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THE SECRETS AND LEARNING CHALLENGES OF DYSLEXIA

If you have no idea what something looks like, you probably wouldn’t recognize it even if it was right there in front of you. You might not even notice it, right? But, if somehow it does attract your attention, you’d probably identify it as something you’re already familiar with, or try to explain it with what’s already known to you. We want an explanation for why things exist, even if that means inventing one!

Now, imagine – You see a “normal”, bright kid struggling with such a simple thing as reading.
How can that be?

If you have never heard of dyslexia, you might be tempted to call this kid “lazy”, “stubborn” or “not as bright as you thought they were”. You might think that the parents are being too soft and need to push the child to do better in school.

So, what is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. When you have dyslexia, your brain needs more time and energy for some of the processes many would say come “naturally” or “automatically”. Matching the letters on a page with the sounds that those letters and combinations of letters make is one of those things. People who have dyslexia experience difficulties with skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words.

Who said reading was easy?

Nobody is born with the ability to read. (Obviously!) It is an activity that requires a lot from our brain, which needs to be able to focus on the letters, put them into words, then the words into sentences, and link the sentences into paragraphs so that we can read them –  and only then, understand the content of what we’re reading. So, when you see the letters D, O, G connected, your brain needs to pick up the letters, connect those letters to specific sounds and then read the word “dog” and also comprehend that the word on the paper is a symbol for a cheerful, four-legged animal that loves playing “fetch” with you.

So – reading is NOT easy, even though many think it is.

What causes dyslexia?

We’re still trying to figure out what’s actually going on in the brain. Anatomical and brain imaging studies show differences in the development and functioning of the brain in a person with dyslexia. What we know for sure is that most people with dyslexia have problems with identifying the separate speech sounds within a word. Understanding how the letters represent speech sounds seems to be the key factor in reading difficulties. What’s important to know is that this learning disability has nothing to do with how intelligent you are.

What are the risk factors for dyslexia?

People with dyslexia have, in many cases, experienced difficulties with learning to speak, difficulties with differentiating the sounds in speech, difficulties in learning letters, organizing spoken language, memorizing words, etc.
Also, the parents of dyslexic students tend to report delays in reaching common milestones of childhood, such as learning to crawl or walk or ride a bike.

What are the typical signs of dyslexia?

Depending on the age, dyslexia can be spotted through a variety of signs.
We’ll outline some of the most common ones.

PRESCHOOL

  • Difficulty learning new words
  • Difficulty guessing a word based on its description
  • Difficulty recognizing whether two words rhyme
  • Difficulty in pronunciation of familiar words
  • Difficulty sounding out unfamiliar words
  • Difficulty remembering multi-step instructions
  • Difficulty remembering the order in which things appear in a story
  • Difficulty structuring the answer about how the day went or how something happened
  • A child does not use as many words as peers do
  • A child tends to mix up words that sound familiar
  • A child tends to struggle to organize a story chronologically

GRADE SCHOOL

  • Difficulty learning letters (and writing them)
  • Difficulty differentiating similar letters both in writing and reading (like b and d)
  • Difficulty recognizing which letters produce which sound
  • Stalling while reading; guessing a word based on the first two letters
  • Difficulty isolating the middle sound of a word
  • Difficulty recognizing the spelling of a word
  • The student quickly forgets how to spell the words he reads
  • Struggles with word problems in math
  • Difficulty remembering the key elements of a story
  • The student focuses so much on the reading itself that he fails to remember and comprehend what he has read

MIDDLE SCHOOL

  • Makes a lot of spelling errors
  • Avoids all assignments that require reading
  • Takes a lot of time to finish homework that requires reading
  • Gets nervous while reading
  • The student reads at a lower academic level than they speak
  • The student tends to re-read sentences to be able to comprehend them
  • The student tends to forget what he has read
  • When reading, the student often makes pauses with “um” or filler words

There’s more to dyslexia than you’d think

Not being able to read and write at the same level as your peers can significantly affect how you see yourself. The peer group tends to mock the student who isn’t able to do things they do with ease. That is why it is extremely important to pay attention to how the student is feeling and how he sees himself.

The students with dyslexia tend to think “out of the box”. They are creative and innovative.
These are the strengths that any person working with a student with dyslexia should capitalize on.

What to do if you suspect that your child has dyslexia

  1. Consult with the experts – speech therapists and psychologists. They will do all the necessary testing to see whether the student has dyslexia.
  2. If it turns out that your student does have dyslexia, do not despair. There are many successful people who have this diagnosis. With proper treatment, you can help your child succeed in school. Just make sure you contact professionals on time.

Coaches and Tutors at Nobel Coaching and Tutoring are trained to work with a student with these difficulties (dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia). Together, we map all of the areas of improvement that we can work on and help your student succeed. Contact Us!

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WHY DO THE ARTS MATTER?

Things children and parents alike can learn from art

Enjoying art for art’s sake is a noble goal we should all aim for, as it unquestionably enriches our lives. But in a world where time spent on art can be viewed as time better spent on something “more useful”, it can’t hurt to remind ourselves what art actually does for us. Most parents and children invest their every waking moment in learning more, on extracurricular activities, and improving their chances of getting into the school they want. Meanwhile, art pursuits often get left behind even though they, too, can promote the skills necessary for academic and life success. This article reminds us of the ways the Arts enhance our learning and enrich our lives.

The Arts make us more creative

It is impossible to overstate the benefits the Arts bring to our creativity and divergent thinking [8]. As we express ourselves through various art forms or observe the art of others, we come to understand that being creative isn’t exclusively confined to the world of art itself. Rather, it enables us to see the larger world through different eyes and teaches us how to be creative and innovative in many fields not necessarily having anything to do with the Arts themselves [3].

Enjoying the Arts “makes us smarter”

Art, like science, is a broad term with many interpretations, but most art can teach us something about aesthetic perception and taste [1]. This isn’t where the magic ends, though. How many times have you heard that you need to read a lot in order to be well spoken or be a good writer? Literature is art and enhances our vocabulary and language skills [4].

However, it is not only literature and reading that can improve our skills and widen our knowledge. When children draw, paint, or play with clay, they are not only creating their own art, but they’re learning about the world and at the same time developing their cognitive skills by going through the oh-so-hard decision process of which color to choose, planning how their drawing will look, tweaking and experimenting. In other words, art gives children a chance to make decisions and learn from them [6].

The Arts teach us how to be human

While nothing can really prepare us for a living except actually living and learning along the way, the Arts offer us an invaluable window into the human experience and can teach us how it is to live on this planet for different people from different places. It also shows us our similarities and differences and helps us empathize with others. For instance, Maya Angelou’s autobiographical “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”, though written in 1969 and relates events that happened in the ‘30s and ‘40s, still manages to teach us a great deal about racism and how to overcome it, and gives us a different perspective on coming of age as an African-American girl in the United States back then. Similarly, paintings can show us a lot about how some people live and what is important to them, and also help us understand the way they perceive reality.

This insight into the lives of different people helps with our social skills, but there are other ways the Arts can nurture these skills. Many artistic endeavors, such as different types of dramatic performance or large-format paintings, can be created by groups or with one partner, thus teaching the participants how to be cooperative, helping, and caring and how to share with others [5].

The Arts help us master our emotions and feel better about ourselves.

Expressing and regulating our emotions is essential to our everyday life, but a lot of us experience difficulties with one or both of these. Art is there to help when things are too complicated to verbalize. This is often the case for children, so it is especially beneficial for them to have access to art and to feel free to draw things the way they
want. It can be instructive to give a child a piece of paper when they are upset or unusually quiet since many things can be revealed through their art. There is usually some meaning behind a child exaggerating something in a drawing, not paying attention to something else at all [3] or simply using dark colors.

