Tag Archives: high school

Using creativity in activities and communication at North Regional Library

This week at North Regional Library, students did the new activity Marketing a New (Old) Product, where they had to create a new consumer product based on an object in the room that I selected for them. But there was a catch– their product’s function could not be the actual function of the object! In other words, if I gave the group a pencil as their object, the function of the consumer product could not be to write. Therefore, students had to get very creative with their objects, in order to create a brand new function for them!

In our group, the students who participated worked very well together. They did a wonderful job of bouncing ideas off of one another and using their time very effectively. They were also natural public speakers– they did not even need to rehearse or write down their commercial, and they were even able to improvise new, func aspects of the commercials by themselves. They were completely in sync as well, improvising and adding features of their commercial together. Here’s an insight into how these students tackled the activity:

The students were given three different objects one at a time, and the third time around, there was a little twist on their instructions. Their first object was a styrofoam cup. The students created a product that could be decorated and customized. Their product was one where you could carry cereal around, and use with heated water as a foot bath (how creative!). The students came up with a commercial that highlighted all the important features of this object, including that it won’t break when you drop it, and that it is environmentally friendly and reusable. It was nice to see them comparing this function to other things, in order to emphasize why their product was unique/better (such as saying it won’t break when you drop it.)

The students’ second object was a pair of children’s fairy wings in the classroom (probably for Halloween). The students stuck with a theme of decoration, highlighting that these wings could be things children use to decorate. However, this was only an addition to the function of their product, which was to actually make children fly! They made their product include moving sensors to make the wings move along with a person’s hand motions, and included a metal portion of the wings to be heavy enough to lift a child up. It was very interesting to see their take on this product, since they were able to take the actual function to a new level by making this a product that could make children actually fly. I also didn’t even know about the motion sensor thing, so it was very interesting to see the students pull from other objects they had seen about on tv.

The third object for the students was a hairbrush. The students were getting very good at this activity, so now it was time to add the twist. This time, only one of the students could talk/write, and the other student could not use their words or write. The students were very good at communicating with each other, so I wanted to see how this would play out if students were not able to communicate in conventional ways. I made the person who was originally writing down the ideas unable to write or verbally communicate, and she had to result to acting things out and using hand gestures to get her ideas across. I could automatically see a difference in communication when this came into play. At first, the students found it hard to get on the same page, with them both expressing different ideas. But then, the person who was able to talk began guessing instead of just assuming what the non-verbal communicator was saying, and this create a much more positive dialogue, with both of the students making sure they were on the same page with their ideas. The non-verbal communicator did a great job of acting out sequences to think of the product ideas, and also pointing to me to emphasize other features of the product. Interestingly enough, the non-verbal communicator was the one who came up with the overall idea, and the student who could talk was confirming these ideas through her use of words. I think this had to do with the fact that the student who was talking had to spend extra time to make sure she was correctly understanding the non-verbal communicator’s actions, and this took up extra time and effort. But once I asked them to review what they had so far, the student who could talk began adding important features as well. Once it was time for the presentation (where both students could talk again), it was clear that they were indeed on the same page about their idea. Their hairbrush would shoot moisturizing agent out to help with dry or brittle hair, or would also be in a hair store to provide wigs for people.

Although we did not have time for the reflection period, I was very impressed with the communication I saw in the group. Both of these students are very talented and creative. Of course, the twist in the third situation made things more difficult and maybe even shifted the dynamic a bit about how the students were coming up with the ideas, but the students were quickly able to adapt to this and find ways to constructively work together to get on the same page. If we had more time in our session, it would have been interesting to do one more product, but this time switching who was talking and who was not, so that we could see how the dynamic shifted again. I often enjoy adding this twist to activities, so that students can practice the idea of working with different types of people, or people who have different methods of communication. Especially in this situation, where the two students were already friends and knew they worked well together before we even started our session. Therefore, it was very interesting to see how this played out in this week’s session!

