GOOD MANNERS WILL MAKE YOU A . . . LADY/GENTLEMAN& Other Life Lessons 2

The Excellent Ways To Instill Life-Long Lessons In Our Children & Students

MY LATEST BOOK, Good Manners Will Make You A . . .  Lady/Gentleman & Other Life Lessons is a culmination of lived experiences, lessons learned and many in-service training and career development courses spanning over twenty years. I have had a very eventful life teaching in diverse classrooms in three cosmopolitan cities in three continents: Africa, Europe and Asia. I have worked in Harare, Zimbabwe (January 1994- January 2001); London and Kent (February 2001-August 2011); and Cairo, Egypt (September 2011 to present) with a term’s stint in Baku, Azerbaijan. I have also worked for Cambridge International Examinations (CIE)and Edexcel (Pearson) as an English Examiner rising to Team Leader position.

BESIDES many topics discussed in Part 1, in this post, my focus is on the way to pursue and digest the many discussions on the topics.

Discussion Plans

Each of the topics covered in Good Manners Will Make You A . . .  Lady/Gentleman & Other Life Lessons include discussion plans that can be used to focus our young learners on:

  • Thinking about the topic under discussion and exploring the understanding of our children and students as well as encouraging critical and creative thinking about the topic.

The discussion plans or activities are given as suggestions only and are not meant to be followed slavishly. They are just there as guides to some of the questions that can be asked. You or your children and students, as well as colleagues – may come up with better or more interesting questions. Each topic contains several themes or issues, and you may wish to create questions and activities on other themes in the topics.

Good Manners Will Make You A . . .  Lady/Gentleman & Other Life Lessons is a flexible resource to be adapted and developed to suit your needs as well as those of the children and students in your care.

Leading A Discussion

Good Manners Will Make You A . . .  Lady/Gentleman & Other Life Lessons aims to create a situation where our students and children learn:

  • How to discuss questions, problems and issues together in a Community Of Enquiry.
  • How to be clear in their thinking and reasoning by harnessing and exploring other options.
  • How to listen; to be considerate, and to recognize praise and respect for others.
  • How to avoid conflict, and to think and speak positively.

Thinking and learning are holistic activities, which include several important elements, skills and attitudes including: 

  • Questioning         – Asking good questions to provide a focus for enquiry.
  • Reasoning            – Being logical to support arguments and judgments
  • Defining              – Clarifying concepts through making connections, distinctions, and comparisons.
  • Speculating          – Generating ideas and alternative views through imaginative thinking.
  • Testing For Truth – Gathering information, judging evidence, examples and counterexamples.
  • Expanding On Ideas – Sustaining and extending lines of thought and argument.
  • Summarizing – Abstracting key points or general rules from several ideas or instances.

Building A Community of Enquiry And Philosophical Enquiry

A community of enquiry (CoE) is a workshop-style session that offers space for a group of people to collaboratively explore ideas and ask rich and meaningful questions of one another. Good Manners Will Make You A . . .  Lady/Gentleman & Other Life Lessons are resource-based activities that create a community of enquiry. In a classroom setting, a CoE is a group or class engaged in the exploration of ideas through discussion. It is one of the most effective methods for developing thinking since it benefits from the ‘distributed intelligence’ of the whole group.

The aims of any CoE are two-fold: Firstly, it creates a rational structure for developing ideas, sharing meanings, and enquiring after truth; and secondly, CoE aims at creating a moral structure, involving the practice of cooperation of care, and respect for others, while embodying the principles of democracy in action.

In the beginning, the teacher or adult in charge must take a directive approach to the discussion without dominating the discussion. While acknowledging everyone’s contribution, it is important to try to use your own opinions sparingly. This means withholding judgments by responding to our children and students’ answers in a non-evaluative fashion. Always insist on calling others to respond, for example by saying: ‘Who agrees or disagrees with what X has said?’ ‘Who can summarize what X has said? ‘Who would like to respond?’

Thus, if we want our students and children to think for themselves, we should involve them in thinking together. A community entails cooperative activity, and if we want our children and students to grow into cooperative, responsive, and thoughtful citizens, then a CoE is an activity of the highest importance as it arouses curiosity and invites reflection and discussion.

Subsequently, once routines have been set and discussions have gotten more disciplined and focused, a new trend will start to emerge; a community of philosophical enquiry.

The philosophical enquiry aims to help students and children develop the skills and dispositions that will enable them to play their full part in a pluralistic society. It can boost children and students’ self-esteem and intellectual confidence. Ultimately, it aims to create a caring classroom or home situation where students and children learn to:

  • Explore issues of personal concern such as love, friendship, death, personal identity, etc.
  • Develop their views while exploring and challenging the views of others.
  • Be clear in their thinking, making thoughtful judgments based on reason.
  • Listen to and respect one another.
  • Experience quiet moments of thinking and reflection

Thus, philosophical enquiry initiates children and students into public discussions about meanings and values. It encourages them to think of what it means to be reasonable and to make moral judgments. Such discussions are not just ‘talking points’ but help to create a moral culture, a way of thinking and acting together that cultivates virtues of conduct such as respect for others, sincerity, and open-mindedness. Thus, through philosophical enquiry, our students and children are encouraged to find their paths to meaning through discussions with others.

As of old:

Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!

GOOD MANNERS WILL MAKE YOU . . . A LADY/GENTLEMAN & OTHER LIFE LESSONS 1

The Excellent Ways To Instill Life-Long Lessons In Our Children & Students

MY NEW BOOKGood Manners Will Make You . . . A Lady/Gentleman & Other Life Lessons – The Excellent Ways To Instill Life-Long Lessons In Our Children & Students – is a culmination of lived experiences, lessons learned and many dozens in-service training and career development courses spanning over twenty years. I have had a very eventful life teaching in diverse classrooms in three cosmopolitan cities in three continents: Africa, Europe and Asia. I have worked in Harare, Zimbabwe (January 1994- January 2001); London and Kent (February 2001-August 2011); and Cairo, Egypt (September 2011 to present) with a term’s stint in Baku, Azerbaijan. I have also worked for Cambridge International Examinations (CIE)and Edexcel (Pearson) as an English Examiner rising to Team Leader position.

MY BOOK calls upon an array of individuals – parents and guardians, teachers, and all administrators – who have contact with children and students, to do more, learn more, and help the young men and ladies to excel. It is a clarion call for help from the society to do more to have responsible citizens!

The Excellent Ways To Instill Life-long Lessons In Our Children & Students

The many topics addressed in Good Manners Will Make You A . . .  Lady/Gentleman & Other Life Lessons reflect on the different issues our children, and students alike, face as they grow up into adulthood. Thus, helping, instilling, and teaching them to master the simple rules of etiquette will get them noticed, for all the right reasons.

Students and children, who demonstrate basic etiquette and social skills as well as show respect and consideration for others, create a more positive impression in the eyes of their peers and the adults in their lives. As a result, they are more likely to be presented with opportunities that allow them to grow and thrive. This has a major impact on their ability to excel both academically and socially, and also plays a role in determining which colleges or universities will accept them as students.

Good Manners Will Make You A . . .  Lady/ A Gentleman & Other Life Lessons can be used for individual work or for building a thoughtful and receptive community that is never shy of work, commitments, being considerate, and, ultimately, becoming law-abiding citizens.

