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February 5, 2020

Popular Teaching Methods: Rekindle with Kindred Spirits

Follow two veteran teachers as they write about their top new teaching methods, including trending items like graphic novels, podcasts and EdTech.


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Teaching Methods: Fun New Concepts and Tools from Two Veteran Teachers

Happy New Year! It’s time to rekindle Kindred Spirits—we’ve been hard at work planning for future posts and discussing our latest educational obsessions. We’re excited to share them with you in our first post of the year. We have a great list to move you forward in 2020, including podcasts, instructional methods, resources and school supplies. 

Tricia’s Top 5 Teaching Methods and Tools

1. Graphic Novels

Attending the National Council of Teachers of English conference in November kicked my casual interest in graphic novels into a less-than-casual high gear. George Takei was the speaker at the opening general session, and he recently documented his experience in a Japanese Internment Camp in the graphic novel They Called Us Enemy.  

I had purchased the memoir prior to the convention, but it wasn’t until after hearing him speak that I promptly devoured it and ordered more copies for my classroom library. The NCTE convention also had many sessions that focused on graphic novels; my favorite discussed the collaboration between artist and writer, featuring Laurie Halse Anderson, author of the graphic novel Speak, and Faith Erin Hicks, artist of the graphic novel Pumpkinheads.

teaching methods: george takei's graphic novel, "they called us enemy."

2. Using Short Films to Teach Theme

During a workshop I attended in December, I was challenged to consider how to teach kids the skill of critically reading without reading print text. A colleague and I discussed possible strategies, including using images, films and graphic novels with the dialogue removed. The short film idea stuck, and since then, I’ve been using various short films in my theme teaching and with great success!  My students have been demonstrating growing mastery of the skill of “reading” a text to analyze for theme—one which can continue to be transferred to the short stories and books we read in our social action unit. Here are three short film favorites for this work:

3. QR Codes

I think I am a little late to the QR party to be honest. And I have our new library media specialist to thank for giving me a crash course in QR (quick response) codes and creating an awesome experience for our students using them. All of our eighth-graders participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) writing a book during the month of November. They then work on revising excerpts of their novel to share at a writing celebration in December. Seeing all of the hard work students put into their novels and excerpts, our LMS suggested that he create QR codes for the excerpts so the students could continue to access and read each other's work using their tablets or phones. Here’s the display of those codes in our main hallway:

teaching methods: a QR code display in a classroom

4. Freedom’s Ring

A project of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, this amazing resource animates King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, showing the differences between his prepared remarks and the speech he delivered, complete with hyperlinks to additional explanation and resources. While I’ve used it in my classroom every year since I learned about it, I forget how powerful it is and the impact it has on kids. This speech, and this resource, are at the center of my classroom now; my love for this resource is at a peak. If you are not familiar with it already, stop everything and experience it now. You won’t be disappointed!

5. The Happiness Lab Podcast  

Laurie Santos, a professor from Yale, is the host of this podcast. The first season  was modeled after and inspired by a course she taught called “Psychology and the Good Life.” As a podcast junkie, my feed is jammed with new content every day, but when I see the smiley face logo in my “Listen Now” list, I go right there!  Season one is finished, but there is a 2020 mini season that is keeping me happy while waiting for season two. Santos does her best to try to capture what this podcast is in a short video:

Description fails to do this podcast justice—you need to experience this firsthand! 

Jess’ Top 5 Teaching Methods and Tools:

1. We Share the Same Sky

One of my new obsessions is the podcast “We Share the Same Sky,” written by Rachael Cerrotti and produced by the USC Shoah Foundation. I happened upon the first episode on a sleepless night. I was so drawn in by that episode that I listened to the entire podcast and suffered through a very bleary next day. It was absolutely worth it. Wrapped into this podcast is a thorough exploration of the history of Rachael’s grandmother, Hana. This deeply personal journey is phenomenal in part because Hana saved her journals and letters permitting both Rachael and the audience to enter the mind of one who lost so much as a result of the Holocaust, but who also retained a beautifully intact sense of self throughout her lifetime.

teaching methods: share the same sky website

Rachael leans on her grandmother’s legacy differently after she experiences a devastating loss of her own. The language of each episode is stunning. Most important, for educators, themes of refugeeism, surviva, and assimilation are ever present. Rachael Cerrotti has also developed curriculum and speaks publicly about her journey. Information can be found at

