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By providing middle schoolers a chance to walk in someone else’s shoes, teachers can help students develop empathy—and a stronger connection to content.

Books offer the opportunity to step into someone else’s world, and middle school ELA teacher Jennifer Montgomery’s seventh-grade class did just that during their book study of Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water (https://lindasuepark.com/books/books-novels/long_walk/). In a Socratic seminar, students discussed how the author builds empathy for the characters, whose lives are playing out during two different time periods in Sudan. But to bring the book's themes to life for her classroom in Eminence, Kentucky, Jennifer had her middle schoolers do their own walk—traveling a mile while carrying a jug filled with water. In the discussion that followed, students shared their own reflections and insights, emerging from this exploration with a stronger sense of empathy—and a solid experience of perspective-taking that will stick with them for years to come.

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