Art is also used in therapy to help people with a wide range of problems and has been shown to have beneficial effects on emotion regulation [2] and attitude, and in improving self-image [7].

Additionally, specific activities like drama and dance can be great confidence builders [5] and help with stage fright. Just participating in the realm of art teaches us perseverance and focus, as art requires practice and a high level of concentration [9].

Nurturing your child in his/her artistic endeavors and also enjoying participating in the Arts yourself, mindful of their benefits or even just for their own sake, is definitely worth your time. Not only will they enrich your lives, but they will make your child and you better human beings in every way possible.

REFERENCES:

  1. Arslan, A. A. (2014). A Study into the Effects of Art Education on Children at the Socialisation Process. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 116, 4114-4118. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.01.900
  2. Brown, E. D., & Sax, K. L. (2013). Arts enrichment and preschool emotions for low-income children at risk. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(2), 337-346. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2012.08.002
  3. Extension (August 31, 2015). Creative Art Helps Children Develop across Many Domains.
  4. Klein, O., Biedinger, N., & Becker, B. (2014). The effect of reading aloud daily—Differential effects of reading to native-born German and Turkish-origin immigrant children. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 38, 43-56. doi:10.1016/j.rssm.2014.06.001
  5. National Endowment for the Arts (2015). The Arts in Early Childhood: Social and Emotional Benefits of Arts Participation.
  6. PennState Extension (February 6, 2014). Art – An opportunity to develop children’s skills.
  7. Schweizer, C., Knorth, E. J., & Spreen, M. (2014). Art therapy with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A review of clinical case descriptions on ‘what works’. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 41(5), 577-593. doi:10.1016/j.aip.2014.10.009
  8. Sowden, P. T., Clements, L., Redlich, C., & Lewis, C. (2015). Improvisation facilitates divergent thinking and creativity: Realizing a benefit of primary school arts education. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 9(2), 128-138. doi:10.1037/aca0000018
  9. Strauss, V. (January 22, 2013). Top 10 skills children can learn from the arts.

By Anja Anđelković

4 SOCIAL/EMOTIONAL SKILLS YOU CAN EASILY PRACTICE WITH TEENS

Whether you are a parent or work directly with teens, here you can read about some concrete social/emotional skills and useful activities that can help teens practice them. We will cover basic information about Listening skills, Assertiveness, Emotional awareness, and Nonverbal communication.

Why practice social/emotional skills?

Whether we call them soft skills, social/emotional skills, social/emotional intelligence or growth mindset, there is a consensus among researchers and practitioners that we need certain abilities to achieve our fullest potential at school, in our professional careers, and in our private lives. These abilities help us recognize and manage our emotions, cope with obstacles and life challenges, and enhance communication skills and good interpersonal relations (including empathy).

According to an analysis of longitudinal studies in nine OECD countries published in Skills for Social Progress: The Power of Social and Emotional Skills by OECD in 2015:

“Children’s capacity to achieve goals, work effectively with others and manage emotions will be essential to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

Besides acknowledging the importance of social/emotional skills such as perseverance, sociability, and self-esteem, the report discusses how policy-makers, schools, and families facilitate the development of social/emotional skills through intervention programs, teaching, and parenting practices.

All these abilities are interrelated and their development starts at home and continues throughout the school years. If parents and important adults show a high level of social/emotional maturity, it will be easier for kids to acquire these abilities simply by modeling their behavior.

However, it is always useful when children and teens have a chance to practice social/emotional skills under the guidance of experienced adults. The best case scenario is when programs for enhancing social/emotional skills are an integral part of an educational system and a local community’s initiatives.

Below, we will look at some important social/emotional skills and suggest simple activities for practicing them, adjusted to teens.

1. Social communication skill – Listening

Being able to hear what people are really saying is a valuable communication skill that has a major impact on the quality of our relations with others. You’ve probably already heard about Active Listening, a skill that allows us to hear not only the words people are saying but also the emotions they are reflecting through their nonverbal behavior. Both are important in understanding the whole message being communicated.

This is a complex skill that can be practiced. In the following activity, the focus is on practicing concentration; listening to the verbal message with undivided attention. You can practice this activity with a group of teens in your home, in the classroom or in a workshop.

Instruction

Firstly, ask all the participants to sit in a circle. The first person starts to tell a story (whatever he/she wants). After 3-5 sentences, say “stop” and randomly choose another participant to continue. This person now has to repeat the last sentence said and then continue making up the story. If he cannot correctly repeat the last sentence after five seconds, he is disqualified. The game continues with the same rules and the winner is the last person remaining after everybody else is disqualified.

This is the competitive version of the game. However, you can make up your own version, without disqualifications or adding new elements that you find useful.

Have a discussion

Ask participants to reflect on the game. When and how was their attention distracted? What helped them concentrate and remember the previous sentence? Check out our forthcoming online training Let’s Make a Deal – active listening is one of the objectives!

2. Social communication skill – Assertiveness

Assertiveness, as a style of communication, is characterized by the ability to directly and confidently express our genuine opinion, feelings, or attitudes, such that the rights of others and social circumstances are respected.

It is proven that assertiveness affects our self-esteem and self-confidence, so there’s no doubt that practicing assertiveness is useful for teens. It is a complex skill that can be acquired through a training program led by a trained coach/therapist. However, some aspects of assertiveness can be practiced through simple exercises at home and in a school setting.

Maybe the most important point is to assure teens that it’s okay to claim their rights and to ask, to initiate, to express their opinions and feelings. That it’s okay to say NO to other people in a respectful way.

In this exercise, the focus will be on encouraging teens to initiate a conversation in which they will ask something of others and express their opinion or feelings. It can be practiced as social challenges given to teens either by their parents or teachers.

Instruction

Firstly, a list of social challenges is created, taking into consideration a teen’s age or social needs. Challenges can be written down/printed on separate cards. If given consent to take part in the challenge, a teen takes a random card and his task is to do what is required on the card in the next 24 hours or over several days, as you jointly arrange.

Challenges can be practiced once a week or according to whatever schedule you agree upon.

Examples of social challenges:

  • Give an honest compliment to someone.
  • Learn two new things about somebody from your class.
  • Share with a friend what’s been on your mind lately.
  • Call customer service at your favorite store and ask for information about some product you like.
  • Tell your best friend what you like about him/her.
  • Ask a teacher (or a coach) for clarification of a task you didn’t understand completely.

Have a discussion

After the task is accomplished, it’s important to discuss with the teen how the particular challenge made him feel. Did he find it easy, hard, awkward, or something else? What could be alternative ways to ask, to express? How did others react?
The inspiration for this activity is taken and adjusted from the Speech Bubble SLP.

3. Emotional skill – Emotional self-awareness

We have already written about self-awareness as the basic ability to understand our own inner processes and to relate adequately with others. Emotional awareness, in this context the ability to recognize our own feelings, is the foundation of emotional intelligence.

Besides helping us be aware of our emotions, these skills are important for developing emotional intelligence, according to Daniel Goleman and his bestselling book Emotional Intelligence. Understanding why we feel a certain way and knowing how to handle these feelings, including self-motivation; the ability to recognize the feelings of others (empathy) and to motivate them – these skills are crucial to success and happiness in every aspect of our lives and in our relationships with others.

In the following activity, the focus is on getting in touch with eight emotions a teen chooses, raising awareness of how a particular emotion manifests itself, and how it affects the teen’s life. It is based on art therapy principles and is performed individually. However, it can be practiced in groups, too. You need a white paper and colored markers.

