You have probably heard about a teacher who, the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. died, taught her all-white third grade classroom about prejudice and racism by creating a situation in which they experienced it. Jane Elliott divided the class into brown eyed students and blue eyed students and told them the brown eyed students were superior to the others. You should watch the phenomenal documentary, A Class Divided, on the PBS website to see how quickly the students’ feelings towards each other and themselves changed.
Elliott’s idea was brilliant and stuck with her students for the rest of their lives, because it went beyond an abstract idea to a feeling they experienced deeply. The blue eyed students also wore collars so they could be identified from a distance. The children say they couldn’t think of anything while doing schoolwork except for the collar. How can we use this type of sensory experience to teach other lessons?
Made to Stick
“It would have been easy for her to treat the idea of prejudice the way other classroom ideas are treated,” write Chip and Dan Heath, “like an important but abstract bit of knowledge, like the capital of Kansas or the definition of ‘truth.’” Their book, Made to Stick, teaches how to express our ideas in ways that our audience won’t forget.
I’m reading Made to Stick along with a few others here at SOWA and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to learn how to say something once and say it well. The book is filled with fun, illustrative anecdotes so it’s an easy read. The Heath brothers write about six factors that make ideas “sticky” and so far I’ve read about three: simple, unexpected, and concrete. If you read our e-newsletter or follow our Twitter feed, you must have noticed the amazing improvements!
I found a razorblade in my apple
No, not really, but urban legends are some of the stickiest stories out there. Here are some of the bubble-gummiest things you can learn by reading Made to Stick:
Why are the Japanese really out performing us in math?
How does the script of Trading Places relate to how I teach science?
Can you really return tire chains to Nordstroms?
That was me using “the unexpected” to lure you in. Now I’m supposed to keep you interested. Um… well, I still have more reading to do. Let’s just say the book is filled with examples of brilliant moments in education that we can all learn from like blue eyes, brown eyes.
Huge thanks to Josh Oakley, our Bridge Conference graphic designer, for recommending the book!