The Carousel Method: A Cure for Zoom Silence

By David Nurenberg

Since remote learning began, we’ve all had moments when we’ve asked a question of our class, only to be met with a grid of faces—or black boxes—that is utterly silent. Whether you’re trying to generate a discussion or assess learning, the hardest part can often be simply drawing the students out of their shells.

Of course, this dilemma predates remote learning, and teachers have developed many tools for shaking a class out of that stupor and making sure that all students, and not just the avid hand-raisers, get involved in an activity. One of my favorites is the Carousel: it gets every student engaged and cooperatively thinking about an idea. The pace is quick enough to keep them active, and both you and your students can assess knowledge or assemble understanding quickly and thoroughly. Fortunately, all parts of this activity can translate easily to an online environment.

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Strategies for Engaging All Students during Hybrid Instruction

By Miriam Plotinsky

Most of us like to imagine that we are effective multitaskers, but research into human cognition says otherwise. The truth is, it is nearly impossible to do more than one thing well at a time, but people often expect it to happen anyway. As when children attempt the classic challenge of rubbing their bellies while patting the tops of their heads, at least one of those tasks is usually lacking in proficient execution.

With the move to hybrid instruction well underway in schools across the country, teachers are concerned about how to serve multiple populations in different places: to simultaneously and equitably teach students in the classroom and students working from home. While it might not be realistic to assume that every teacher can become an absolute hybrid aficionado, certain strategies help to ensure that all students, whether they join class from home or from school, get the attention they deserve.

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Teaching Young Learners About Slavery, Part II

By Noreen Naseem Rodríguez and Katy Swalwell

This week, K-12Talk presents the second of a two-part excerpt from a forthcoming book by social studies educators Noreen Naseem Rodríguez and Katy Swalwell, Social Studies for a Better World: An Anti-Oppressive Approach for Elementary Educators, part of the Norton Series on Equity and Social Justice in Education. In this second excerpt, the authors provide creative solutions for teaching the painful history of slavery to young learners without reproducing trauma.


From Chapter 6:

Creative Solutions

It is possible to develop content knowledge and historical empathy without traumatizing students as they learn about slavery. Educator Adam Sanchez’ (2019) lesson asks students to create a collective poem after taking on roles through a mixer activity to learn about enslaved peoples’ various resistance strategies (e.g., work stoppages, armed revolt, running away, maintaining families, etc.). Role-plays can also be responsibly applied to current questions about how to reckon with the history of slavery, like designing a reparations bill (Wolfe-Rocca, 2020) or simulating a city council meeting to determine how to commemorate slavery-related history in the community.

Teaching the History of Slavery Responsibly

Teaching about slavery responsibly is difficult, but there are wonderful digital resources to support teachers who are committed to this work. The New York Times’ phenomenal The 1619 Project, conceived of by Nikole Hannah-Jones, includes curricular resources for teachers. Teaching Tolerance’s Teaching Hard History: American Slavery for K-5 has many helpful resources and additional ideas for responsible teaching of these histories. The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture’s Talking About Race Web Portal has a wealth of information; the Historical Foundations of Race section has a collection of resources that trace the history of race and its role in the institution of slavery in the U.S. And the Library of Congress’ Voices Remembering Slavery: Freed People Tell Their Stories houses invaluable recordings of interviews with formerly enslaved people. One special note with regards to teaching about slavery responsibly: For many white teachers in particular, it’s tempting to teach about abolition or the Underground Railroad as a way to highlight “good” white people. Keep in mind that very few white people supported abolition, that lots of white abolitionists were also deeply racist (see Reynolds & Kendi, 2020), and that most Black people liberated themselves without help from white people.

Field trips are another experiential option. While many historical sites focused on slavery have exhibits and costumed employees who replicate dominant narratives that trivialize and reproduce trauma, some do not and have helpful anti-oppressive resources for educators. For example, the Whitney Plantation outside of New Orleans is the only plantation in Louisiana dedicated to the perspectives of enslaved people, the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project commemorates ancestors’ arrival along the East and Gulf Coast, and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama features rare first-person accounts of the domestic slave trade. No matter where you live, there are local connections to be made to the history of slavery. Stops on the Underground Railroad extended throughout the Midwest and Northeast, for example, and many Confederate monuments have been erected across the United States years after the Civil War (e.g., Wickenkamp, 2020). These experiential learning opportunities can complicate dominant narratives around slavery, center acts of resistance, illustrate the interstate web of enslaved labor, and reckon with the ongoing white supremacy that survived abolition.  

One last time, we want to caution educators to be extremely careful here. Teaching the history of slavery is fraught enough—if your classroom community is not healthy, if your background knowledge is not strong, or if you do not have enough time for debriefing, then most definitely you should not apply dramatization or gamification tools. But don’t let your fear of messing up dissuade you from attending to the topic in other responsible ways; remember, becoming an anti-oppressive educator is a process. Do your best to learn all you can, then seek out feedback from trusted critical friends, colleagues, and families to help you avoid the problems and pitfalls we outline here. 