I am excited to continue working with these students, and seeing how their participation and reflections continue to impress me throughout the school year!

Leading in their own way at Southwest Regional Library

This week at Southwest Regional Library, we had some new students come to participate in our club. We are always happy to have new and returning students in our club and watch students conduct our activities while getting to know other members of our club. This week, students did the activity The Newest App, but did a website instead. Our former student was also there, but when she did the activity, she did it by herself, so it would be interesting to see how the dynamic was different as she redid the activity with other people.

An interesting thing happened in this session, which reinforced the mission and goals of Leaders UNITE. The first was as follows. While the students conducted the activity and worked together to create their own app, it was clear that all of the students were leaders in different ways, and contributed different things to the group. While going through our post-activity reflection, I spoke with the students about this aspect. One of the students took initiative, she was the one who came up with the app idea, and the person who quickly moved the discussion in a specific direction. It was clear that this student was creative and was serving as a leader, as she created the idea, wrote down everything for the group, and continued to pitch good ideas and reasoning to the group.

One of the other students began to speak up more as the activity continued. And while she was not the person who came up with the ideas, she was just as much of a leader in her own unique way. This student did not come up with the original app idea, but was continuously keeping ideas in check. She would ask, “What is the purpose of that?”, “Couldn’t we do it this was?”, and more questions that steered the website idea into something more concrete, practical, and useful. The dialogue that she added to the conversation was just as important, as it made sure the website the students create was sound, had necessary features, and that everything added to the idea made sense and was feasible. Without this person creating these questions and stopping points for the group, the website might not have ever become as specific or as practical as needed.

The other student, the student who had done this activity a few weeks ago by herself, also took on a very important role in the group in her own unique way. The students’ website idea was similar to Quizlet, but for a broader variety of subjects and with more features, such as a study break feature, combining words to make sentences feature, and more features for learning Language Arts. However, this student loved Khan Academy, and the features that that program had to offer. While the other two students didn’t know what Khan Academy was, this student took initiative to bring in ideas from that program to give the rest of her team ideas of how to broaden their website and include even more features. Again, although this might not have seemed like a stereotypical leadership role, this student was also serving as a leader by integrating other information to fill in holes in the website idea. It was also great to see this student work with others on this new website idea, which was very different than the one she had created when she did this activity on her own.

This day was a perfect example of what Leaders UNITE stands for and why I created the club in the first place. Everyone leads in different ways, and no one needs to be exactly one type of mold to be a leader. People can take on different roles in a group that are all equally important and contribute different things to the overall idea and group dynamic. And while these may manifest themselves differently in different people, the goal of the club is for students to discover how they lead, and then to become comfortable leading in their own unique way. I was proud to be able to reiterate this idea with students during our group reflection, and I was thrilled to be able to witness this taking place from an observer perspective. It is not bad to be the one who doesn’t come up with the idea. It is also not bad to be the one that does come up with the idea. The goal of the club is not say you can’t be the loudest person in the room, but instead that you don’t have to be. The idea of the club is to foster communication and teamwork while also taking into account people’s individual leadership skills. And while I will continue to work with this group on teamwork and different aspects of leadership, it was great to see them all take on their own unique, important leadership roles in a team.

Why Leaders UNITE?

Preface:

There are many different strategies for leadership development. Although each strategy has different methods, they all have a common goal- to create more effective leaders. So why should you use Leaders UNITE? What is so special about this program that should make you invest the time and effort in our program? In this article, we will explain Leaders UNITE methods and the reason for our madness.

Goals:

Leaders UNITE was founded to break two stereotypes: leadership is boring and only certain types of people can become leaders. To break the stereotype that leadership is boring, Leaders UNITE consists of multiple hands-on activities in which students can work in groups and foster their own creativity in fun, engaging ways. To break the stereotype that only certain types of people can become leaders, we incorporate assigned leaders, reflection time, and individualized meetings/activities. To give you a better idea of how these concepts work, let us break down some of these examples.