In How To Make Our Students & Children Do Anything We Ask Of Them, I have developed a hands-on piece of work for parents, guardians, and teachers, which will project a new way of thinking by applying the language of persuasion and influence to our students and children. By the end of the book, parents, guardians and teachers – and any custodians of our children – will be on a new trajectory, where interaction with our students and children will never be the same again. It is about how these young ones can do anything we ask of them through:

  • CHANGING the words we use, making it easy to create drastic changes in behavior.
  • EXPLAINING and CREATING the illusion of choice and
  • CREATING leading questions.

This, in short, is a summary of hypnotherapist and neuro-linguistic programming expert Alicia Eaton’s book: Written Words That Work: How to Get Kids to Do Almost Anything. In her book, she reveals the above three simple tricks that every Teacher and Parent should try.

In yet another thought-provoking article: Ways To Develop Critical Thinking Skills Among Our Children & Adults Alike, the issue of our students and children is handled through a differentdimension, which is teaching them to be critical thinkers by addressing FIVE key components: i) What is Critical Thinking? ii) What Do You Want To Achieve? iii) The Benefit of Foresight; iv) Critical Thinking Skills, and v) 10 Common Critical Thinking Skills. Below, I will address…

RESPONSIBILITY to yourself, which means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work ― Adrienne Rich

In a step-by-step approach to acquiring critical thinking skills, another article, Training Reasoning Skills To Our Students & Children, will help them acquire more reasoned arguments and draw out the inferences that they need to use in their assignments, projects and examination questions as well as in their general day to day living. Thus, once the parameters have been set up for developing critical thinking among students, it is equally important to instill the reasoning behind certain assumptions.

Furthermore, in another more interesting article: Amazing Ways To Challenging Our behaviors, the onus is on YOU, the adult. I urge you to be more proactive, considerate, and assertive. Simply put, this article is the road to commitment as . . .

 “We create our fate every day . . . most of the ills we suffer from are directly traceable to our behavior.” ― Henry Miller

No matter how committed one is to a particular course of action or set of values, often our behaviors get in the way. In effect, we might want something but do the very things that stop us from achieving them. A good example from daily life is the commitment we make to go on a diet after the excesses of the festive season, only to have our ambition thwarted as we reach for one of our favorite foods. In essence, our actions can counter our original commitment. Indeed, our actions themselves can be based on a counter-commitment, behind which is a big assumption. Only by first addressing our big assumptions can we start changing our behaviors to align them with one’s original beliefs and commitments.

It is quite clear that we have to ‘attack’ both our assumptions and our competing commitments to stop sabotaging our principles and beliefs.

Similarly, in another closely related topic: Effortless Ways To Resolving Conflict: Be It At Home, School Or Work, will arm our students and children with new ways to handle conflict resolution. The article offers practical suggestions that will help diffuse escalating situations from getting worse.Here, conflict is seen as more than just a disagreement. It is a situation in which one or both parties perceive a threat (whether or not the threat is real). The key fact derived from the article is quite simple:when a conflict is mismanaged, it can cause great harm to a relationship, but when handled in a respectful, positive way, conflict provides an opportunity to strengthen the bond between two people or groups of people.

Ultimately, by learning skills for conflict resolution, you can keep your personal and professional relationships strong and growing.

Still, in line with creating young ladies and young gentlemen in our children and students alike, praise and recognition should be at the core. In the article: How Praise And Recognition Can Change Attitude @ Home, Work And School, a plethora of issues is explored. At its core, the article addresses the many facets of these three quotes:

  1. “A brave man acknowledges the strength of others.” ― Veronica Roth
  2. “Beware of those who criticize you when you deserve some praise for an achievement, for it is they who secretly desire to be worshipped.” ― Suzy Kassem.
  3. “In the arena of human life, the honors and rewards fall to those who show their good qualities in action.”– Aristotle.

The above quotes are illustrative of how we realize the power and influence of praise and recognition in our day to day living. Through motivating others, be it individuals or team members, offering praise and recognition for a job well done can be an extremely powerful tool in changing dynamics at work, school or home.

In our hectic lives, there are moments where certain attitudes need to be taught and others need to be observed and then internalized. In the part, Awesome Habits To Observe On Being A Considerate Colleague, I am looking atRobert Bolt’s masterpiece, A Man For All Seasons, where the Common Man, gives a summation of how we ought to live in this world of ours. He says:

Friends, just don’t – make trouble – or if you must make trouble, make the sort of trouble that’s expected.

Whether you are part of a team or have infrequent contact with others, it is important to ensure that you always behave appropriately or make “the expected trouble” to create harmonious and profitable working relationships.

Vigilantly observe the corporate culture in which you work, and be aware that change will happen. Your eyes and ears are your best resource in this learning process!

Intimately related to being a considerate colleague is the issue of working well with others. As our children and students grow into adulthood, and good citizens, there are certain attitudes we need to instill in them. It is the impetus driven by Essential Ideas On Working Well With Others. Certainly,most workplaces include an element of collaborative working, so it’s important to be aware of how your feelings and behaviors affect others.

We must develop the right habits when it comes to working with others as it will result in leadership opportunities, higher pay, and more rewarding work. These are the essence of why we go to work – right?

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

In today’s hurly-burly way of living, it is important to develop certain tenets in our lives. In developing and acquiring positive thinking, beliefs, and values that matter, you drive your behaviors in a certain direction. In Awesome Ways To Creating A Positive Mindset, it is quite clear thatmost successful individuals are those who hold positive beliefs and values about themselves and the people around them. This further brings brightness to the eyes, as well as gives more energy, and happiness. Thus, your whole being broadcasts goodwill, happiness, and success.

Closely related to a positive mindset is the 5 Steps To Mental Wellbeing, which will take you to improve your mental health and wellbeing. The UK’s NHS provides a blueprint that can help you feel more positive and get the most out of life, be it, an adult or a child or a student.

Indeed, there are many achievable things one can get from thinking positively.

From addressing our mental wellbeing, I went on to have two articles on SPEAKING. Yes, I am talking about SPEAKING – how do you communicate with your children, students or colleagues? In Simple Tips To Improving Your Verbal Skills, I provide some useful top tips and suggestions on how to develop your skills in this key area.  By relaxing your voice when you communicate, conversation will always feel less forced, indicating that you must remain calm. If you get nervous when you speak in public, take some deep breaths before you start. Always remember to think carefully about what you are going to say before you say it and try to use clear, positive, straightforward language to avoid any misunderstandings.

In the last of many articles, the A-Z Guide To Getting The Best From Your Voice, you will learn how your voice greatly influences other people’s perceptions of you. However, most of us have no idea what we sound like until we hear a recording of our voice. Here, I provide some practical guidance and techniques to help you speak positively and with impact in any situation.

LASTLY, my last four tasks are Self-Help Assessment Tests for you, our children or students. After having completed all/most of the articles in this book, kindly try one or two of these assessments tests. They are not the alpha and omega of good living, but they offer a semblance of what you are. These topics range from ‘How Confident Am I? Low Self-Esteem Assessment Test’, to ‘Responses To Poor Behavior’, and lastly, ‘Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence Assessment Test’. You will enjoy the fun . . . and the outcomes.