2. Teach Boldly: Using Edtech for Social Good by Jennifer Williams

I’ve been directing education and youth empowerment at Creative Visions for over a year now. So, although I am no longer in the classroom on a daily basis, I still make it a priority to regularly interact with youth. The book Teach Boldly: Using Edtech for Social Good by Jennifer Williams has been invaluable. It’s designed to be a practical guide for teachers who aim to empower their students to create positive change in the world. The book provides fresh insights about current innovative practices and instructional design. At the core of each chapter is ongoing support for educators through classroom examples, instructional ideas, and clear explanations of pedagogy and technology. It’s also deeply engaging because each chapter opens with a personal profile. In fact, the themes of connection, inclusion and honoring diversity are at the heart of Teach Boldly

teaching methods: teaching boldly for social good with edtech

The opportunities for charting your learning and connecting with other educators are built into the reading as well. Readers are encouraged to build a PeaceMAKER portfolio of their learning through guided activities and then share out in a variety of ways. I love how Williams is able to create space for educators as learners and learners as educators. It’s really become my go-to guidebook for ideas that will build skills to last for a lifetime—and the International Society for Technology in Education standards are applied throughout. (Full disclosure: Our program, Rock Your World, is featured as an edtech exemplar in the appendix alongside World’s Largest Lesson and Empatico. Great company, indeed!) 

Be sure to registerfor the Teach Boldly book study, which begins at IDEAcon.

3. On the Fringe (Notebook)

My name is Jess, and I’m a school supply addict. I’ve tried them all and I thought I’d found my utopia of notebooks in bullet journals. However, my schedule is so regularly packed that I found my hand-drawn monthly and weekly calendars to be too unrefined. Still, I loved having the dot journal format and being able to take notes by days, weeks or hours if needed. Therefore, I’m now trying out a combination of a Blue Sky monthly/weekly planner and a Fringe Studio brand workbook. Sounds fancy, but I scored both of them at Target! The planner is pretty standard and beautifully structured with sturdy tabs and space for notes too.

teaching methods: on the fringe notebook

The Fringe workbook is a thing of beauty! It’s not too big, has pockets, and four sections, including lined paper, graph paper, dotted paper and blank paper—a notebook that can accommodate my moods! Highly recommend. Maybe this will be the combination that makes me feel like my life is in order—haha! A girl can dream.

4. Project Giving Kids

If you’ve ever had students who were itching to make a difference, searching for service learning opportunities, or curious about how they might get involved in social impact, Project Giving Kids is a fantastic resource. A nonprofit organization, it aims to help teach empathy and social responsibility to young people. It uses technology to connect kids, teens and families to high-quality, age-appropriate activities through its network of nonprofit partners across the country. Users can find an activity by searching an area of interest on the Project Giving Kids website or downloadable app. Then they can track and share their impact. Watch a brief video that explains this innovative and valuable resource.

teaching methods: project giving kids

5. The Academy of American Poets

The site is near and dear to me as one who holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry and as an educator. My favorite section is Materials for Teachers. Here, you’ll find poems for kids, for teens, lesson plans and a host of other resources. It’s just so expertly put together. I’m such a believer in exposing students to the beauty of poetry. Poetry helps reinvigorate the magic of language for students who may be numb from “extbook talk.” We’re really excited about the section dedicated to social justice poetry and will be highlighting that in a future post.

teaching methods: the academy of american poets

Share with us! 

We’re interested in hearing about your current obsessions, so please share them with us in our blog comments, our teacher forum or on Twitter! Learn more about what we do below:

Photo of author Tricia Baldes

Tricia Baldes earned a master’s in English from Lehman College and has been a middle level educator since 2001. Her passion for human rights education has led to her writing curriculum and consulting with nonprofit organizations like Creative Visions, Speak Truth to Power and KidsRights. She co-authored the Rock Your World curriculum and currently works with the team as a program coordinator. In addition to presenting at national conferences for NCTE and ACSD, Baldes has led various teacher trainings and programs for students. She teaches eighth-grade English in Westchester County, N.Y.

Author Jess Burnquist

Jess Burnquist earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Arizona State University. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post,,, and various online and print journals. She is a recipient of the Joan Frazier Memorial Award for the Arts at ASU and has been honored with a Sylvan Silver Apple Award. She taught high school English, creative writing and AP Literature in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area for more than a decade and is now the director of Education and Youth Empowerment at Creative Visions Foundation in Malibu, Calif.

More About Kindred Spirits

Kindred Spirits offers an opportunity for educators and school staff to gather in the exchange of ideas, resources, stories, and lessons pertaining to human rights education and students’ social and emotional growth. Please join us and contribute your voice to a chorus of kindred spirits. To connect, find us at our Rock Your World human rights education teacher forum and on Twitter.

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Kindred Spirits

Kindred Spirits offers an opportunity for educators and school staff to gather in the exchange of ideas, resources, stories and lessons pertaining to human rights education and students’ social and emotional growth. Please join us and contribute your voice to a chorus of kindred spirits.

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