Instruction

Firstly, ask a teen to draw a circle and divide it into eight pies. Then, ask him/her to dedicate each pie to one emotion and fill in each pie with a corresponding color or images that match his/her idea of what the emotion means to him/her. It may be that a teen has a problem coming up with eight emotions. You can assist him but never choose instead of him. Don’t push if he can’t come up with eight. Work with whatever he manages to present.

Have a discussion

After the teen is done with the drawing, initiate a dialogue. You may find these questions useful: What does each image mean to you? What made you choose those particular colors? When in your life do you experience this emotion? What emotion is dominant for you nowadays? What emotion is the hardest to handle? And so on.

If a teen has a problem in coming up with emotions, you can use Plutchik’s wheel of emotion to help him recognize emotions he would like to work on.

emotions in teens

 

This exercise is taken and adjusted from the Art therapy directives BlogSpot.

4. Social/emotional skills – Understanding nonverbal communication

Good understanding of nonverbal communication is a sign of social and emotional intelligence.

The ability to observe and understand nonverbal signs during communication, or any other interaction between people, gives us tremendous information about the real message being communicated. It is especially important when we notice that the verbal message and nonverbal behavior are not harmonized. It also gives us a clue about the motives of the person we are communicating with or their emotional state.

Besides what is said, it is always important to follow HOW it is said. Basic nonverbal aspects of human behavior to be aware of include eye contact, the tone of voice, facial expression, gestures, personal distance, body language, and posture.

The following activity, based on acting and improvisation methodology, focuses on recognizing the emotional state of participants exposed to simulated social situations, through observing only their nonverbal behavior. A group is needed for this activity.

Instruction

Ask a volunteer from the group to leave the room. Separate instructions are given to him/her and to the group, who stays in the room in order to prepare for the final scene. While the volunteer is outside, each individual in the group has to choose one emotion and must express this emotion only through nonverbal behavior (acting). Remind them of the different aspects of nonverbal communication.

Meanwhile, the volunteer outside is given the task of coming up with several social situations familiar to teens such as: in class; during family dinner; on a date; at a birthday party; working on homework, etc.

Finally, when the volunteer is back to the room, he sets the scene: You’re in class (for example). All members of the group act as if they are in the classroom, including expressing their chosen emotional state nonverbally. They can use their voice but only in the form of inarticulate sounds. The volunteer observes their behavior and tries to guess how they feel. If he is confused, he can put them in another social situation (or only for fun:). The game can be repeated several times with different volunteers, emotions to guess, and social situations.

Have a discussion

After it is revealed which emotion has been presented by each member of the group, a discussion follows. You may find these questions useful: What are the main nonverbal indicators of this emotion? How did you feel while acting? Did anybody have difficulties acting in the scenes (why)? What do you usually do when you feel (this particular emotion)? What do you usually do when you recognize somebody acting like this? Was there something confusing and what? – A question to the volunteer.

Depending on available time and the goal of your group work you can go even deeper into a conversation about particular emotions. If you are interested in activities useful for teen’s emotional development, you may like this article.

If you need any kind of advice related to the social/emotional development of your teen children, you’ve come to the right place! Schedule an appointment with our coach.

by Milena Ćuk,

Assertiveness Coach and Integrative Art Therapist-in-training

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THE BENEFITS OF ONLINE LEARNING

Learning online is no longer a novelty and more and more students are opting to take online courses every day. The world’s top universities and colleges now offer online courses and it was recently noted that “The future of higher education lies with it.” (Tom Snyder, Huffington).

The popularity of online learning lies principally in its flexibility. Students do not have to be physically in a classroom but can learn remotely and frequently at their own pace. Naturally, this approach may present challenges. While learning online, students must also learn to prioritize their commitments. Good time-management and organization skills are essential for it to be effective, but those are skills which can be improved upon, and that usually do improve, along with self-discipline and responsibility, as students progress through their online courses.

Online learning can also help busy professionals get additional training and keep abreast of advances in their fields of expertise as they continue to work at their jobs.

Another great advantage of online learning is coverage. There will never be as many spots in universities as students who want to enroll in them, but with online courses, educators can reach many more students than would be possible in the traditional classroom. Moreover, everyone receives the same training, communicated in the same way to everyone participating in the course.

It is often thought that with flexibility comes a more laissez-faire approach to learning; that online courses aren’t as “serious” as more traditional ones, and that students simply can’t learn as much as they would if they were sitting in a classroom with a teacher in front of them. If you’ve ever taken an online course you’re probably aware that this criticism is unfounded. Many online courses make greater demands on students and assign more reading material than traditional ones in order to ensure students stay engaged and always have something to work on.

Online courses are designed so as to keep engagement high and help students retain the material taught in them longer. This is usually achieved through the use of media inherent in this type of learning, and also with gamification. Online teachers often find ways to make the course fun and more similar to a game than to what we usually think of when we imagine learning.

Last but not least, online learning usually means time and money savings. Students who opt for this type of learning remove the need for travel and its attendant costs. It reduces or eliminates time away from the workplace and opens a pathway to lifelong learning.

And let’s not forget our planet. The fact that we can now learn without dozens of handouts and paper-based materials does the environment a great favor that we shouldn’t take for granted.

IS ONLINE LEARNING FOR EVERYONE?

As with anything in education, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question as to whether you or your student should try online learning. It is designed on the assumption that the student has some interest in the subject already and will be motivated to learn more. It also requires instructors familiar with this approach who know how to engage students and present the material in an original way, tailored for the online environment. But it is definitely worth a try. The benefits are great and any drawbacks can be overcome if dealt with in a timely fashion and with solid support. We will offer just that this summer to all students interested in online learning, combined with the great project-based learning approach in our new program Nobel Explorers. It is worth checking out if you are interested in providing your child with a summer full of learning and fun.

by Anja Anđelković

5 TEAM-BUILDING ACTIVITIES FOR TEENS TO BUILD TRUST AND COOPERATION

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is a success.” – Henry Ford

In this article, you will find several team-building activities useful in developing closeness, trust, cooperation, and team spirit among teens. Besides being applicable in the classroom and teen workshops, some of these activities can be enjoyed at parties, with friends, or during family gatherings. And all of them can be initiated and led by teens, not only by adult tutors or teachers.

Teenagers have a particular need to be accepted, to belong to a peer group, to have their own crew, and to explore the world together with friends and have fun. Yet many of them feel isolated and lonely and find an illusion of consolation in virtual social networks, which can never replace the joys of real interaction.

That is why we’re proposing several team-building activities, varying from simple games to more complex assignments, that can serve to draw teens closer to one another by encouraging interaction to develop trust and cooperation, letting them experience interdependency through working together to foster a team spirit – all preconditions for successful teamwork.

These activities require a leader to initiate an activity, whether this is a teen or an adult.

Team-building activity No 1 – Let’s get to know each other from a different perspective

Want to make everyone comfortable and included at the party you organize? Why not suggest an icebreaking game where everyone would have the opportunity to speak up informally?

Prepare a list of questions. Be imaginative when inventing them – they should be questions that are interesting to you, too. For example:

  1. Who is your favorite superhero and why?
  2. If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
  3. If you were a wizard, what would be your superpower?
  4. If you had to describe yourself using only three words, they would be…
  5. What is your favorite band/movie/TV show/video game and why?

Prepare enough questions for everybody. Questions can be printed or written down on paper and then cut into slips – one slip, one question. Roll the question slips up and put them in a jar and your game is ready! Suggest the game to your guests – each one who participates takes one question from the jar.

This icebreaking game is useful for smaller groups (up to ten people). Besides being applicable in the classroom or in a workshop where people don’t know each other, it’s beneficial when the atmosphere at a social gathering is a bit awkward or low energy. Moreover, questions like these are amusing and helpful on dates, too!

