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Shake It Off: Lessons from the Ducks

By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller

Ducks don't hold grudges. They don't feel bad for the rest of the day if one incident does not go the way they would prefer. They do not hang on to perceived grievances.

If a duck got too close to another duck, they might have a quick squabble. Then they would be done with it. Both ducks would paddle away, shake their bodies, flap their wings, and shake it off. They would then glide softly around the pond as if nothing had happened.

Maggie B., a first-grade teacher on the West Coast, helped her students experience the "shake it off" lesson recently. "My students get really upset if they don't do well on a test," she told us. "They don't realize that they are creating that upset themselves. I used the lesson from the ducks when my students took a pretest on short vowels. First-graders have a difficult time distinguishing between the various vowel sounds."

When Mary's students checked their own pretests, they found that they made a lot of mistakes. It didn't matter to them that it was just a pretest. They were upset. That's when Mary jumped in with the Shake It Off technique.

Mary went around to each student and taped the test to his or her clothing. She then told them to "shake it off." Students looked at their teacher with puzzled expressions, but Mary insisted.

A few of her students began wiggling their bodies, trying to shake off the papers. Soon, all the students were jumping and turning and shaking all over. Once everyone completed the task of "shaking it off," Mary led a class discussion.

"They all felt better," she informed us. "They realized the pretest was not a big deal. And they were able to review the necessary vowel sounds with less stress. I think on some level the children realized they could get rid of their own stress."

Mary reported that her students wanted to know when they could do the "shake it off" activity again. So she discussed with them other things they could shake off in their lives. Some of their suggestions included arguments, sloppy papers, and a bad morning at home.

"Shake it off worked well with my class," Mary said, "but it got them wound up for a little while. That's OK, though," she informed us. "First-graders need to have fun and move their bodies."

Mary sounds like a Spirit Whisperer to us.