DEAR READER, the articles pursued in this book will open up our students and children to new, inspiring horizons. It will also create among them, a community of enquiry together with philosophical enquiries they have never experienced before.

As old:

Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!

ESSENTIAL STRATEGIES ON IMPROVING READING COMPREHENSION

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Sadly enough, MOST HIGH SCHOOLS no longer have students taking reading tests. However, when students are identified as not meeting adequate yearly progress in their reading, it is certain that there is a deficit in their reading foundational skills. Often-times, when students struggle in reading, educators mistakenly concentrate all of their efforts on improving comprehension. But in many cases, it is a lack of foundational reading skills— phonemic awareness and phonics, which lead to poor decoding skills—which result in students’ poor understanding.

In this post, I am exploring how High School teachers and students can approach Reading And Directed Writing in the classroom as well as essential strategies on how to tackle exam questions with aplomb and flair, that is, answering the questions precisely and accurately.

However, . . .

At High School, reading comprehension is essential.

READING COMPREHENSION is the ability to understand, remember, and communicate meaning from what has been read.

READING STRATEGIES are crucial for any reader. Once students have adequate decoding and vocabulary skills to allow for fluent reading, their understanding can be improved by instructing students to develop a routine for reading which includes specific strategies that can be employed throughout the reading process (before, during, and after) that increase their awareness and understanding of a text.

These strategies include the following:

BEFORE READING 

Preview the text on how the writer’s background and purpose influence what they write. In a way reading a text critically requires you to ask questions about the writer’s authority and agenda. You may need to put yourself in the author’s shoes and recognize how those shoes fit a certain way of thinking.

DURING READING

Monitor their own reading, generate questions about the text; and identify and organize ideas based on a text’s structure.

Engaging and Connecting with the Text – Once students have addressed unfamiliar words through previewing, they can really engage with the text as they read it by visualizing, focusing on the content, generating questions, and identifying and organizing text structure to improve understanding of the material.

The following are effective strategies that help students engage with a text:

Annotating Text – Marking important text or taking notes about information that is important will help students remember the essentials of a reading passage.

Using Questioning Strategies – Questioning strategies help the reader to clarify and comprehend what he/she is reading. Direct students to develop these as they read and to use cue words, such as who, what, where, when, and why, to guide them in order to make effective questions.

Identifying and Organizing Text Structure – The way an author organizes information in a passage can help the reader increase their understanding of the text.

AFTER READING 

Answer high-level questions and summarize the text.

Having students review and summarize material after reading gives you a simple way to ensure that they understood what they read. Retelling challenges them to retain what they read. Summarization allows them to discriminate between main ideas and minor details.

Rereading is the most effective strategy to increase one’s knowledge of the text. Students should be encouraged to do this especially when they encounter a difficult and challenging piece of text.

As most answers come directly from the passage or text being read, students should always be able to support their answer choices with specific quotations from the text. They must not answer the questions by memory alone nor rely on their own knowledge or opinion of the subject but must answer with particular reference to the text read.

17 Ideas On Teaching Students’ Reading Comprehension

Comprehension strategies are conscious plans — sets of steps that good readers use to make sense of a text. The ideas suggested here help students become purposeful, active readers who are in control of their own reading comprehension: C.R. Adler has identified strategies to teach text comprehension which include:

  1. Activating – This is “priming the cognitive pump” in order to recall relevant prior knowledge and experiences from long-term memory in order to extract and construct meaning from text.
  2. Monitoring Comprehension – Students who are good at monitoring their comprehension know when they understand what they read and when they do not. They have strategies to “fix” problems in their understanding as the problems arise. Research shows that instruction, even in the early grades, can help students become better at monitoring their comprehension. Comprehension monitoring instruction teaches students to:
    1. Be aware of what they do understand
    2. Identify what they do not understand
    3. Use appropriate strategies to resolve problems in comprehension
  3. Establish The Main Idea: Check the first and last sentences of every paragraph, or the first and last paragraphs in the passage. As you read, continually ask yourself what the main idea of the paragraph is, how that idea is explained or illustrated, and how that paragraph connects with the rest of the passage.
  4. Metacognition – It can be defined as “thinking about thinking.” Good readers use metacognitive strategies to think about and have control over their reading. Before reading, they might clarify their purpose for reading and preview the text. During reading, they might monitor their understanding, adjusting their reading speed to fit the difficulty of the text and “fixing” any comprehension problems they have. After reading, they check their understanding of what they read.
  5. Inferring – Bringing together what is spoken (written) in the text, what is unspoken (unwritten) in the text, and what is already known by the reader in order to extract and construct meaning from the text.
  6. Specific Details – Use line references when they are given. Make sure you are circling/underlining efficiently as you read so you can locate information quickly. Circle key words in the question and then scan the passage to find them or their synonyms.
  7. Tone/Attitude – How is the author emotionally engaged with the subject? Know the following words: aloof, ambivalent, apathetic, callous, candid, caustic, cautionary, condescending, contemplative, contemptuous, cynical, derisive, detached, didactic, disparaging, dispassionate, erudite, flippant, forthright, grudging, incredulous, indignant, indifferent, ironic, jaded, judicious, laudatory, malicious, naïve, nostalgic, patronizing, pedantic, pompous, pragmatic, prosaic, resigned, reverent, sardonic, satirical, skeptical, trite, vindictive, whimsical.
  8. Vocabulary In Context – Many of the words have multiple possible meanings, so you must always look back to the passage to decide how the author is using the word in context. Substitute each answer choice for the word in the sentence and see if it makes sense, even the tense choice. For unfamiliar words, look for clues nearby in the passage.
  9. Backward and Forward Monitoring – Students may use several comprehension monitoring strategies:
  • Identify where the difficulty occurs, eg: “I don’t understand the second paragraph on page 76.”
  • Identify what the difficulty is, eg: “I don’t get what the author means when she says . . . “
  • Restate the difficult sentence or passage in their own words
  • Look back through the text
  • Look forward in the text for information that might help them to resolve the difficulty
  1. Graphic and Semantic Organizers – Graphic organizers illustrate concepts and relationships between concepts in a text or using diagrams. Graphic organizers are known by different names, such as maps, webs, graphs, charts, frames, or clusters.

These are also seen as visualizing, organizing and constructing a mental image or graphic organizer for the purpose of extracting and constructing meaning from the text. Graphic organizers (venn-diagrams, storyboard/chain of events, story map or cause/effect) can:

  • Help students focus on text structure “differences between fiction and nonfiction” as they read
  • Provide students with tools they can use to examine and show relationships in a text
  • Help students write well-organized summaries of a text
  1. Answering Questions – Questions can be effective because they:
  • Give students a purpose for reading
  • Focus students’ attention on what they are to learn
  • Help students to think actively as they read
  • Encourage students to monitor their comprehension
  • Help students to review content and relate what they have learned to what they already know

The Question-Answer Relationship strategy (QAR) encourages students to learn how to answer questions better. Students are asked to indicate whether the information they used to answer questions about the text was textually explicit information (information that was directly stated in the text), textually implicit information (information that was implied in the text), or information entirely from the student’s own background knowledge.