Team-building activity No 2 – Karaoke performance

We all know that karaoke can be funny, but here we’re adding an extra team challenge! This activity is also good for larger groups, first divided into smaller ones consisting of at least three members.

The challenge for each team is to select a song (from YouTube or audio player) and create a performance around that song. Members of the team decide together on a concept for their particular performance, with each person taking their preferred role. Roles could be a singer, a drummer, a dancer, a backup vocalist, or even acting out the theme of the lyrics.

There are no rules regarding possible roles, just as long as each member has one. When the teams are ready, each team puts on their performance.

This activity is particularly useful in getting teens closer and helping them be spontaneous and stop worrying what others may think of them. Usually, there’s a lot of laughter and good energy during this activity. Make sure to send us photos if you try it!

Team-building activity No 3 – Dragon’s tower

This is a competitive game, great for developing team cooperation. The minimum number of people playing this game is six. You will also need a coordinator to lead the process. Participants are divided into teams consisting of three members. If performed with a large group of students, it’s advisable to create several teams, with the rest forming a watching and cheering audience.

First, the coordinator introduces the following story: Once upon a time there was a king who had N daughters/princesses (N – referring to the number of teams). Then a frightful dragon came and took away the king’s daughters and put them in his distant tower. The task of each team is to find their princess and get her back home.

Each team consists of the following three players: the Silent One (who is allowed to look, but isn’t allowed to talk), the Talker (who is only allowed to look at the Silent One’s pantomime, and is allowed to talk), and the Tracker (who is blindfolded and navigated by the Talker in his quest to find the princess).

The Coordinator picks princesses from a deck of cards and assigns one to each team. He then attaches the princess cards to the opposite wall. Only the Silent Ones from each team are allowed to see where the coordinator has placed their group’s princess. Talker and Tracker mustn’t see this.

All team members stand on one side of the room. The Silent One has an overview of the whole room. When the game begins, he uses pantomime to explain to the Talker, who is facing him, where their princess is located on the opposite wall. The Talker only sees the Silent One and his pantomime and tries to verbally navigate the Tracker, using the information he receives from the Silent One. The blindfolded Tracker then moves, and with help of his teammates, tries to find their princess and to get her back to his teammates successfully.

The winner is the team whose Tracker finds their princess and gets her back first. It is crucial that teammates play their roles well and cooperate in order to successfully finish the task. This is a hilarious game with a great atmosphere!

Team-building activity No 4 – Trust game

There are plenty of trust games and for this purpose, we’ve chosen the following one. It is good for a group of minimum five members.

Participants stand in the circle holding hands. One member stands in the center of the circle, blindfolded or just with their eyes shut. The one in the center has to walk around and explore the space, unseeing. He has to trust the group will guard him and protect him from harm. The group has the responsibility to “watch his back”- to take care of his safety.

All members should have both experiences – of being guarded by the group and guarding a teammate. The challenge is greater if there are several groups in the room, each group taking care of the one in the middle of their circle. There are variations of the game; for instance, a circle can be wider, using ten people and more, or the one in the middle can be dancing or running about, etc.

At the end, participants should be asked how they felt in both roles and what they can learn from this game.

Trust games like this one show how important interdependence is and that we can rely on our team members. Trust is essential for a good teamwork. Also, it teaches that a team must function as a single unit if wants to survive, with all members included and working together.

Team-building activity No 5 – Teens as researchers

Here we suggest an activity initiated by an adult (a teacher or a youth leader) working with teens to research and describe a concept. This activity can range from a very simple task to a real project. Also, it can give impetus to any creative and curious teen to start his own project with his friends.

Teens are divided into teams of three to five members. They are encouraged to imagine that they are researchers investigating some important social topic. If we assume there are four teams, four different topics would be offered and for each topic, a distinctive method of recording and presenting data. Teams are created taking into account students’ preferences and equal sizes of the teams.

For example, topics can be Love, Friendship, Youth culture, Local activism. Extra instruction can be given. If Love is the focus, you may want to find out what love actually is. How does love manifest itself in real life? Or if you research Friendship, you may want to seek out the definition of a good friend. What would a true friend never do?

In order to assist teams to investigate in their particular field, we suggest interview and observation as the main techniques for collecting information. They are encouraged to conduct research in their local environment: school, or community, and to ask real people for their opinion on the topic the team is investigating.

However, methods of recording and presenting data will vary. We suggest four methods for recording data: Video; Audio; Photos; Writing. One method is assigned to one topic. For example, a team working on the Love topic will use a video; a team working on Friendship will use written form, etc.

Depending on the complexity of the assignment, teams are given from several hours to several days to complete the task. Time is needed to jointly create research questions, conduct research on the ground and to conceptualize how to effectively present data using the chosen method. At the end, each team presents their final product with discussion to follow.

Being gathered around a common project is a great opportunity to experience real teamwork, among other benefits. For more about the benefits of project-based learning, read our previous article.

Teamwork is one of the key values here in Nobel Coaching. Check out our new engaging program Nobel Explorers where middle- and high-school students will work in small teams.

by Milena Ćuk, Life Coach and Integrative Art Therapist-in-training

THE MINDFUL STUDENT – BENEFITS OF THE MINDFULNESS PRACTICE

In the last couple of years, there has been a lot of hype around the term “mindfulness”. Everybody from yoga teachers to Silicon Valley engineers are talking about being mindful and practicing mindfulness. Of course, there are others who think all the hype is nonsense and that mindfulness is just another new-age fad. It’s easy to get lost in the many articles and videos discussing the term without actually realizing what it means, so let’s start with that: mindfulness is a form of meditation in which people learn how to be in the moment, or more precisely how to stay focused and acknowledge all their sensations and feelings without passing any judgment. This concept has roots in Buddhism [5] but nowadays is more frequently secular and, best of all, can be practiced by anyone, anywhere.

Why would we practice mindfulness?

In today’s world where we are all very busy all the time, it’s getting easier and easier to lose focus on the present and get caught up doing our daily tasks automatically, thinking only about what we should be doing next and thus missing out on valuable insights and experiences. Mindfulness can prevent this from happening and help us learn how to stay aware without getting too active or overwhelmed.

Lately, there has been a lot of research into the benefits of this practice and it is getting harder and harder for skeptics to dismiss it as yet another hoax. Aside from being available to everyone and not requiring anything other than some time and a lot of patience (since being in the moment without passing judgment is easier said than done), mindfulness has a positive impact on both our physical and mental health [7].

One of the most cited benefits of mindfulness is stress reduction, which has a positive effect on sleep patterns and the overall well-being of the practitioner. As we teach ourselves to stay present, we get to know ourselves better, our memory improves, we don’t have emotional outbursts, and we even get more satisfied with our relationships as we learn how to deal with stress effectively and to communicate our feelings to our partners [3].

Benefits of mindfulness to students

The case for mindful meditation is strong and it would be almost silly not to try it out after reading about all the benefits you can reap by practicing it. However, mindfulness can be specifically beneficial to students, and its practice has begun to be incorporated into schools to teach very young children how to stay mindful of their experience in the moment without judgment.

  • It is clear that learning how to stay focused is particularly useful for students as it can prevent daydreaming and procrastination, and helps students learn more effectively. Mindfulness has also be shown to be great for attention and is even used as a technique in the treatment of ADHD [1].
  • As it helps deal with stress, mindfulness is a great tool to relieve test anxiety many students experience and helps reduce stress levels related to school in general (http://www.mindfulschools.org/about-mindfulness/research/#reference-17).
  • The practice is also shown to be related to better grades, as it improves cognitive function and enhances our working memory [2]. It has even been shown that after a course of mindfulness practices, our prefrontal cortex thickens. This is the part of the brain responsible for high-order functions such as decision-making and awareness [6].
  • Last but not least, mindfulness has a great impact on students’ social skills. Through practice, students learn self-control and respect for others [5] and get better at solving interpersonal problems [4].

