Website review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2020

Ringbeller

Short interviews teach kids about empathy, kindness, and imagination

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Grades
K–4
Subjects & Skills
Character & SEL

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Pros: Videos are relatable, entertaining, and full of opportunities for discussion; the accompanying activities are simple to implement and focus on reflection and experiential learning.

Cons: At present there are only 10 lessons; no blog or community to provide rationale or extensions for teaching the highlighted skills.

Bottom Line: Compact, flexible lessons can help teachers introduce students to valuable social and emotional strengths.

Begin your week with a short video from Ringbeller and a discussion to set the tone for the week. Watch Seth Godin talk about creativity, kindness, and teamwork, and design your week's activities around helping students practice those skills. Listen to Sam White discuss her passion for theater and her Shakespeare in Detroit initiative, and give your kids a chance to act out a story or participate in readers' theater. Hear Ira Glass discuss student activism and the importance of journalism in a confusing world. Then challenge students to use the three tenets of journalism to produce a story about a classmate, school official, or community member who's making a difference. 

Ask kids to consider the tough questions, such as why it's important to show up or be kind when you don't feel like it. Remind them that, as Sam White says, "You don't have to be one thing because you are NOT one thing." Using Ringbeller's compact lessons, it's easy to incorporate daily social and emotional learning (SEL) activities that teach kids to identify their own superpowers or to mirror others, building self-confidence, listening skills, empathy, and perhaps most important, the role of imagination in creating meaningful change. 

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Ringbeller uses videos and experiential activities to teach students about social and emotional strengths that will help them become innovators, communicators, and problem-solvers. The site consists of 10 student-led interviews (four to six minutes in length) of prominent thought leaders and innovators, such as public radio's Ira Glass, renowned cellist OkCello, and data designer Vivian Peng. Puppets Crumbaker and UNC (pronounced "unk") provide lighthearted introductory and follow-up commentary that kids will love. Following each video, teachers can access reflection questions and extension activities to further engage their students and get them thinking about their own abilities to affect change. At present, there are only 10 lessons, but the developer promises more to come.

Most elementary teachers already explicitly teach SEL concepts and will appreciate how well Ringbeller complements their current SEL goals. The videos (only 10 at present) are short and varied enough to engage kids in the moment, and the accompanying activities are flexible enough that teachers can use them as they are or as a starting point for problem- or challenge-based learning projects. But the power of these lessons may lie in the open-ended, thought-provoking questions. Questions such as "Why is it important to tell the truth and be fair?" and "What problems do you think this group could solve together?" spark inquiry and provide opportunities for rich discussions about how kids can join together to use their strengths and unique abilities to solve problems. Empowering students with the knowledge that they can put their skills to use to create meaningful change provides a springboard for innovation and creativity that will stay with them long past the end of the lesson. One concern: Some of the videos have plugs for popular products or services; for instance, Alexa is mentioned in one video, Audible in another. These awkward product mentions have little or nothing to do with the theme of each video and present more like implicit ads.

Some additional features, such as closed captions or transcripts, would make the videos more accessible to students. Also, extension materials or an active community would help teachers understand better the purpose and importance of the SEL strengths and how to better incorporate them into the classroom. 

Overall Rating

Engagement

The puppets, young interviewers, and relatable content will capture and keep students' interest, and the activities, done with care, will help kids see connections to their own lives and experiences.

Pedagogy

Building social and emotional strengths takes time and effort, but these sets of short lessons provide teachers with a good head start to inspire students.

Support

Videos and activities are straightforward and easy to access and implement; additional accessibility features and a user community or blog would serve to provide students and teachers with additional support and direction.


Common Sense reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Instructional Technology Facilitator

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