There are four different types of questions:

  • “Right There” – Questions found right in the text that ask students to find the one right answer located in one place as a word or a sentence in the passage. Example: Who is Frog’s friend? Answer: Toad
  • “Think and Search” – Questions based on the recall of facts that can be found directly in the text. Answers are typically found in more than one place, thus requiring students to “think” and “search” through the passage to find the answer. Example: Why was Frog sad? Answer: His friend was leaving.
  • “Author and You” Questions require students to use what they already know, with what they have learned from reading the text. Student’s must understand the text and relate it to their prior knowledge before answering the question. Example: How do think Frog felt when he found Toad? Answer: I think that Frog felt happy because he had not seen Toad in a long time. I feel happy when I get to see my friend who lives far away.
  • “On Your Own” Questions are answered based on a students prior knowledge and experiences. Reading the text may not be helpful to them when answering this type of question. Example: How would you feel if your best friend moved away? Answer: I would feel very sad if my best friend moved away because I would miss her.

12. Generating Questions – By generating questions, students become aware of whether they can answer the questions and if they understand what they are reading. Students learn to ask themselves questions that require them to combine information from different segments of text. For example, students can be taught to ask main idea questions that relate to important information in a text.

13. Monitoring and Clarifying – Thinking about how and what one is reading, both during and after the act of reading, for purposes of determining if one is comprehending the text combined with the ability to clarify and fix up any mix-ups.

14. Recognizing Story Structure – In story structure instruction, students learn to identify the categories of content (characters, setting, events, problem, resolution). Often, students learn to recognize story structure through the use of story maps. Instruction in story structure improves students’ comprehension.

15. Summarizing – Summarizing requires students to determine what is important in what they are reading and to put it into their own words. Instruction in summarizing helps students:

    • Identify or generate main ideas
    • Connect the main or central ideas
    • Eliminate unnecessary information
    • Remember what they read

16. Searching and Selecting – Searching a variety of sources in order to select appropriate information to answer questions, define words and terms, clarify misunderstandings, solve problems, or gather information.

17. Identifying Techniques – How does the author structure his/her argument? Is the passage meant to teach, persuade, or describe? Is the argument objective or subjective? What is the author’s thesis? What type of evidence is used? Does the author quote his sources, or simply cite their names or titles? Are the ideas concrete or abstract? Does the author give specific details or rely on generalizations?

pexels-photo-261895.jpegEffective Comprehension Instruction

Research shows that explicit teaching techniques are particularly effective for comprehension strategy instruction. In explicit instruction, teachers tell readers why and when they should use strategies, what strategies to use, and how to apply them. The steps of explicit instruction typically include direct explanation, teacher modeling (“thinking aloud”), guided practice, and application.

  • Direct explanation – The teacher explains to students why the strategy helps comprehension and when to apply the strategy.
  • Modeling – The teacher models, or demonstrates, how to apply the strategy, usually by “thinking aloud” while reading the text that the students are using.
  • Guided practice – The teacher guides and assists students as they learn how and when to apply the strategy.
  • Application – The teacher helps students practice the strategy until they can apply it independently.

Work To Understand Your Own Strategies And To Improve Them

  • Ask yourself questions about how you read: Do you read too quickly or slowly? Do you tend to lose your focus? Can you scan for key information or ideas?
  • Consider the characteristics of effective reading above, in relation to those practices and strategies you already employ, to get a sense of your current reading strategies and how they might be improved.

Just as having more than one conversation with another person leads to closer understanding; conducting a number of readings lead to a richer and more meaningful relationship with, and understanding of a text.

This, essentially, requires a lot of practice.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!

PERSONAL STATEMENT: BRILLIANT IDEAS ON WRITING ONE

I have written several personal statements over the years besides, editing those of my senior year students. In all essence, personal statement writing is a skill every student will have to master, especially, in your senior year. However, it does not end there – it is actually the start of a lifetime of personal statements as you progress into further education studies and much later in your search for a dream job.

The type I am focusing on is . . .

The UCAS-based Personal Statement

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a UK-based organisation whose main role is to operate the application process for British universities. It is the central admissions service. UCAS is a highly reputable organization  with over 121,000 people from outside the UK applying through it, to study full-time undergraduate degree courses in the UK every year.

What Is A Personal Statement?

Most students in their senior year will have to make applications for further studies. Among many things, a personal statement may be defined as having some or all of the following:  

A personal statement is a special type of essay that you typically write when applying to school or scholarship programs. Personal statements are an opportunity to share a little bit about who you are as you demonstrate that you’re a good fit for a particular program.

A personal statement supports your application to study at a university or college. It’s a chance for you to articulate why you’d like to study a particular course or subject, and what skills and experience you possess that show your passion for your chosen field.

A personal statement is an account of your achievements, talents, interests and goals often included in job or university applications or on resumes. Personal statements for university and jobs have similar content, but university personal statements are usually longer and more detailed.

At High School, you will have to write a university personal statement. Typically, this is written in four paragraphs; five would be a maximum number and is rarely done that way. When included in job applications and resumes, these statements are generally a single paragraph.

Note that some universities may have their own requirements to a personal statement, so make sure to heed any word or character limits.

University Personal Statement

It is certain that many students who apply to university have achieved the basic entry requirements and many more students apply than there are places available. Admissions teams at different universities can just use your personal statement to get to know you and decide why you’re more suitable than other applicants.

It is a well-known fact that some universities read every personal statement and score them, using them alongside your qualifications and grades to decide whether to offer you a place or interview. Other universities put less emphasis on the personal statement and use it with students who have borderline entry requirements.

Still, there are other universities that might refer to your personal statement again on results day if you don’t get the grades you were predicted to get. So a good personal statement could clinch you a university place even if your grades aren’t what you hoped for.

UCAS Personal Statement

As such, a Personal Statement is a key part of the UCAS application process, and a way to sell yourself to prospective universities. It is much more detailed – and longer – than the one you write for a job application.

UCAS offers guidance on how to write an excellent personal statement for undergraduate studies. There are four key categories – four paragraphs – to look for under which are several questions you will need to address.

Your Motivation

  • Why do you want to study at university?
  • Why do you want to study this subject?
  • How did you become interested in this subject?
  • What career do you have in mind after university?

Consider this . . .

It all started when my grandfather bought me a Lego truck for my tenth birthday. The whole experience of putting it together never escapes me; the intricate gears, the miniature pistons, and the mechanism in general were very much intriguing. Reflecting upon myself before this turning point, as I would name it, I was quite apathetic over what I would grow up to be. Then came the Lego truck and, despite how trivial an effect a simple toy may have on one’s life, literally changed my thinking and how I viewed my future life.‏ It was then that I knew which career I would pursue, one that required determination and hard work along with imagination and creativity; I knew I was ready, and this was but the beginning.

Academic Ability And Potential

  • How have your current studies affected your choice?
  • What do you enjoy about your current studies?
  • What skills have you gained from your current studies?
  • How can you demonstrate you have the skills and qualities needed for the course?
  • What qualities and attributes would you bring to the course and university?

Now, consider this . . .