All in all, the potential benefits of mindfulness are far more persuasive than the opinions of a couple of skeptics and, as a practice that is relatively accessible and easy to introduce, it is a great tool of self-improvement for adults and their children alike. If you are interested in knowing more about it and going through mindfulness training as part of overcoming some learning difficulties, don’t hesitate to contact us.

by Anja Anđelković

References:

  1. Brancatisano, E. (October 24, 2016). The Benefits Of Bringing Mindfulness In To The Classroom.
  2. Chan, A. L. (August 4, 2013). Mindfulness Meditation Benefits: 20 Reasons Why It’s Good For Your Mental And Physical Health.
  3. Davis, D. M. & Hayes, J. A. (July/August 2012). What are the benefits of mindfulness? Monitor on Psychology, 43 (7), 64.
  4. Gouda, S., Luong, M. T., Schmidt, S., & Bauer, J. (2016). Students and Teachers Benefit from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in a School-Embedded Pilot Study.
  5. Holland, E. (Feb 16, 2015). Can ‘Mindfulness’ Help Students Do Better in School?
  6. Ireland, T. (June 12, 2014). What Does Mindfulness Meditation Do to Your Brain?
  7. Research on Mindfulness. Mindful Schools.
  8. Weare, K. (April 2012). Evidence for the Impact of Mindfulness on Children and Young People.
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6 Tips to Support Self-Awareness Development in Teens

by Milena Ćuk,

Life Coach and Integrative Art Therapist-in-training

“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”
― Lao Tzu

Research has shown that a high self-awareness score is a crucial predictor of overall success. Acclaimed psychologist Daniel Goleman points out that self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence and that mastery of emotional self-awareness is a key attribute of successful leaders

Why is self-awareness important for teens?

Who am I? What makes me special, a unique human being, different from others? What do I want from my life? Why do I feel like this? What made me react like this? These are just some of the questions adolescents ask themselves.

Answers to such questions build the foundation of a teen’s self-awareness. Practically speaking, being self-aware means we are able to understand our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, traits, and motivations and perceive how they affect our performance.

This skill develops naturally over time through experience and maturity. However, since  it is crucial in taking ownership of our lives and the direction we choose, we all need to foster it in ourselves and in our children.

There are a variety of practices and exercises to help you enhance self-awareness as you guide your child’s development, and we describe these below. Your teen doesn’t have to choose only one as they begin to discover which of these practices resonates the most with his/her unique being. Each can become a habit of daily routine, which is the best-case scenario.  And remember, it’s  good for all of us to be open to applying them in our own lives. Let’s not forget that we thrive together with our kids!

Time and space for self-reflection

We live in a busy world where speed and multitasking have become the norm. However, our brains haven’t evolved fast enough to catch up and process all the information and impressions inundating us daily. Sometimes (ideally each day) we need to slow down, pause,  be still, and be left quietly alone for self-reflection because this will ground us in reality.

This applies to your teen as well, especially after busy day or week. If your teen is more introverted, he prefers to spend time alone and you should respect his need. However, you might suggest that exploring and learning different ways to self-reflect could be beneficial for him. If your teen is more extroverted and doesn’t like being alone, you should teach him the advantages of slowing down and self-reflecting every now and then.

This could mean taking a walk outside or just sitting or lying down in your room and doing nothing. Though it may appear we’re doing nothing, we are consciously and subconsciously processing information and getting closer to our true selves.

You can simply offer a  gentle suggestion. For instance: “Honey, why don’t you go for a walk, write in your journal, or just spend some time processing this so you can figure out your true feelings and what you should do next.”

Keeping a journal

This is another form of self-reflection, but it is especially beneficial for teenagers.

Writing our thoughts down can help us explore what is going on in our minds – what we think, how we feel, what inspires or frightens us. Writing provides a sense of clarity especially for confusing and complex feelings we don’t yet understand.

For the emotionally loaded or conflicted experiences teens face as they grow, writing a journal is particularly useful since it provides a safe space for expressing their feelings, and there is a greater chance that creative solutions will emerge in the form of new decisions and actions.

If you had a diary of your own when you were young, you can share it to encourage your teen to start his own.  Journals can take many forms. Besides the classic diary, they can combine words with drawings or images if your teen is more visually inclined.

Mindfulness practices

Mindfulness practices develop full awareness in the here and now, promote non-judgmental observance and acceptance of our inner thoughts and feelings and help us release and overcome emotional pain. Watch this short movie to find out how mindfulness empowers us.

Inspired by the wisdom of the East, particularly the Buddhist tradition of meditation, Jon Kabat-Zinn was one of the first to introduce and adapt mindfulness practices to the Western world.

Due to its proven clinical effects on stress reduction, enhancement of self-awareness, inner balance and general well-being, a variety of mindfulness techniques has been developed for application in daily life and school programs.

You can find available mindfulness programs in your area or even find some guided online sessions and practice it together with your teens.

Emotional learning

Emotional awareness, understanding why we feel a certain way and knowing how to handle these feelings is crucial to success and happiness in every aspect of our lives.

Psychotherapist Claude Steiner defines this ability as “emotional literacy”. We learn how to manage our emotions, develop empathy for other people, repair emotional damage when we’ve done something wrong, and succeed in interacting with others effectively.

The importance of emotional awareness has brought emotional learning programs into schools and hopefully your children have already had the opportunity to develop this competency. If not, look for available lectures and workshops in your community that are oriented towards developing emotional awareness and literacy, either for youth or adults. Let’s not forget that as parents, we are pivots of our children’s emotional health and emotional learning, and personal development should always be a priority.

You can also check available online programs. Here you can find more about emotional literacy and even download a full book by Claude Steiner. In one of our previous articles, we wrote about how we can enhance teen’s emotional development through the use of movies.

Learning to have an accurate self-image

Self-image in teens can often be biased or fluid and they need to learn to evaluate their own strengths and limitations objectively. Constructive feedback, both positive and negative, is essential in learning this ability, which is part of self-awareness and development in general.

Foster an atmosphere in your family where providing honest feedback is natural both for you and your children. Here you can check some of the principles to deliver effective feedback.

Try this interesting exercise along with your teens from time to time. Each of you should write down three positive and three negative aspects of yourself. These can be your personality traits, habits, abilities or physical appearance. Then share and discuss what you all wrote down, suggesting how strengths can be used and limitations overcome.

Pay attention to how realistic your teen has been in his/her estimation. Has she written positive or negative first? Did she have problems listing positive or negative qualities? These indicators, if any, will be the basis for your further interventions.

The mind-body connection

Long a tradition in Eastern cultures and advocated widely by current holistic practitioners, mind-body awareness or the ability to “listen” to your body through sensory experiences can enhance the development of full self-awareness.

Besides yoga, there are numerous practices that can help us integrate mind-body experiences.  Some are spiritual in nature while others are more physical. Free dance practices with elements of improvisation, such as 5Rhythms, Open Floor or Authentic Movement, also referred to as “moving meditation”, are good examples. All these can help us focus on our inner selves,  become rooted and more fully present.

So if your teen is more inclined to work through his thoughts and emotions  through body/movement, seek out those activities and practices that best match his channels of communication with himself.

“Know thyself” – it was inscribed at the Delphi temple. This virtue was as valued in ancient times as it is today. Let’s help our kids acquire this wisdom and prepare them to be able to lead fulfilling lives.

