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“New Year, New You” – the Nobel Way!

Don’t give up on your resolutions – Nobel can help you modify them to actually work!

New Year’s resolutions often start with the grand idea of perfecting something or making yourself perfect. We all know, though, that perfection isn’t a realistic, achievable goal, which is why many resolutions tend to be unsuccessful. Nobel Coaching & Tutoring truly knows how to help clients set goals, utilize strengths, and work to achieve success, so we’re offering some quick tips and insights on how you can get started.

  • Prioritize: Be mindful of what you actually want or need to achieve and prioritize two or three realistic and measurable goals.
  • Set short-term targets for long-term goals: Define what can be tracked in manageable, short-term periods that could help you reach a long-term goal.
  • Accountability: Use your resources to help you work on your trackable short-term goals (calendars, reminders, loved ones, personal trainers, Nobel Coaches, etc.).

So, let’s see where you should start!

Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals

Have you ever created a long list of New Year’s resolutions, adding one wish after another, full of motivation and confidence, only to give it all up as your motivation starts declining and your goals start to seem unattainable?

To prevent that from happening, each and every goal you decide on should be created based on the above catchy abbreviation, that stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. [2] We’ll now go through the most popular New Year’s resolutions for 2018, see what they’re missing, and turn them into more easily achievable goals!

The three most common resolutions for this year are:

  • Eat healthier
  • Get more exercise
  • Save (more) money. [1]

But since Nobel Coaching is dedicated to students’ academic success, here we’ll add another, very common one:

Let’s start with the first thing from the S.MA.R.T. template and try to make these goals more specific.

Specifying your goal

Although “eat healthier” is a very positive goal to strive for, this definition allows for a lot of cheating! You need to define what eating healthier means for you and be as specific as possible. [2] Does it mean eating at least one vegetable a day? Does it mean no chips and soda? If you don’t define it, you could make yourself believe one vegetable and two sodas a day constitute a good diet, and once you don’t see any results, it would be easy for you to give up. But if your goal is clearly defined, you’ll be much more motivated to go on.

So, instead of making “eat healthier” your goal, let’s say “cut out chips and soda”, or “instead of sweets, eat fruit for dessert”, or “no eating after 8:00 p.m.”, or – why not all three of these combined?

Instead of  “get more exercise” (you could convince yourself that walking for just a few minutes constitutes that!), you should set a clear goal, such as “exercise three times a week at the gym” or “jog for half an hour three mornings a week”. Notice that it’s important to specify even the place or time; the more specific your goal, the easier it will be for you to make it a habit.

“Save more money” could turn into a specific monthly sum that you want to save, depending on your salary. Even if it seems like only a small amount for you, be sure to specify it! You’ll still save more money that way than if you give up after a month or two!

Finally, “do better in school” also lacks precision. So instead, you could put “go from a C to a B student”, or even better – “Go from C’s to B’s in these three courses”. Then you can choose two or three courses you’re currently having trouble with, and decide to focus on those first.

Measurable goals

You can see that most of our goals have numbers in them, which allows for them to be measurable. [2] If you only say “get more exercise”, there’s nothing to stop you from exercising only once every ten days. But if you say you’ll exercise three times a week, it will be harder for you to skip a day! In order to set goals that are even more measurable, you can separate them into short-term and long-term goals, but be patient: while you could achieve short-term goals fairly quickly, getting to the long-term goal will take more time. Make sure not to give up and not to change the long-term goal in the middle of the time-frame you’ve created!

For example, both “instead of sweets, eat fruit for dessert” and “no chips and soda” could amount to the goal of  “eating two portions of fruit and vegetables every day”, while “save more money each month” can be a stepping stone towards a specific sum you want to save altogether. When it comes to grades, your long-term goal could be a fixed GPA; getting to your B’s and A’s could be just a start towards this goal!

Attainable goals

Reading this, you might start thinking: “Jogging only three times a week? I can do much better than that!” And although one day you will be able to surpass these temporary goals, starting too big too soon more often than not results in disappointment. This will cause you to drop all your motivation and stop trying altogether, and we don’t want that! Once you’ve achieved your current goals, there’s nothing stopping you – you can set more goals and make them bigger!

But for the very beginning, they should be more easily achievable, to make sure you don’t lose your motivation and the will to achieve them. This is why we said “jog only three times a week“ instead of “jog daily”; similarly, make sure to take your financial situation into account when making plans concerning your savings. Regarding your grades, although going from C’s to A’s sounds wonderful, don’t push yourself too hard. Going up a whole grade is something to be proud of, so start with B’s first. Once you’re there, feel free to find new goals for yourself. [2]

Relevant goals

Although we want you to succeed, we don’t want you to put as little effort into your goals as possible. Your goals should be your actual goals, and not just something made up to keep your spirits high while you’re actually not accomplishing much. For example, if you rarely eat sweets and are eating a healthy diet, putting “no more sweets” on your list means you’re crowding out other, more important goals. If you’re a student, these important, relevant goals could be “go from C to B in five of my classes” or “pass all of my tests this year with at least 80%”.