The following years found me developing a profound ardor for the many fields of mechanical engineering. I began reading about the works of many famous engineers, and was quite fascinated with those of Henry Ford and Karl Benz in particular. I marveled at how Ford managed to industrialize the wearisome, time-consuming production process of automobiles, making drastic improvements in its efficiency and introducing what was to become the modern assembly line. Far-fetched as it seems, I’ve had aspirations of building my own automobile factory as I was greatly inspired by Ford, and the fact that Egypt has no automobile brands of its own only augments my unfulfilled desire to become the first to take this great stride in the industry. When, in High School, the physics class involved mechanics and hydraulics, which was the closest it ever was to mechanical engineering, not only did I achieve the highest grades in physics, but also took great pleasure in studying the material, a pleasure I did not find studying other courses. This high performance was consistent throughout my high school years and further solidified my choice of majoring in mechanical engineering.

Your Experience

  • What work experience (including part-time, charity and volunteer work) do you have and what have you learnt from it?
  • What positions of responsibility have you held? (For example, prefect, captain of a team or member of a committee)
  • What relevant hobbies or interests do you have and what skills have they helped you develop?
  • What transferable skills do you have, such as self-motivation, team working, public speaking, problem solving and analytical thinking?

Consider this. . .

During my high school years I participated in several activities and trips, which added a great deal to my experience. The first large-scale application of mechanics I ever witnessed was the Aswan High Dam, and what an experience it was! The dam was much of a neat, practical application of hydraulics and electrical power generation, which added to my understanding of the fields. In addition to the High Dam visit, in my previous summer holiday, I went on a trip with my family to the Mercedes-Benz factory in Bremen. I had the opportunity to have a look behind the scenes and watch the manufacturing process of the cars. It was a dazzling experience from which I learned a lot.

Research  And Reading

  • How do you keep up with current affairs or news in your chosen subject?
  • What journals or publications relevant to your chosen subject do you read?
  • Which people have influenced you, such as artists, authors, philosophers or scientists?

SOME TAKEAWAYS: What Do You Write About?

It is about You!

You’re telling admissions staff why you’re suitable to study at their university or college.

Your personal statement should be unique, so there’s no definite format for you to follow here – just take your time. Here are some guidelines for you to follow, but remember your personal statement needs to be ‘personal’.

  • Write in an enthusiastic, concise, and natural style – nothing too complex.
  • Try to stand out, but be careful with humour, quotes, or anything unusual. – just in case the admissions tutor doesn’t have the same sense of humour as you.
  • Structure your information to reflect the skills and qualities the university and colleges value most – use the course descriptions to help you.
  • Check the character and line limit – you have 4,000 characters and 47 lines (500-550 words) – that includes spaces and punctuation. As your word count is limited, everything you write should be relevant and add value to your statement.

The Do’s and Don’ts Of Personal Statement

Do . . .

  • Do show you know your strengths, and outline your ideas clearly. Tell the reader why you’re applying – include your ambitions, as well as what interests you about the subject, the course provider, and higher education.
  • Do be enthusiastic – if you show you’re interested in the course, it may help you get a place.
  • Do expect to produce several drafts of your personal statement before being totally happy with it.
  • Do ask people you trust for their feedback
  • Think about what makes you suitable – this could be relevant experience, skills, or achievements you’ve gained from education, work, or other activities.
  • Focus on yourself – It can be tempting to focus on your own attributes, and where you want to go in your career. But the best personal statements cover what skills you would bring to the company and what you can offer them that no other candidate can.
  • Include any clubs or societies you belong to – sporting, creative, or musical.
  • Mention any relevant employment experience, skills or volunteering you’ve done.
  • If you took part in a higher education taster course, placement, or summer school, or something similar, include it.
  • Look at course descriptions and identify the qualities, skills, and experience it requires – you can use these to help you decide what to write about.
  • Proofread aloud, and get your teachers, advisers, and family to check. Then redraft it until you’re happy with it, and the spelling, punctuation, and grammar are correct.

Don’t . . . .

  • Don’t Exaggerate – if you do, you may get caught out in an interview when asked to elaborate on an interesting achievement.
  • Don’t rely on a spellchecker, as it will not pick up everything – proofread as many times as possible.
  • Don’t leave it to the last minute – your statement will seem rushed, and important information could be left out.
  • Don’t let spelling and grammatical errors spoil your statement.
  • Be too generic – It might take a little more time to tailor your statement to each position, so be specific with your skills and examples.
  • Don’t be tempted to buy or copy a personal statement, or share yours. All personal statements are checked for similarity – if your personal statement is flagged as similar to other applicants, it could affect your chances of being offered a place.
  • Confuse it with your cover letter – Your personal statement is meant as a short introduction. Keep it that way. Use your cover letter and employment history to elaborate on your achievements and your personal statement to grab their attention. Don’t get confused between the two.
  • Think of it as a list – ‘I am experienced. I am qualified. I am a good communicator. Elaborate and be specific!
  • Forget To Read It Out Loud– Read it. Read it again. Get your friends and family to read it. And, most importantly, read it out loud and make sure it flows (and there aren’t any spellings and mistakes). Not only do you want it to impress the admissions team in terms of your achievements, you also want it to be well-written.
  • Other things not to do: Confuse tenses, forget to spellcheck, make it too personal, speak in colloquialisms, such as “ain’t” and “gonna”

NB:

As an international student there may be are a few extra things you should mention:

  1. Why you want to study in the UK?
  2. Your English language skills and any English courses or tests you’ve taken.
  3. Why you want to be an international student rather than study in your own country?

Consider this . . . .

I aim to study in the UK because of the country’s many top-ranking universities, especially in the field of mechanical engineering. I believe that receiving an education in the UK would help me on with my later life, and would build the strong framework of knowledge needed to handle any related job later on, allowing me to benefit myself and my country as needed. I’ve also been to London for more than ten times until now and have been very fond of the city. My grandfather had bought me the aforementioned Lego truck during one of his visits to London, and its essence has ever since rested in my memory. Now, my grandfather is deceased; the truck lies in pieces, but what was left was the ambition, the infatuation my grandfather had left engraved in my memory

It’s important to remember you can only write one personal statement – it’s the same for each course you apply for. So, avoid mentioning any universities or colleges by name.

If you’ve chosen similar subjects, talk about the subject in general, and try not to mention course titles. If you’ve chosen a variety of subjects, just write about common themes, like problem solving or creativity.

If you have to say more, then any additional material needs to be sent directly to the universities to which you have applied.  Wait until you have received your Application Number from UCAS so that you can include this with your papers.

 DEAR READER, a personal statement should be just that – personal. It is an opportunity for you to sell yourself to the University by expressing your interests, experiences and ambitions.

Wishing you all the best in your endeavours.

Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL

EFFORTLESS WAYS ON HOW PRAISE AND RECOGNITION CAN CHANGE ATTITUDE @ Home, Work and School

“A brave man acknowledges the strength of others.” ― Veronica Roth

“Beware of those who criticize you when you deserve some praise for an achievement, for it is they who secretly desire to be worshiped.” ― Suzy Kassem,

“You can always tell when someone deserves the praise and recognition they receive, because it humbles them rather than inflating their ego.”Ashly Lorenzana

“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” – Stephen R. Covey

“In the arena of human life, the honors and rewards fall to those who show their good qualities in action.”– Aristotle

The above quotes are illustrative of how we realise the power and influence of praise and recognition in our day to day living. Through motivating others, be it individuals or team members, offering praise and recognition for a job well done can be an extremely powerful tool in changing dynamics at work, school or home.