Need additional support in helping your teen develop self-awareness? Don’t hesitate. We can help. Schedule an appointment with our coach.

References and useful links:

  1. Self-Awareness: The Foundation of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
  2. New Study Shows Nice Guys Finish First by Shari Lifland (American Management Foundation)
  3. How Mindfulness Empowers Us: An Animation Narrated by Sharon Salzberg
  4. Emotional Literacy: Intelligence with Heart by Claude Steiner (2003)
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USING MOVIES TO HELP ENHANCE YOUR TEEN’S EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT

by Milena Ćuk,

Life Coach and Integrative Art Therapist-in-training

Old civilizations had myths and stories to learn about the mysteries of life; we have movies.

Movies are an important part of youth culture and as such are recommended to parents, teachers, and counselors as valuable tools in addressing the emotional and social needs of teens. Moreover, videos and movies have proven particularly effective in working with gifted children and adolescents.

If you’d like to use movies as a bridge to talking about important life and developmental issues your teen is facing, you’ll find in this article how the strategy works, how you can guide the process, what questions you can ask, etc.  We’ll also show you how you can use the Harry Potter stories to address the emotion of fear.

Called video-therapy or cinematherapy by some authors, this strategy is similar to the more widely recognized approach known as bibliotherapy and actually, relies on its rationale and process. While reading a book or watching a movie, we initially experience identification, where we recognize similarities between ourselves and the characters in the story (in this case, a movie). Then comes catharsis, where we are touched by specific happenings in the movie and we react emotionally. Insight dawns when we realize that we’ve reacted emotionally because of a particular issue from our own life that we connected with the character or situation in the movie.

Frequently, we’re not aware of why we are so moved, and that is where talking about it later can help us gain insight and integrate this new understanding into our life experience. Reflection on the movie and conversation about it afterward can also help us explore our needs, desires, fears, inner conflicts, patterns, values, aspirations, etc. Moreover, it can help us learn new coping mechanisms which we can then apply in solving our current life challenges.

This is especially important for teens since apart from any inspiration or life lessons they might glean, certain movies can help reassure them they aren’t isolated and alone with their needs and problems.

There are two ways you can use movies to boost teens’ social and emotional development. You can ask about a movie that had a significant impact on them and you can choose a movie to watch together – one you consider to be particularly beneficial for their development.

ASKING ABOUT A MOVIE

This approach is helpful in gaining a better understanding of teens’ inner world – their self-image, current dilemmas, and general aspirations in life. Here are some examples of questions for opening a dialogue:

What is it about this movie that inspired you so much? What did you learn from the movie? These may be basic questions but the experience of listening to your teen’s responses and opinions can be enjoyable as well as instructive. That’s how I found out from my teen niece (15), a valuable assistant in writing these articles, why she’s so inspired by the movies Whiplash (2014) and Cyberbully (2011). She aspires to achieve excellence in what she is good at – the movie cautioned that this drive may sometimes come at a cost. Her second choice showed her how our activity on social networks can affect the lives of others, the pitfalls of trying to satisfy our emotional needs through the virtual world, and the importance of true friends and family support. Besides, I found out about some applications popular these days among teens that I haven’t heard of before, so I think I’m now fairly well up to speed!

In one of our previous articles, we offered practical suggestions to help parents tackle important life issues with their teens in informal, constructive ways (4 Ideas to Get Closer to Your Teen). Remember, don’t push and let the discussion take its natural course. However, if you notice that you’ve captured your teen’s attention, that he/she is thinking and is willing to continue and go deeper into the conversation, here are some aspects that you can explore:

Favorite character

Who is your favorite character? Why? Describe his/her personality and abilities. Do you find any similarities between this character and yourself? And differences? Does he/she have some traits or abilities that you would like to have, too? In which specific situations would you need these abilities? With these questions, you are opening a space to discuss your teen’s needs, troubles or aspirations and possibilities for development.

People/behaviors they don’t like

Are there some characters that you disliked? What was it about them that you didn’t like? Are there people in your circle who have similar characteristics? How do you feel when you interact with them?

Situations that provoke emotions

Was there some situation in the movie that provoked strong emotions? What was it about this situation that made you sad/angry/enlightened…? Strong emotions are always in play when we reflect on something truly important and valuable to us. If you’ve been able to get your teen to talk about it, your efforts have been successful. Use this experience wisely.

Follow-up activities

If your teen is open to role-playing, you can even use theater and improvisation techniques as follow-up activities. For instance, your teen needs more confidence in the classroom. Let him be a director and set up a scene that mirrors the real situation he wants to change. He can give roles to you, to other members of the family; even puppies, dolls, pillows, etc. Then, encourage him to imagine that he is like this chosen character, to take some of his abilities and to act, empowered, in the chosen scene. You can make variations together and have fun. Ask him how this acting made him feel and how he can apply it in a real situation. This tactic, especially when used with superheroes, has been extremely effective in the workshops for personal development that I run.

Of course, these are just examples of questions and follow-up activities for guiding a process of learning from a movie. You will use the ones appropriate for the given situation and your teen’s sensibility and readiness to participate.

CHOOSING A MOVIE: HARRY POTTER

The other way to use movies as a means of addressing the emotional needs of teens is for you yourself to select a movie which addresses particular themes or issues you consider significant for your teen’s development. Then, after watching the movie together, you can talk about it with each other, channeling the conversation to the themes most beneficial to your teen’s development.

Let’s take the example of the Harry Potter movies, as most of us are familiar with the story. With all due respect to those who value its original written form, the motion picture adaptations can serve this purpose effectively. There are plenty of themes important to teens elaborated in the story of Harry Potter: friendship, life challenges, loss, failure, danger (even encounters with evil), the school environment, relationship with authorities, competition, fighting for a greater cause, etc.

A particularly useful feature of the story lies in its exploration of the emotion of fear and more importantly, how one can handle it. This is always a timely topic, especially during adolescence with all its manifestations, such as low self-esteem, insecurity or anxiety.

Harry Potter embodies all the characteristics of the hero, one of which is his ability to plumb the deeper and darker chambers of his being and squarely confront his fear. How to find strength in difficult times when we are vulnerable is an important lesson in preparation for adulthood.

You can discuss with teens how Harry Potter and other characters reacted when faced with serious obstacles or dangerous, even evil creatures. When faced with danger, is their usual reaction more similar to Harry’s, Hermione’s, Ron’s, another character’s behavior, or some combination? Ask them to recall how fictional characters managed to handle dangerous creatures. What helped?

Of course, you should always try to connect insights from the movie to the life of your teen and how he/she can incorporate those lessons into his/her life. What is particularly useful is that the Harry Potter story offers concrete strategies for handling fear. Yes, I’m referring to the Patronus and Riddikulus charms. As the story goes, these charms can protect you from dark creatures such as Dementors and Boggarts, who are nothing more than personifications of our fears.

It is well known that a strong positive emotion, such as love, is an antidote to fear. Also, the presence of a trusted, loving person can calm the fear response. Seeking help from the spiritual realm, whatever our belief system, is invaluable, too. In a way, all these elements are contained in the Patronus charm, which works by evoking the happiest memory from one’s life and concentrating on it. Done correctly, this will create a positive force in the form of a sacred animal (totem), a spirit guardian, which will protect us from the scary Dementors. You can practice Expecto Patronum! with your teen so that each of you, using your imagination, can find a source of strength and support to help you fight the dark creatures of your life.

Similarly, the Riddikulus spell is also a beautiful metaphor for a technique that is sometimes employed in a therapeutic session – the gift of humor. Humor is a powerful tool in fighting fear. When we are anxious and tense, there’s nothing better than a good laugh to immediately ease our distress. It’s good to be able to bring out the clown in ourselves to help us see a stressful situation from a funny, absurd angle. Practice Riddikulus with your kids when appropriate or let them teach you if you forget how to do it.