The relevance of the goals also means that your list of resolutions shouldn’t be a mile long – decide on two or three most important long-term goals and once you’ve achieved those, you can add others to the list! [2]

Time-bound goals

Now, what do we mean exactly when we talk about short-term and long-term goals? Short-term goals are simply your stepping stones towards long-term goals. Long-term goals tend to be more specific and measurable. “Going from C’s to B’s in these three courses” would be a short-term goal, while “reach a 4.5 GPA” would be a long-term one. Make sure to give your short-term goals a time limit; this makes it easier to achieve your long-term goal (which should also have a time limit!) more easily and quickly. For example, your short-term goal could be to save “this much” the first month, “this much” the next –  and so on until you reach your long-term financial goal. [2]

To make sure these goals are met, you should use all the resources available to you that could help you track and achieve your short-term goals. This applies to all the groups and individuals who could be helpful: for example, you can join a gym and find a personal trainer, team up with your friends when it comes to jogging or studying, or contact us at Nobel Coaching & Tutoring and decide on a plan together!

But as you embark on this journey, remember one more thing… Don’t tell everyone about your big resolutions! You can share them with your family and one or two close friends, but that should be it. If you go around telling everyone you plan to start jogging or studying two times a day, you’re tricking your brain into thinking you’re actually doing it. This is because the reward centers in our brains are activated by both words and actions, so your brain will essentially be rewarding you just for talking about your big decisions!

So, make S.M.A.R.T. resolutions, use all the resources at your disposal, and your motivation will be sure to stay with you all the way through!

by Jelena Jegdić

References:

  1. https://www.statista.com/chart/12386/the-most-common-new-years-resolutions-for-2018/
  2. https://www.smartsheet.com/blog/essential-guide-writing-smart-goals

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Teamwork for Children with Learning Differences

The cornerstone of good teamwork is cooperation. This is a skill which requires practice to master, and some need more practice than others. The best way children can practice teamwork is through play activities, where they have the chance to learn all kinds of prosocial behaviors and social cues such as smiling, conversing, or praising. [1]

But it’s not only about learning; play is natural for every child. If they’re asked to become responsible too soon and not allowed to play enough, they’ll try to find play in places they shouldn’t – during class, for example – which can negatively affect their ability to be part of a group. [2]

Since we find that play is the best way to practice teamwork, this article will be centered around building the best possible play atmosphere for kids whose learning difficulties are directly related to attention.

Scheduled activities

While promoting natural, spontaneous play is beneficial for most children, kids with learning differences tend to work better if they have a clear schedule in front of them. This serves to essentially “wire their brains” – it’s like putting up a flashing neon billboard inside their minds, which helps them focus more easily. So instead of simply gathering them together and telling them to play, you should create activities for them and act as a guide.

It’s also beneficial to allow them to be the co-creators of the schedule. For example, you can color each activity differently and ask them which colors you should use. You can tell each child to write down the schedule and tell them to color it the way they want. This will help them focus on the task at hand and memorize future activities more clearly. [5]

Interest raises motivation

Some children have trouble maintaining their attention on the task at hand, and one of the main reasons is that they lack the motivation to finish it. [1] Quite simply, they don’t find it interesting enough, so they choose to move to a different, more interesting task, often leaving their teammates (in, say, a group practice during class) to deal with it alone; that, in turn, leads to other children starting to avoid teamwork with them.

To help them with this during play, you can organize them into groups based on their interests. For example, you might ask each child what they want to be when they grow up. All those who choose the same profession can be put in a group together. Next, you can give them some questions to answer or tasks to complete based on this profession – that way, they’re more likely to remain motivated to persevere rather than switching to something else, all while practicing teamwork.

Verbalizing social cues

Another challenge some kids might face is difficulty recognizing others’ feelings and thoughts. This can lead to misunderstandings, with other children viewing them as insensitive, not understanding their issues. To help solve this the best way possible, create games requiring acting or imitation.[1] Charades would be a good example for this. It gives kids the chance to practice recognizing cues their teammates are giving them. Some themes you can create here are “emotions”, “chores”, “school activities”, etc. They can also imitate their own classmates – that way, they become familiar with how others act and what they mean by it. This also necessitates your instructions for a game be as clear and specific as possible – understanding you correctly means kids will be more likely to proceed with undivided attention.

Another way to help them is to encourage the other children to verbalize their feelings more. This is actually a good practice for every child.  Kids with learning differences want to play just as much as any child does, but if they keep feeling as though they’re doing something wrong without really understanding what that is, they’ll eventually choose to play on their own instead. That’s why other kids telling them things like “It makes me sad and angry when you take my ball because you want to play something else” can be beneficial – they’ll learn that everyone makes mistakes, but that some mistakes can be fixed; they can learn to talk to other children, understand their feelings, and practice choosing group activities together.   