Network Monitoring AccountFIRST, here’s a fun exercise:

  • Think of your current line manager – On a scale of one to ten (one being the worst) rate their skills of recognizing, praising and rewarding hard work and achievement.
  • Now rate yourself: How well do you recognize and praise your students; employees, colleagues or your own children?

Certainly, that exercise might not have been quite as fun.

Why do we need praise?

There is no secret on how being praised often makes people feel good. Human aspects of pride, pleasure and increased feelings of self-esteem are all common reactions to being paid a compliment or receiving positive feedback, be it from colleagues, senior management OR even from our students!

It seems praise aims at fulfilling two important functions:

  1. Praise is the number one tool available to you to release energy and motivation in your people.
  2. Praise educates the people around you regarding what you like about their approach and encourages them to do more of it.

This is because being praised triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that mediates pleasure in the brain. It is released during pleasurable situations and stimulates one to seek out the pleasurable activity or occupation. It helps in controlling the reward and pleasure centres of the brain. As well as making us feel good, dopamine can also contribute to innovative thinking and creative problem-solving at work.

Time To Grow UpThese positive effects, however, are relatively short-lived, and for praise to have an enduring impact on employees, students or children’s engagement, it needs to be offered regularly. A senior employee at famous performance management consultancy, the Gallup Organisation hinted that “recognition is a short-term need that has to be satisfied on an ongoing basis”. Furthermore, in another Gallup research, it reported that employees who report that they are not adequately recognised at work are three times more likely to say they will leave in the following year.

The impact of praise

Psychologists and researchers have long been fascinated by the effects of praise on workplace performance and behaviour, and what this means for organisations. In a survey of more than four million employees about the importance of praise and recognition conducted by Gallup Organisation the results were fascinating:

  • employees who receive regular praise are more productive, engaged and more likely to stay with their organisation than those who do not.
  • employees who are praised receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers.
  • employees who are recognized for their efforts even enjoy better health than employees who are not.

 Delivering praise

There is a great deal of empirical evidence suggesting how praising employees at work can be beneficial. However, the most important aspect in which the praise is delivered has a significant bearing on its effectiveness. Research points out that only genuine achievements should be praised, and that empty words have little or no value.

Indeed, it is alleged that ‘unearned praise can do more harm to an individual and a workgroup than none at all’. It not only prevents employees from knowing when they need to improve, but it can diminish the impact of the genuine praise that is offered at other times.

Similarly, students or children who are praised for being inherently ‘good’ at something are less likely to take on new challenges than those who are praised for their approach to the task. When it comes to praising students or children, Carol Dweck, a psycholgist’s advice is to ‘focus on the processes they used – their strategies, effort or choices’.

cropped-learning.pngResearch highlights the value of constructive feedback; where managers should be specific about which aspects of their team members’ performance have particularly impressed them and why.

There’s little doubt that praising and recognising the efforts and achievements of others can bring about some very positive results in the workplace. Being praised makes the recipient

  • feel good about themselves
  • help to boost their performance
  • experience an ‘uplift’ that can increase employee’s morale, motivation and engagement
  • renew their commitment to their manager and the organisation.

For praise to have this kind of impact, however, it needs to be delivered effectively.

Only genuine achievements should be praised, and managers should ensure their feedback is constructive and specific.

Seeking Recognition

Recognition is being seen to be good or bad in some act. It can be either positive or negative. Effective recognition has the following characteristics:

  • It is positive in nature
  • It is immediately connected to performance
  • It is specific about what is being praised
  • It is close to the action

We want and cherish praise and recognition in determining the values of our school or organization. Thus, in today’s world, praise and recognition are communication vehicles for that which is deemed important. The top tips below are tried and tested techniques to praise and recognition.

pexels-photo-886465.jpegTIPS IN GIVING PRAISE AND RECOGNITION

  1. Never WAIT!

The more time that passes between great performance and recognition, the lower the impact of that recognition. Immediately is never too soon.

  1. Credit where credit’s due

It’s no secret that both giving and receiving praise makes us feel good: we’re psychologically wired to function in a receive-give and give-receive kind of environment. When we feel a sense of pride and satisfaction in what we’ve achieved, our brain releases the hormone dopamine, immediately awakening the reward and pleasure areas of our brain

  1. Be specific

Generic praise is nice but specific praise is wonderful. Don’t just tell an employee you did a good job; tell them how they did a good job. Not only will they appreciate the gesture, but will also know you pay attention to what they do.

The added impetus is that they will know exactly what to do the next time in a similar situation.Never Stop

4. Be genuine

Never praise for the sake of praising. It will become obvious to everyone if it is “forced” and will lessen the impact when you really do mean what you say: the real praise and recognition.

5. Save constructive feedback for later

Many of our bosses, albeit inherently, toss in a little feedback while praising a colleague or employee. They will say “how great you did . . . but next time you might want to consider . . .” Oh! No! It just leaves a sour taste to the praise as “. . . all I hear is what I should do next time.”

Advice: Praise and recognize now! It is better to save performance improvement opportunities later.

6. Go hunting

Are you one of those bosses who are conditioned to spending time looking for issues or problems to correct and resolve? If so, it will do you a lot of good by just spending a little time trying to catch colleagues or employees doing good things, too.

7. Be surprising at some point

Birthday presents are nice, but unexpected gifts make an even bigger impact. Unexpected recognition is always more powerful, too. Winning “Employee of the Week” is nice, but receiving a surprise visit from the owner because you won back a lost client is awesome.

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8. Strike a balance

It is much easier to recognize some of your best employees because they are consistently doing great things. However, finding ways to spread the positive vibe around is golden.

Whilst it is going to be hard to find reasons to recognize some of the less than stellar employees, the fact that they are there means they are part of the team. By giving just a little encouragement may be all a poor or average performer needs to turn the productivity corner.

9. Create a CULTURE

By making praise and recognition something you measure, may at first sound cheesy and forced, but the more it is done, the quicker it will be embraced.

The ripple effect to it is that peer pressure and natural competitiveness are promoted. Employees become happy to assist and accomplish things worthy of praise so as to report great stuff to the boss or fellow colleagues.

10. Treat employees like snowflakes

We all respond differently to praise and recognition. There are many of us who may appreciate public praise but, then equally so, there are those among us, who just want a quiet word. Some of us cringe when made the centre of attraction.

Surely, knowing your employees, students or children and tailoring your recognition so it produces the greatest impact for each individual is a bonus.

Exper ExperienceAnd remember:

Dear Boss, just remember that:

Recognizing our effort and achievement is self-reinforcing. When you do a better job of recognizing us, we tend to perform better. We will come to work happy, ready and eager to perform because we know we are a TEAM as Together Everyone Achieves More.

So dear folks, praise and recognition are essential building blocks of a great workplace. We all possess the need to be recognized as individuals and to feel a sense of accomplishment. There is nothing complicated about recognition, but it is one of the items that consistently receives the lowest ratings from our bosses.

Let me hope that, that room for improvement, is now. Let us start with our little ones and build it up from there.

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Good luck in all your endeavours.