The real “magic” is the strength the characters muster from the inside. This can apply to parenting as well.  We are here to boost your real “ magic” of parenting. If you need any kind of advice related to the emotional development of your teen children, you’ve come to the right place!

Sources:

  1. Greenwood, D. & Long, C. R. (2015). When Movies Matter: Emerging Adults Recall Memorable Movies. Journal of Adolescent Research, Vol. 30(5) 625–650
  2. Milne, H. J. & Reis, S. M. (2000). Using Video Therapy To Address the Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Children. Gifted Child Today, Vol. 23, Issue 1, pp. 24 – 29
  3. Hébert, T. P. & Speirs Neumeister, K. L. (2001). Guided Viewing of Film: A Strategy for Counseling Gifted Teenagers. The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, Vol. XII, No. 4, pp. 224–235.
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PROJECT-BASED LEARNING EXPLAINED

by Anja Andelković

Instead of endlessly memorizing facts and using pen and paper to take extensive notes, students learn about a subject by actively exploring real-world problems through project-based learning. This type of learning is becoming increasingly necessary in the global world, as it focuses on the individual and helps people learn while engaging in investigation and applying their knowledge to solve actual problems. But what is project-based learning exactly, why do we really need it and how does it work? Read on to find out!

Not an ordinary project

When you think of projects in an educational context, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the concept of “projects” solely based on facts in a unit. For example, in history class that could be a poster depicting certain historical events and in biology class students might get to give a lecture to their peers about human metabolism. Simply put, they would repeat facts that they have read about elsewhere, without analysis or deeper comprehension [3].

When faced with these types of projects, students often think “When will I ever need this in real life?”, and this is where project-based-learning (PBL) comes into the picture. Its content is predicated on real-world problems that need to be dealt with creatively [3]. So, instead of making a poster on women’s rights based on facts they have learned from a textbook, students can organize a campaign to promote them and talk about their significance or make a documentary interviewing people involved in the issue, or discuss the importance of suffrage with people they know.

Even though the entire concept of PBL sounds new and is often mentioned in the context of “honing 21st-century skills”, it actually stems from strategies that were used by classical Greek philosophers, who talked about “learning by doing” and focused on critical thinking and not just repetition of information. Later on, other philosophers also accentuated the importance of learning based on experience and not purely verbal information, and half a century ago PBL emerged as a practical teaching strategy that can be used in various disciplines [1]. In this form it involves, as we said, student is learning in order to overcome real-life problems, while educators serve only as coaches who relinquish control to students usually working in pairs or groups [6].

If this concept sounds a bit too fluid and perhaps not as efficient as good old-fashioned rote learning, you are not alone. It was often criticized for not being rigorous enough and there are still people who doubt that students can learn everything a curriculum may require this way. But, “proper” PBL actually has many rules that need to be followed in order for students to learn something successfully, so there is usually no space for skipping certain steps or accidentally avoiding a certain facet of a problem that is being taught [6]. By having these practical rules, PBL as a teaching strategy ensures that students learn what they are supposed to learn while being fully engaged in the process [7].

But why is it so much better? Benefits of PBL

Some benefits of PBL were mentioned earlier where we explained what it actually is, but there is more to this story. PBL is so talked about recently exactly because of its many advantages over the traditional type of learning:

  • PBL makes learning more grounded in real life and students have the feeling that they are learning something useful, and not merely facts they will never need in their future lives [2]. This knowledge of the relevance of the project usually engages them more in the entire process of learning and they “learn by doing” instead of just finishing yet another school assignment [7].
  • Research has shown that PBL also increases students’ motivation [3]. The contextualization of the studied material and the authenticity of this type of learning together with its student-centered approach and individualization of the entire process motivates students to learn for the sake of learning, and not just to get a good grade [6].
  • In order to solve complex problems posed by PBL, students have to engage higher-order thinking skills and problem-solving skills. These types of skills are necessary for almost all jobs and by practicing them in an educational environment, students not only prepare for their future careers, but also for tackling diverse issues throughout their lives [1].
  • Collaboration is one of the main characteristics of PBL, and in order to work on a project students also have to learn how to work in a group efficiently and overcome any problems they might have within the group. Working in a group and solving all kinds of interpersonal struggles, teaches students both people skills and project management skills that are more than necessary in order to work in today’s society [2].
  • It has been shown that PBL as a method affects students’ achievement in a positive manner. Students who learned by working on projects proposed by PBL usually learned better than students who used more traditional ways of learning. The reason for this could well be the fact that students generally achieve more when they have a greater desire to learn, and as we have seen, PBL usually increases this desire [4].
  • PBL is also thought to improve long-term retention of knowledge, meaning that students who learn using this method remember the things they learned longer than students who learned in the traditional manner [6].
  • PBL is an interdisciplinary method so it gives students a chance to use the knowledge they gained in many other classes while working on a project, and shows them how that knowledge can be relevant in real-life situations [5].
  • Today’s students are more than familiar with technology and its various uses, and PBL is a perfect opportunity to use it in an educational setting and think about its different benefits. Using technology also allows students to connect with many people around the world while working on a project which, of course, gives them an even wider knowledge of the subject they are working on [7].

When taken into consideration together, all of these benefits of PBL lead us to the conclusion that PBL is essential in developing something called 21st-century skills that we all need in order to succeed in the fast-paced global world [2]. It is no longer enough to have basic knowledge and skills; we need to be able to solve problems quickly and effectively, work in teams, adjust to changes, think critically, manage ourselves and communicate ideas – PBL helps in bettering all these skills [7].

How to make it work [8]

In order to make PBL work, it is not enough to just think of a fun, relevant project and let the students work on it. If that happens, it is more than likely PBL will become just another means to an end, the end being a grade. It is important to set learning goals, which would concentrate both on the skills that the project can help develop and also on the content that has to be learned by the end of the project.

It is easy for students to think of PBL as another school assignment, so it is important to choose a project that is firmly grounded in reality, with clear relevance to the students. Reminding the students from time to time of what the project can help them do later in life is also not a bad idea.

In PBL, asking questions and discussing the problem is half the work, so it is extremely important to encourage the discussion, without leading it. A teacher or a parent who has taken the task of PBL on her/himself should only serve as a guide and help students reflect on their progress and the learning process. Students are the ones who should be making decisions.

Setting an end goal that it is tangible or demonstrable is also a smart way to make PBL more effective. It is a good idea to have the students work on a product that they can later talk about in front of an audience or to make a presentation describing the problem they solved.

References:

  1. Boss, S. (2011, September 20). Project-Based Learning: A Short History. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning-history.
  2. Boss, S. (2011, September 20). Project-Based Learning: What Experts Say. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning-experts.
  3. Gonzales, J. (2016, June 26). Project Based Learning: Start Here. Retrieved from https://cultofpedagogy.com/project-based-learning/.
  4. Helle, L., Tynjälä, P., Olkinuora, E., & Lonka, K. (2007). “Ain”t nothin’ like the real thing’. Motivation and study processes on a work-based project course in information systems design. The British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77, 397–411. http://doi.org/10.1348/000709906X105986
  5. Karaçalli, S., & Korur, F. (2014). The effects of project-based learning on students’ academic achievement, attitude, and retention of knowledge: The subject of “Electricity in our lives.” School Science and Mathematics, 114(5), 224–235. http://doi.org/10.1111/ssm.12071
  6. Vega, V. (2012, December 3). Project-Based Learning Research Review. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/pbl-research-learning-outcomes.
  7. What is Project Based Learning (PBL). Retrieved from http://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl.
  8. Why Project Based Learning (PBL). Retrieved from http://www.bie.org/about/why_pbl.
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PROCRASTINATION AND TEENS – HOW CAN WE HELP?

by Milena Ćuk,

Life Coach and Integrative Art Therapist-in-training

“Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they started.”