The importance of friendship

As a general rule of life, having a friend or a sibling who’s there to support us helps us overcome our problems with more strength and self-confidence. So if you make sure the child who needs some extra help has a peer alongside them who understands the way they think and act, it will make their teamwork much easier; their friend can give them important cues, teach them what is expected of them, and develop their prosocial skills. [1]

Being a peer team coach can be a challenging task – sometimes it can take a lot of time and practice for their peers to be able to understand and help these children. And be careful not to put two children with learning differences in the same group, or you’re risking them just playing with each other and not the others, which, in the long run, doesn’t do much good for them.

That being said, children with learning differences should ideally start learning about teamwork in smaller groups, or even in pairs. Anything more than three people can frighten them and make them feel insecure, leading them to act out. [3]

Rewarding prosocial behavior

Any behavior that shows signs of cooperation should be rewarded; this way, children are more likely to continue doing what is expected of them in a group environment. [1] The Reward can be as simple as praise – “good job!”. This makes a huge difference in their lives, as they become aware they’re doing something right, which gives them the motivation to continue doing so. [5] Praise can come from you as well as their peers. You can ask each group to say one good thing about each of their playmates – what they like about them, if they think they’re especially good at something… This also strengthens the bonds of their newly-formed group and allows them to interact more easily.

Green spaces

Another thing to consider is the setting in which teamwork takes place. For children with learning differences, green spaces can be much more beneficial than any others. So if you can, choose a park for teamwork practices, or a backyard – any place that offers enough nature. If outside teamwork is impossible for some reason, then try to find a room with a green view. [4]

Green spaces are highly beneficial when it comes to our ability to focus. Our attention span isn’t infinite – once we reach our limit, it drops off. However, we can restore it by going to sleep or by practicing gently absorbing activities that draw on what is called involuntary attention. This type of attention is effortless and allows the brain to relax and, in a way, reboot. For example, listening to light music while working could be an example of a gently absorbing activity, as long as you are aware of the music, but not actually focused on it. Another thing that works as an outlet for involuntary attention is, again,  nature, which helps the brain focus on the task at hand.

You can also help by tailoring the environment to meet children’s needs in terms of visual and auditory stimuli.  You can turn on a song or make the room more colorful – all of these serve to increase involuntary, and, consequently, voluntary attention. [3]

Natural play

Last, but not least, children need to feel as free as possible during play. This sounds counterintuitive, given the aforementioned rules of successful play. However, a limit should be set for the amount of interference. Yes, you should step in if you notice a problem, and yes, it’s better to present them with a clear schedule, but any further interference should be brief and clear. If you notice some of the kids are isolating themselves or not respecting teamwork, you can take them aside for just a moment, explain what should be done differently, and allow them to continue playing, instead of punishing them by, say, having them wait until the next game. This way, they’ll see the immediate continuation of play as a reward for understanding you, and it will help them act better in the same situation next time. [2]

In conclusion, it’s not easy to plan and organize teamwork practice for children with learning differences. It requires a lot of patience and not a small amount of creativity. Some rules need to be followed, while you try not to suffocate the kids too much. But if you use what we’ve mentioned above, they’ll be able to play more smoothly, and, eventually, they’ll internalize what you’ve been teaching them, and become able to participate in teamwork with less stress and more understanding.

One important thing to remember is – it all happens one step at a time. 

If you want your child (with learning differences or without them) to get a great teamwork practice while learning about something that interests them and developing other 21st century skills, check out our online program based on the Project Based Learning approach, Nobel Explorers.

by Jelena Jegdić

References:

  1. Cordier, R., Bundy, A., Hocking, C., & Einfeld, S. (2009) A model for play-based intervention for children with ADHD. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal (2009) 56, 332–340
  2. Panksepp, J. (2007) Can PLAY Diminish ADHD and Facilitate the Construction of the Social Brain? Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry16(2), 57–66.
  3. Sherman, J., Rasmussen, C., & Baydala, L. (2008) The impact of teacher factors on achievement and behavioural outcomes of children with Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): a review of the literature. Educational Research, 50:4, 347-360
  4. Taylor, A., & Kuo, F. (2011) Could Exposure to Everyday Green Spaces Help Treat ADHD? Evidence from Children’s Play Settings. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 2011, 3 (3), 281–303
  5. Personal interview with a school counselor for kids with learning differences

If you need any kind of advice related to project-based learning, teamwork and learning differences of your children, you’ve come to the right place!

Schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our Coaches:

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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.

We are launching an online STEAM summer camp, Nobel Explorers, where students will be working on solving complex and engaging challenges through project-based learning. So, now’s the chance to find out hands-on how project-based learning really looks like! Join us! 

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.

If you need any kind of advice related to project-based learning and teamwork of your children, you’ve come to the right place!

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