BE EMPOWERED and EXCEL

BRILLIANT IDEAS ON APPROACHING AN UNSEEN PROSE PASSAGE

The Unseen Prose as the name implies, is the one the students have never seen before in the course of their studies. In your English Literature examination, you will be asked to analyse and evaluate an unseen prose extract.

What is Prose?

Prose is a form of language that has no formal metrical structure, in other words, no rhyme or rhythm. It applies a natural flow of speech, and ordinary grammatical structure rather than rhythmic structure, such as in the case of traditional poetry.

It is the opposite of poetry.

Normal every day speech is spoken in prose and most people think and write in prose form.  The novel you are studying as part of your literature exam is also prose.

Remember also that: most human conversation, textbooks, lectures, novels, short stories, fairy tales, newspaper articles, and essays are all written in prose. 

Responding To Prose Text

  • read and understand a prose extract
  • use details from the prose extract to illustrate interpretations
  • explain and evaluate the ways in which the author expresses meaning and achieves effects.

Elements Of Prose Text

To analyse a prose text, one has to address the following:

Reading for Meaning – Subject Matter: The first thing we need to do when we read an unseen passage is to read for meaning, in other words read to understand what is happening in the passage. Consider the structure of the text – beginnings, climax, sequential/chronological ordering, flashback, conclusion. Also note the disjunctive elements eg: cliffhanger endings, flashbacks.

Form: It means type of story or genre.  What type of story is it? Pick out the elements of the story that define it as belonging to that particular form. Is it autobiographical? Establish the point of view

Narrative Voice: When reading unseen prose, it is important to identify who is telling the story? First person or third person are the most commonly used in fiction. You may also consider the omniscient narrator, multiple narrators’ use of persona, autobiography

Setting: One of the things it is worth paying particular attention to in the passage is where the story is set. This can give you a sense of location and time, in other words where and when the story is set.  What we are told about the setting can often help us understand what is happening in the passage.

Characters: One of the most important aspects of the passage you will be expected to write about is how the characters in it have been created.

When discussing character, make sure to comment on:

  • How they are described;
  • What they think;
  • What they say (dialogue);
  • What they do;
  • How they interact with others;
  • What other characters say about them.

Setting and Atmosphere: Often the description of a particular setting can be used to create a certain atmosphere or mood.

  1. What mood or atmosphere is created in the passage above?
  2. Pick out two examples of how the writer uses language to create this mood or atmosphere.
  3. Explain the effect of the examples you have chosen on the reader.
  4. How does the writer build suspense and create an atmosphere of tension and unease?
  5. Any words or phrases which make us feel in a certain way. Consider the connotations of the words and phrases in the passage.

Language and Imagery: Writing effectively about literature means engaging in close language analysis and thinking carefully about why the writer chose the words and phrases they did.

When reading an unseen text, you need to be able to comment on how the author uses language. To achieve this, think of this 15-word mnemonic. Each of the letters stand for an important idea:

Use I AM A FOREST CREEP.

  • I – IMAGERY
  • A – ALLITERATION
  • M – METAPHOR
  • A – ANECDOTE
  • F – FACTS
  • O – OXYMORON
  • R- REPETITION
  • E- EMOTIVE LANGUAGE
  • S- SENSORY DESCRIPTIONS
  • T – TRIPLES
  • C – CONTRAST
  • R- RHETORICAL QUESTION
  • E- Exciting Adjectives/Verbs And Adverbs
  • E – Effective Openings/ Endings
  • P – Personification

This means you should be able to comment on:

  • Individual words and phrases – what are their connotations?
  • How the writer uses figurative language (metaphors, similes, personification etc.)
  • Sentence types and punctuation
  • Word types – verbs, adverbs, adjectives etc.

Structure: One of the things the examiner will expect you to write about is structure.  What does this mean?

  • How the story is told – from start to finish – chronological, cyclical, flashbacks etc.
  • Repetition – are any words or ideas repeated in the passage?
  • Openings – how does the passage open and how does it end?
  • Connections – how are the paragraphs linked together?
  • Paragraph lengths – is there a range of different sizes?
  • Sentences – are there long sentences, short sentences, or a mixture of both? Consider the use of punctuation and other typographical effects eg: italics, capitalisation, suspension points.
  • Narrative perspective – does the narrator stay the same throughout?

Tone: If you engage in close reading you can often get a sense of how the author wants to make their audience feel about a certain character or situation. This is sometimes conveyed through their TONE. Read the following extract and by the end of it hopefully the author’s intention and tone will become clear!

Diction: It can be defined as style of speaking or writing, determined by the choice of words by a speaker or a writer. Diction, or choice of words, often separates good writing from bad writing. It depends on a number of factors. Firstly, the word has to be right and accurate. Secondly, words should be appropriate to the context in which they are used. Lastly, the choice of words should be such that the listener or reader understands easily.

Proper diction, or proper choice of words, is important to get the message across. On the other hand, the wrong choice of words can easily divert listeners or readers, which results in misinterpretation of the message intended to be conveyed.

Types of Diction

Individuals vary their diction depending on different contexts and settings. Therefore, we come across various types of diction.

  • Formal diction – formal words are used in formal situations, such as press conferences and presentations.
  • Informal diction – uses informal words and conversation, such as writing or talking to friends.
  • Colloquial diction – uses words common in everyday speech, which may be different in different regions or communities.
  • Slang diction – is the use of words that are newly coined, or even impolite.

Depending on the topics at hand, writers tend to vary their diction. Let us see some examples of diction in literature:

 A Tale of Two Cities (By Charles Dickens)

Sometimes writers repeat their chosen words or phrases to achieve an artistic effect, such as in the following example from A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

By repeating the phrase “It was the …” throughout the passage, the writer ensures that the readers will give more consideration to the characteristic of the era they are going to read about in the novel.

Function of Diction

In literature, writers choose words to create and convey a typical mood, tone, and atmosphere to their readers. A writer’s choice of words, and his selection of graphic words, not only affect the reader’s attitude, but also conveys the writer’s feelings toward the literary work. Moreover, poetry is known for its unique diction, which separates it from prose. Usually, a poetic diction is marked by the use of figures of speech, rhyming words, and other devices.

PLEA

When writing about the writer’s use of language it is useful to make it clear which specific language device they have used. A useful way to remember this is to P-L-E-A, which is a variation on the PEA paragraphs you have been used to writing.

  • P        -Point
  • L        – Language device
  • E        – Evidence
  • A        – Analysis

For example . . . .

  • Point – The writer create a tense and gloomy atmosphere
  • Language Device – personification / pathetic fallacy
  • Evidence- the wind howling in the grove behind the hall

Analysis – the writer’s use of personification makes the outside world appear just as threatening as the internal one; the room in which Jane is imprisoned. The wind is compared to a wild animal and she appears to be the vulnerable prey. The use of pathetic fallacy adds an atmosphere of tension and unease to the experience.

In the Unseen Prose section, you will be asked to analyse and evaluate an unseen prose extract. In most cases, the question’s comes as .  .

You may wish to consider:

  • the character’s feelings and reactions
  • how other characters react toward them
  • the writer’s use of language, structure and form

DEAR Reader, this is not an easy undertaking. It requires practice.

Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!