David Allen

Have you ever spent hours staring at a blank page trying to write a meaningful paper or e-mail, etc.?  Have you ever postponed a boring or unpleasant task until the last minute when you couldn’t put it off any longer? Have you ever caught yourself doing all sorts of unimportant activities such as washing dishes or rearranging the furniture instead of getting started on a pressing obligation? What was your favorite time zapper when you were a student yourself?

Let’s face it – we’ve all procrastinated. If you want to help your teen avoid becoming a chronic procrastinator, we suggest you start by admitting that you’ve dealt with this issue as well. We hope that gaining a better understanding of the underlying causes of procrastination and following some of the tips we suggest, will enable you to help your teen overcome the habit.

So, what is procrastination?

Authors Olpin & Hesson (2013) define procrastination as the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished. While delaying tasks from time to time is nothing to worry about, it becomes a problem when transformed into a habit and starts to affect important aspects of our lives – academic, professional and personal. Or,  as Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby put it: “Procrastination is, hands down, our favorite form of self-sabotage.” Fortunately, each habit is learned so it can be unlearned as well.

In order to understand a teen’s mind and world better, I asked my 15-year-old niece about her experience with procrastination as it related to schoolwork. This is what she told me:

I used to have a lot of problems with this pro, pro… Now it’s much better, but back when I was routinely putting my school obligations off, it was always when I was up against more complex tasks; when I knew the work would be more difficult and that I’d need more time to complete it. Why was I acting like this? Because I didn’t want to face it. I didn’t want the burden. It was easier to leave it to the last minute. I could force myself to study only when it was urgent and when I knew that I couldn’t postpone it any longer. Deadlines, actually, are a great help in this! And while I was waiting till that very last moment, I was usually hanging out, watching movies, a TV series on the Internet, or just lying down and doing nothing.

According to psychologist Linda Sapadin, author of the book How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age: 6 Change Programs for 6 Personality Styles, my niece fits the Crisis Makers style of procrastinators. Crisis Makers, addicted to the rush of high emotion, wait until pressure mounts to take action. Other styles are: Perfectionists (afraid of making mistakes, they waste tons of time unnecessarily focusing on details); Dreamers (lack initiative and fail to translate their big ideas into action); Worriers (afraid of change, they’re focused on worst-case scenario); Defiers (may be openly rebellious or passive-aggressive, defy authority or avoid making agreements and often don’t do what they promised); Pleasers (have problems setting priorities and saying “No”, so they make the job harder than it needs to be).

It is very important to first identify the root of the procrastination since this is the key element in pursuing the ongoing battle against it. For instance, if you realize that your teen’s perfectionism is the reason he’s putting off his school obligations, you should focus on helping him overcome his fear of making mistakes, as well as talking to him about time management and related coping skills.  Reassure him it’s okay to make mistakes; teach him that perfection is an illusion, the enemy of the good; advise him just to keep moving, not to get bogged down in details and lose focus on his main objective.

We should acknowledge that chronic procrastination is not a simple matter of time management or self-discipline but a complex psychological and/or neurocognitive issue (Burka and Yuen, 2008). These authors suggest that procrastination is a strategy people use to manage other issues, for instance: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of feeling controlled, or fear of facing reality.

Also, in this high-tech, digitalized age we live in, the accessibility of gadgets and the virtual worlds we tend to inhabit (this applies especially to teens) are not helping us win the procrastination battle. On the contrary.

You can read about the advantages and disadvantages of technology in one of our previous articles: Education and Technology: A Match Made in Heaven or Hell?

So, what to do if you recognize that your teen has a problem with procrastination?

I asked my niece what has helped her. She said:

When I was younger, my parents would keep reminding me to study but it didn’t work. I would pretend to study in order to please them but in actual fact, it was waste of time and I’d end up cramming anyway. Now that I’m in high school, I realize that everything depends on me. My subjects are more complex and since I want good grades, I’d exhaust myself staying up at night with mountains of schoolwork. And I was tired during the day, both in class and during training (volleyball). I realized that procrastination makes me tired and leads nowhere. I now try to organize myself better and study more consistently. And it’s funny – it is not as hard as I used to think. I think that’s because I made the decision on my own, nobody forced me to. It wouldn’t have worked if anybody else tried to force me or to organize my time for me. I had to do it for myself.

We can learn a lot from our kids, don’t you agree? However, it is also useful to get empowered through reliable sources. There are comprehensive and detailed programs developed in order to overcome the habit of procrastination. For your information, you can check the references at the end of the article.

In a nutshell, these are our suggestions:

  • Talk openly and without criticism about the issue of putting obligations off. Show empathy. Through talk and through time it is more likely that a teen will gain insight about how procrastination is affecting him and whether and what he wants to change.
  • Remember your own experience with procrastination and how it made you feel. Share that with your teen. What tasks nowadays do you hate to do and tend to put off? You can talk about it as a common problem and search for solutions together.
  • Share what worked for you when you struggled with procrastination. It doesn’t mean it will work for your teen, but it’s a good start. Praise his efforts to beat the habit.
  • You should figure out what is at the root of his/her procrastination. Underlying reasons need to be addressed, such as any kind of fear, resistance, perfectionism, etc. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from a coach or therapist if you estimate that it is needed.
  • Help him/her learn how to study and how to plan his/her time.
  • Help him recognize his favorite time zappers – how he usually deflects when he procrastinates (social networks, TV, video games, surfing the Internet, oversleeping, panicking, etc.) and make a deal that he try to overcome these impulses during study time. That is where time management skills are important.
  • Encourage him to ask for help if he doesn’t understand the subject matter or doesn’t know how to do his homework.

One of the first authors of self-help books, Robert Collier, has suggested:

“If you procrastinate when faced with a big difficult problem… break the problem into parts, and handle one part at a time.”

This strategy is well-known and is recommended in all manuals for overcoming procrastination: to break a bigger task into smaller, measurable actions with a realistic deadline for each of these smaller actions.

The other one well-known tip for more demanding tasks is to hit the most difficult (or the most unpleasant) part first, if at all possible. As the pioneer in the personal development field, Dale Carnegie observed: “Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.”

Help your teen recognize what motivates him and what gives him energy. Teach him to use these as rewards for maintaining self-discipline and progress in the adoption of a new habit. It is easier to go through unpleasant tasks if we know that we will be rewarded afterward.

Teach your teen to deal with details at the end. For instance, if he is writing a paper, teach him to write the main parts first, to keep moving and to leave dealing with details last.

While these are general tips to deal with procrastination, keep in mind that each person is unique and tailor your approach to what works best for your teen.

Need additional support in helping your teen overcome procrastination? Don’t hesitate. We can help. Schedule an appointment with our coach.

References and useful links:

  1. Procrastination: Why You Do It, What To Do About It Now, by Burka, J. B. & Yuen, L. M. (2008)
  2. Stress Management for Life: A Research-Based Experiential Approach, by Olpin, M. & Hesson, M. (2013)
  3. Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age, by Dr. Linda Sapadin http://beatprocrastinationcoach.com/
  4. Procrastination and Science, including quotes related to procrastination https://procrastinus.com/
  5. Award winning video by John Kelly about examination of procrastination https://vimeo.com/9553205
  6. TED Talks: Tim Urban – Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator https://www.ted.com/talks/tim_urban_inside_the_mind_of_a_master_procrastinator#t-831583