Noreen Naseem Rodríguez is an award-winning assistant professor at Iowa State University and a former bilingual elementary teacher.

Katy Swalwell is Associate Professor of Social & Cultural Studies in the School of Education at Iowa State University.

Teaching Young Learners about Slavery, Part I

By Noreen Naseem Rodríguez and Katy Swalwell

At a time in our nation’s history when systemic racism is a focal point of increasingly volatile political and societal divisions, it is more important than ever to think deeply about how Black History Month is celebrated in our classrooms.  To further that conversation, K-12Talk is pleased to offer a two-part excerpt on the blog this week and next, from a forthcoming book by social studies educators Noreen Naseem Rodríguez and Katy Swalwell, Social Studies for a Better World: An Anti-Oppressive Approach for Elementary Educators, part of the Norton Series on Equity and Social Justice in Education. In this first excerpt, the authors explain how teaching the painful history of the enslavement of Black Americans–so often a central part of the social studies curriculum in February–is important and necessary but must be handled with extreme care to avoid retraumatizing BIPOC students.

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Spark Your Students’ Creativity with These Zoom-Friendly Exercises

By Shana Bestock

Bringing creativity into the classroom isn’t only for art teachers! Creativity hinges on discovery, and as educators we can intentionally set the stage for those moments of discovery to happen. Creativity is also intrinsically tied to collaboration–whether individually, by engaging different aspects of the self in conversation, or collectively, by communicating with others to build something together. Creativity is about being ingenious, resourceful, and taking risks. Whether your focus is math or reading, science or history, coding or painting, creativity is an essential ingredient to learning, engagement, and sparking curiosity and joy. Every teacher, no matter their subject area, can borrow from the Zoom-friendly exercises below to jumpstart their students’ creativity and prepare them for the lesson ahead.

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Three Myths of Distance Learning

By Ian Kelleher

I have a unique and marvelous job. I teach science to high schoolers every day, but I am also “Chair of Research” for my school, charged with answering this question: “How do we use the science of teaching and learning to improve every child’s whole school experience?” The days of COVID have been difficult, but a fascinating challenge – how can the science of learning help us in this unique time?

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Three Resources for Bringing the Joy Factor to Your Online Classroom

By Rachel Fuhrman

This post originally appeared on Tales from the Classroom.

As I gear up for the second half of the most unique school year I may ever encounter, I am focused on what I can do to provide an engaging, enriching, and exciting experience for my students. When I think about my classroom in previous years, I have always prioritized the joy factor through the use of humor and games. Now, I have shifted my focus to what bringing joy looks like online. While I hope to continue to bring my sense of humor to my students virtually, I know that it can be challenging to communicate as fluidly as we once did. Because of this, I am primarily focusing on the use of games and competitions to bring joy. Doing so not only allows students to be engaged with their content, but also provides students the opportunity to engage with one another. Below, I have outlined three of my favorite resources for bringing joy through games and competitions online.

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STEM and SEL in Tandem, at Home

By Eric Iversen 

For a long time, advocates of STEM education have worked to bring STEM learning closer to students’ lives outside of school. This year, though, COVID has made STEM learning a part of students’ lives in ways nobody ever imagined or wanted. As schools were forced to close, educators have been managing the switch to emergency remote learning to the greatest of their abilities, and the resources and strategies that have been shared across the K-12 world are voluminous. Even so, there is no doubt that uprooting STEM education from the school building comes with many kinds of loss, including carefully designed classroom and lab spaces set up with technical equipment and materials that are impossible to replicate in the home.

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A special offer for K-12Talk readers!

As a thank you for your loyal readership, Norton Books in Education is pleased to offer one FREE Quick Reference Guide (QRG) to our subscribers. Each QRG is an 8.5” x 11” multi-panel laminated card focused on an important instructional topic. Learn more about these new resources in a past post

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The Power of Teaching Contemporary Poetry

By Melissa Smith

Imagine my student’s surprise when Elizabeth Acevedo complimented her analysis of her poem , or when Nate Marshall tweeted that a student’s blog on his poem was “dope” and “fresh.” Students feel recognized and validated, and these interactions are one of the most rewarding benefits to teaching living poets.

The #TeachLivingPoets movement started as a simple hashtag—a way for me to share my favorite poems and ways to teach them on social media. In 2017, after Skyping with poet R. A. Villanueva, whose poems we had read in class, my students begged me to set up another call; they wanted more. We ended up Skyping with him three times and the reaction I saw in my students was pure teaching gold. They were enthralled. They wrote guitar songs set to his poems. They wrote poems responding to his poems. They were excited—about poetry! The following year, social media interaction and Skype video calls quickly morphed into poetry readings and classroom visits.

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