Speed Networking in the Classroom

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It can be daunting to try out a new teaching method, but TRUST ME, this one is A HUGE hit! I’m writing an extension to my post on History’s Great Mystery (How can I make my classroom more interactive?!) and Why I put the SOCIAL back into SOCIAL STUDIES! so you can try out this awesome technique in your classroom. This lesson can be modified for primary/middle school and high school.

I like doing this lesson for a number of reasons.
One –  This lesson give students practical, real world experience. The students are required to practice their interviewing skills on their peers as they bring a business card, a name tent and a resume with them of their historical figure (on the high school level). See below I modify this for the younger grades.  This gets my students thinking about creating their own resumes and business cards and career prospects.

Each resume and must include the following: Name, birth date, education, background, known associations (with a definition), notable accomplishments, and 3 references. Each resume must also have a “job sought” paragraph at the top. This must be between 3-6 sentences long and should include long term goals and other pertinent information. I have students bring a resume which should also include a picture. I require that these must be typed (you need two copies – one for you and one for me!) . You should have students work on this in groups if they are each assigned the same character. 

Two – I require each student to shake hands with the person as they move around the table. I give them a quick “this is how to do a proper handshake” and “smile nicely” when I hand out the instructions and again before the activity begins. This requires they practice their social skills.

Three –  I like to do this lesson around Valentine’s Day so students can pick their favorite match (historical character who they networked with) and send them a Valentine’s Day Card as a follow up assessment.

How to do it:
The main idea here is that each student spends 3 minutes in costume as a historical figure, sitting across from another historical figure (usually during the same era – but you can draw synthesis at the end of a unit or semester and have characters talk across generations).

To understand the set up of what the room should look like see this diagram of how to set up the room. Keep your stopwatch (or smart phone clock) on for 3 minutes. Once the timer rings, have the outer seat (or all seats to the left of the table)  move one seat over to the right. The last person (so in the diagram seat 26 left, moves to seat 1 left).


I have done this activity many times. Some with each student as a different character (so in my case 34 different characters in the room). The flaw here is I teach a 40 minute class so students met about half the characters.  I decided to modify it so that I pick the top 8 figures from the era I am teaching. So students only meet 8 figures in their section and don’t have to worry about meeting and remembering 34 characters. So figure 2-3 students are the same character and you don’t put them in the same section.

Try to come up with a few questions that will be asked during speed dating and then students can create the rest. For example:

How do you think I should remember you?
How do you hope history remembers you?
What is your greatest accomplishment?
What is your greatest flaw or weakness?

Student Assignment Details:

Tell students “You have been assigned a [Progressive or Industrialist whatever topic of your choice!] from the list below for speed networking. There are several parts to this assignment.

  1. Create a resume (2 copies) For each person, you will create a detailed resume (bring 2 copies!) Each resume should clearly indicate that you researched the person thoroughly. A sample format can be found below.
  2. Create a business card (8 copies)– This is an abridged version of your resume as a short business card for each speed dater to keep.
  3. Create a Name Tent for your desk
  4. Bring a glue stick or mini stapler with you so you can tape the business cards on as you move along.”

Here are some ideas I have used in US history:

Some US history Topics Ideas with characters and ideas:

The Early Presidents –  Of course teach students this mnemonic to remember all of them when you’re done (Try a Mnemonic…) Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Quincy Adams, Jackson & Van Buren

The Gilded Age – JP Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Frederick Taylor, Mary Harris Jones, Rutherford B. Hayes,William “Boss” Tweed

The Progressives – Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir, Alice Paul, Booker T. Washington,   Horatio Alger, Ida Tarbell, Jacob Riis, Louis Brandeis

The Roaring 20s – Invite students to your Speakeasy classroom. The atmosphere should be “isolationist”.  Have students dress up as flappers and gangsters and discuss Model T Car, Radio, Jazz Music, Literature, Harlem Renaissance Painting. Characters include Warren G. Harding, F. Scott Fitzgerald & Zelda Fitzgerald, Henry Ford, Margaret Sanger, Zora Neale Hurston, Babe Ruth, Marcus Garvey, Eugene V. Debs

The 1950s – Students should discuss ideas like the Washing Machine, the Levittown homes, credit cards and TV. Characters include John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower, Elvis Preseley, William Leavitt, Richard Nixon, Nikita Khrushchev, Housewife, Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, Doris Day

Some Global History Ideas:

This can be done with almost any unit. For example the Classical civilizations students would be a character from every civilization – Greek, Roman, Han & Qin Dynasty, Maura Empire, Gupta etc).

English Class Ideas:
Any characters in a book can meet each other. Pick 8 characters once you are done reading the book. Give students topics to discuss as those characters.

Modification for Primary/ Middle School or High Schools with Short (35-40 minute class time):

8 characters that you rotate down the networking line.

Modification for High Schools with Longer periods (45- an hour and a half class time):

a different character for each student (so if you have 34 students, 34 characters).

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt

Objective: Looking to connect with other like minded individuals for future gatherings. Open to any job leads in the consulting world.

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt
1800 – Muckraker
Contact me for a Square Deal!







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