Taking a virtual field trip to George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate was an excellent way for us to gain insight into the personality of one of our nation’s most iconic figures.
February marks the anniversary of the beginning of the Salem Witch Trials, an infamous series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693.
Below we’ve gathered five of our favorite resources to help you teach this historical event.
5 Resources to Help You Teach the Salem Witch Trials
Crash Course Video by Scholastic
If time is of the essence, this whiteboard animation video packs in a lot of information—and it does so in less than two minutes!
Salem Witchcraft Hysteria
Experience the 1692 Salem witch-hunt through this interactive online trial. As you navigate your way through Salem, you’ll learn about important events and key players—you’ll also have to answer a few unsettling questions: “Are you a witch? How long have you been in the snare of the devil?”
Salem Witch Trials: Documentary Archive and Transcription Project
Browse court records, personal letters, sermons and diaries of the era. In addition to this, you’ll find maps of Salem Village and learn all about the “afflicted,” the executed, the accused, the defenders, and the critics who took part in the Salem trials.
Salem Witch Museum
The Salem Witch Museum has a lot of useful information, but we found their interactive map of Salem to be particularly useful.
Discovery Education’s Salem Witch Trials: The World Behind the Hysteria
This is a useful resource to give students a sense of context about the lives and the social mores of those who lived in 1692 Salem. Here students will discover:
- Some of the daily challenges, fears, and pressures of life in 17th century
- The state of Salem Village as a part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony
- Problems faced by Puritan farmers
- Three major factors behind the witch trials
- The stories of six individuals—from a “bewitched” young girl, to the accused witches, to town leaders—whose lives were touched by the events
In Search of History: A History Channel Documentary
This documentary ventures back 300 years to unravel the truth from the legends about the events at Salem. Students may be surprised by some of the facts revealed in this 68-minute film—we certainly were.
Photo credit: Christine Zenino
If you’ve ever spent any time with a stack of student essays, you’ve seen more than one beginning with sentences like, “Since the beginning of time,” or “In society today…”
Where students pick up these phrases I’ll never know, but one thing I do know is that they should be avoided. Below you’ll find an infographic of 11 other essay phrases your students should avoid.