Hands-on activities:

What they are:

A full list of Leaders UNITE activities can be found on the “Activities” page, but the majority of the activities relate to public speaking, presenting in front of a group, creating curriculums in leadership, etc. Some of the activities can be done in different ways, for example, assigned leaders can be used in the process or restrictions can be placed on the students in order to foster creative development. Many of the activities are done in small groups, and they all require some sort of presentation at the end of the session.

Why they work:

First, utilizing hands-on activities allows students to put themselves in a group environment and in scenarios that mimic real life. Then, when students get put in real-life situations that involve leadership, they will already be in the habit of using their leadership abilities from this hands-on activities. Also, hands-on activities allow teachers and facilitators to directly see the students’ improvement in their leadership abilities without relying on papers or hear-says. Also, hands-on activities are a prime opportunity for students to interact with one another and also to signal out people’s individual leadership tendencies when they interact in a group environment.

Discussions:

What they are:

These are just regular, group discussion questions. Students speak about issues related to leadership development, leadership in a school environment, and leadership on a larger scale. Many of the discussions start off broad and move into more focused, in depth topics related to leadership, personal biases, and beliefs. Everyone is encouraged to participate. The discussions at the beginning of the year are more focused around beliefs and leadership as a whole. Then, they move into leadership hierarchies, leadership in a group environment, and different roles of individuals within the group. However, the majority of the discussions centralize around leadership in the classroom, how certain aspects can hinder/help individuals, and how to improve this aspect.

Why they work:

The discussions allow people to discover their own beliefs and to stand by them. This is an integral part of leadership development which allows people to allow discover their tendencies as leaders. Also, students are more likely to speak out when there are general questions about beliefs or other topics that they have general knowledge and opinions about. Going from individual leadership to group leadership to classroom leadership allows students to develop a strong framework about their own leadership tendencies and the “ideal” methods of leadership before applying this knowledge to the classroom. Also, discussions help others, including teachers, develop an understanding of the way individuals think and what they believe with regards to leadership.

Show and Learn:

What it is:

Show and Learn allows students to demonstrate their creative abilities. This year-long activity allows students to present one of their talents to the group and then teach the group a short routine related to their talent. Examples include singing for the group and then teaching the class some basics about singing, dancing and then teaching the students a basic dance, reading poetry and then walking students through writing a poem, etc. It does not matter what your talent is; we want a variety! Be creative and enjoy doing and teaching something you are passionate about.

Why it works:

This activity works well for two reasons: building confidence and working on communication skills. This activity helps students build confidence because they get to do something that they do confidence in. For example, some people are very timid in small group discussions, but they feel natural and confident while singing on stage. Giving those students the opportunity to sing and do something they feel comfortable doing, then they will begin to feel more comfortable with their group in general.

This activity also gives students the opportunity to work on their communication skills. Although it may be easy for a professional dancer to perform in front of a group, teaching others how to dance is completely different and requires a new way of thinking about dance. Also, it can be very difficult to explain and communicate information and instructions to other people. Giving students the opportunity to do so allows them to practice speaking to others and conveying information in different ways so they are able to understand the information. Sometimes, people are able to explain information in a way that makes sense to them, but it does not make sense to other people. In order to grow as a leader, speaker, and group member, you need to be able to  find different, effective ways of communicating information within a group so that everyone is able to understand the information.

Community Activities:

What they are:

There are many community activities, such as Compliment Cards, YAS (You are Special), and putting together programs at a local retirement home. While these are just few of the activities that students can partake in (a full list of preliminary suggestions can be found under the “Community Activities” page), all of them have common goals: to help others and to work together as a group. These activities can be done within the school community or also in the larger community. The number of people for each activity can also vary, and other people within the community are welcome to join.

