Over a year ago, I posted an article summarizing the results of an odd experiment reported by Greg Walton, Geoffrey Cohen, David Cwir, and Steven Spencer in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. As I summarized, the experiment went like this:
- Students in Group 1 read a report by a math major, and they were told that they shared a birthday with the math major. (This is the same-birthday condition.)
- Students in Group 2 read the same report but were shown a birthday for the author that differed from their own. (This is the different-birthday condition.)
The simple intervention mattered. Students in the same-birthday condition
- Persisted 65% longer on an insoluble math puzzle
- Reported greater math motivation than students in the different-birthday condition
- Rated the math department as more warm and fair than did students in the different-birthday condition
(For that first blog post I wrote, click here.)
This was one of those blog posts where I felt that the intervention was interesting and illustrative of how malleable the five key beliefs are and how the simplest of things can affect them. However, I had no aspirations for bringing the particular study to bear on my own classes. After all, how was I going to find “birthday buddy” exemplars for my 120 kids each year? I didn’t have time.
But then I got this email from Holly in MD:
Here at my new school (5/6th grade), I'm trying something different than the “words of wisdom” you wrote about recently: I call it Birthday Buddies. The Walton et al study you shared made me think of this.
I decided to find authors or poets who share b-days with my kids, and I created a special b-day buddy slide for each kid. (This is doable when you only teach 60 kids!) (And each subsequent year, there are fewer to create because you can reuse!)
Not every day has an author/poet, so I also branch out into activists and other inspirational, great-character types (i.e., Mother Theresa, Nobel Peace Prize winners, etc.).
They seem to really like it, and it's a great way to introduce them to names they should know (and people of all colors who have done awesome things).
So basically, Holly went and did the thing. She found birthday buddies for every kid she teaches, and with each year that she does this in her classes, the task becomes easier as more and more people populate her slideshow. As she shared, she’s also finding this to be a fun opportunity for incidental knowledge-building, which has all kinds of benefits, I’m sure.
Would you like to add to Holly’s slideshow for your own students? We’d love that! Just click here. And hey — as you create your own slides for your students, please consider sharing them back with us (support_at_davestuartjr.com) so that we can get them added to the master list!
Dave (and Holly from MD!)
Thanks for the idea/resource. I’m going to attempt this for next year.
Dave Stuart Jr. (@davestuartjr) says
That’s great Kathy!
I have seen the connection that sharing a birthday can create…who knew someone actually studied it?! I have spent most of my career at the elementary level, where birthdays are usually posted in the room all year. Even something as simple as having the same birthday as a classmate creates a special bond that links them together. If the teacher happens to have the same birthday as a student, Wow! Kids don’t forget when you have that in common. My own teenage son, who is naturally drawn to history, was thrilled to discover he shares a birthday with Thomas Jefferson. I’ve given him motivational quotes from Jefferson, and they definitely have more impact because of the birthday connection! This is an idea that would be worth the effort in the long run.
PS I earned some points with 8th grade girls a few years ago because one of my birthday buddies is JLO! Whatever works!
Dave Stuart Jr. (@davestuartjr) says
Kelly, I laughed about JLO — that’s amazing 🙂 One of mine that I learned years ago is Justin Bieber — #yes.