Why they work:

Activities such as Compliment Cards and YAS are important because they foster encouragement within the group. Many students who go through this program may not be 100% confident about some aspects of their leadership, and it is always important for people to know that their talents are appreciated in the group. It is just as important for students to hear these positive words of encouragement from their fellow peers. While it is nice to let others know that their hard work is appreciated, it is also important to give others compliments in other aspects of their lives.

Community activities such as retirement home performances, food drives, etc. help students work on their planning skills. Giving the students complete freedom to organize when, where, and what activity will take place within the community is a prime opportunity for students to take charge and work towards a common goal. It also gives students a chance to work with one another outside of a school/Leaders UNITE environment. These also give students a perception of what occurs in their larger community.

The website:

What it is:

All of the information regarding the club is on the website. Everything is easy to access, and many branches of the club just get everything off of the website regarding discussions, activities, and other opportunities. Some useful pages involved are Activities, Discussions, Community Activities, etc.

Students are also encouraged to make a WordPress account so that they can comment on discussion posts and then discuss with students from other schools. Instructions to make an account are listed under FAQs and under the “How to make a WordPress account” on the Resources page.

Why it works:

The website allows students to have flexible schedules regarding the club. Different schools can work around their own schedules with regards to choosing activities and discussions that they feel are the most relevant to their students’ leadership development. This allows teachers to merge Leaders UNITE into some of their other leadership-related programs at school or within the community.

 

Making a WordPress account and communicating with other schools gives students exposure to various school systems and various approaches to leadership. Different schools have different approaches to leadership development, and it is always beneficial to gain knowledge about other schools’ programs. Also, discussing with other students, brings about new perspectives and opinions. It gives students a big-picture idea and exposes them to experiences they have not previously discovered.

Leaders UNITE Conference- February 27th

We are proud to announce that our first Leaders UNITE conference will be held on Friday February 27th from 9:30am-3:00pm. It will be in the Cary Academy lecture hall and will include schools with and without Leaders UNITE branches. The meeting will consist of three discussions, three activities from the website, and a few shorter tasks. The focus will be on what it means to be a leader, good vs. bad leadership from an external perspective, and how classroom setting helps and/or hinders leadership development. We will also work on a model of the perfect school environment for leadership development.

Please comment or contact me if you are interested in attending as an administrator or student! Lunch and transportation will be provided.

How to Start Leaders UNITE at Your School

Steps to starting the club:

1. Get a teacher or faculty sponsor to help with the club.

2. Look at the page “2014-2015 Schedule” and read it down each column for a list of activities and discussions.

  • If you have a limited amount of club time, you can pick any activities and discussion prompts as long as you
  • Use all of the activities in bold font
  • Pick a few activities/discussion prompts from each of the 5 categories (UNITE)

3. Send an email to leadersuniteclub@gmail.com so you can be on the email list for club-wide volunteer opportunities and conferences!

4. Create a wordpress account (instructions on “FAQs” page) to connect with other schools and comment on discussion posts.

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A Typical Leaders UNITE Club Meeting:

A Leaders UNITE club meeting could be run in any of the following ways:

Activities and Discussion

  • Starting with a short discussion prompt and spring-boarding into a similar activity (you could also end with a follow-up discussion

Long discussion

  • You could do one huge discussion for the whole club time (you can start with a given prompt, but feel free to venture into other, connected topics of discussion

Volunteer Opportunity

  • You could work on a volunteer project during club time (see some ideas under the “Community Activities” page)

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Notes:

  • This club does not involve any fees, so no need to worry about paying!
  • You will need some paper and pencils, so be sure to keep these handy. Contact leadersuniteclub@gmail.com if you need any assistance in purchasing these items.
  • This club can be done during school time, but if you school does not have club time, feel free to do this club before school or during after school hours.
  • All of the activities and discussions on the schedule are written in ” ” because they correspond to the names of posts under the “Activities” and “Discussion Questions” pages on the website!
  • Feel free to comment on any of the discussion posts, and start a discussion between you and other members of the club!