IDEAS ON COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO USING YOUR INITIATIVE

A GOOD WORKER IN TODAY’S WORLD has . . .

the ability to do what needs to be done without being prompted by others or has the willingness to take a fresh approach.

INITIATIVENESS and SELF-MOTIVATION attributes are probably some of the most important determinants of success in any situation.

  • Self-motivation is about your internal drive to achieve, develop and keep moving forward; it is what pushes you on to complete something when you feel like giving up.
  • Linked to this, is initiative: This is about being proactive rather than reactive, spotting and taking advantage of opportunities as they arise and persisting in the face of setbacks.In this post I am looking at how using your initiative can improve the impact you have within your team/organisation and on your own self-development.
  • Using your initiative is a great way to demonstrate your ability and potential. Dealing with issues or initiating improvements without having to be asked will make you a valuable asset and example to others.

Definition

A dictionary definition says:

Initiative [noun] is . . .

  • the ability to act and make decisions without the help or advice of other   people, ‘you’ll just have to use your initiative’;
  • the first step in a process that, once taken, determines subsequent events i.e. decide to take the initiative

In another context, . . .

  • Initiative is the ability to be resourceful and work without always being told what to do.
  • It requires resilience and determination.
  • People who show initiative demonstrate they can think for themselves and take action when necessary.
  • It means using your head, and having the drive to achieve.

Initiative is a self-management skill. Initiative also means doing things for others. Going out of your way to help people shows that you’re willing to go above and beyond, which will impress employers.

People who take the initiative are generally inquisitive by nature, self-motivated with a strong interest in learning and making progress. But how do they use their initiative to greater effect than others?

Displaying And Developing Initiative

Consider the following behaviours and characteristics:

  • They tend to follow their own lead. Although they may ask for and use advice, they will usually consider it against their own ideas before taking action.
  • They have a high commitment to continuous learning and will actively seek out opportunities to develop and expand their personal skills and knowledge.
  • They place an increased level of trust in their intuition (generally based on an honest appreciation of their ability and experience).
  • They are practical by nature. They can foresee or identify problems before they arise and will make efforts to avert or solve them.
  • They tend to be uncomfortable with the ‘status quo’ and have a continual improvement attitude in things they do or are associated with.

The Value Of Initiative

A person who is not afraid to use their initiative is a valuable asset to any team or organisation. They can enjoy many role-enhancing advantages and are seen to be progressive and conscientious.

Using your initiative makes you a desirable candidate for jobs and opportunities as you are showing you can think for yourself, as well as proving that you will continue to develop and grow in your role.

Initiative will allow you to get ahead of the competition and ensure you’re up to date with what’s going on in your career sector. People who show good initiative often win awards and promotions as they generate exciting and beneficial ideas.

People who Use Their Initiative Are …

  • perceived as being proactive, positive and willing to get their hands dirty. They will be the person who is asked to help in both the planning and execution of events and projects. Managers often rely on them to sort out problems and check things are in order. They attract trust and respect.
  • creative thinkers and good at offering suggestions and ideas. They will be valued for their imagination and contribution to ‘blue sky’ thinking exercises or brainstorming sessions where the ability to think outside the box is important.
  • able to overcome challenges and are tenacious about problem solving. They never let a difficulty get in the way of progress and can be remarkably upbeat when things aren’t going well. Their positive attitude helps motivate and encourage others.
  • good at dealing with change – relishing the opportunities it may bring and enjoying the prospect of having new challenges to deal with. Their enthusiasm to improve matters can help a team stay focussed and support the whole change process.
  • inspiring to others. They are generally seen as the person who gets things done and sorts things out. Their value to the team is obvious and it’s not difficult to appraise the value they add.

A Word Of Warning – Use Your Common Sense!

People who use their initiative are not superhuman. Whilst they bring many benefits to the group, they are not infallible. Before you start diving in with new ideas and trying to spot the next problem to solve, remember that not everything needs sorting out and it can be quite demoralising for other team members if you’re seen to be interfering all the time.

As with all strong personality characteristics, there’s a time and a place. The real skill is knowing when to use your initiative and when to let someone else use theirs.

Use you common sense …

Common sense is the use of sound practical judgment derived from experience rather than study.

Common Sense Working

The combination of initiative and common sense can be very powerful. Balancing your desires to learn, improve things, impress others and make a difference, with the need to deliver your core responsibilities is vital.

Getting involved in additional projects and initiatives is all well and good providing your own deadlines and outputs are not adversely affected. Always take a moment to think through the consequences of your input and involvement, and negotiate the part you could and should be playing.

Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!!

BRILLIANT TOP TIPS AND TRICKS IN USING MICROSOFT TEAMS – CREATING A POLL

Do you know that you can create a poll and then launch it before, during, or after your lesson using Microsoft Teams?

The feature enables teachers to create/launch polls that students can view and answer before, during or after the lesson meeting.

The polls, quizzes and surveys are sure ways of providing feedback to the lesson; makes it easier for students to respond to and are faster and more accurate. They also create a two-way dialogue between the teacher and students and are certainly a micro-learning tactic. Ultimately, it will show the teacher how students are understanding the materials in “real-time.”

Even better still, any member of the class can create a poll, and all members of the team can vote and see the results. This means it’s both democratic and transparent, and can be recorded if you need to refer back to the poll results at a later date.

A simple trick goes as . . .

Once the teacher publishes the poll, the students will be notified via a pop-up and in the meeting chat. They will be able to vote and see the poll outcomes in real-time. If the poll isn’t closed, the students can also choose to participate in it after the meeting has ended.

There are two ways to do this:

How To Add A Quick Poll Form To Teams

  1. Open a Team and select the Channel you want to poll. This will open the Conversations area.
  2. Type a new message and type @Forms select the Forms icon when it appears. This instructs the Forms bot that you want to create a poll.
  3. Within the same message immediately after @Forms start typing your question. Add a question mark after it. Forms won’t recognise the question if you don’t.
  4. Now type between two and six answer options with a comma between each.
  5. You should now have a message that is formatting like this: @Forms Question? Option 1, Option 2, Option 3,
  6. When you are ready to poll, send the message by clicking on the blue arrow. Within a few seconds it will be available to the whole Team to respond by selecting one of the options.

With Microsoft Forms, you can create surveys, quizzes, and polls, and easily see results as they come in.

Teams display a pop-up notification – All you need to do to is @ mention Forms in your Team conversation area, ask a question and then type in the response options. Within seconds your poll will be available to the Team members. A Quick Poll Form can have up to six options and one response per person.

Ask Questions To Your Teammates Directly In Your Conversations Threads – Once a poll is prepared, it can be published before the meeting to allow participants to respond before the meeting begins, thereby collecting information ahead of it. In this case, the poll appears as a card in the meeting chat.

During the meeting, the organizer or presenters can publish polls at the point when it’s a good time to ask the question. Because the full meeting experience is available, Teams uses a pop-up notification displayed in the middle of the meeting window to display the poll card

When you launch your poll, it will pop up as a notification on the meeting screen and also appear in the meeting chat window. Attendees can also create ad-hoc polls during a meeting to get quick feedback on the spot.

How To Add A Quiz (Multiple-Choice Type Questions) Poll/Survey Form To Teams

  1. In Teams, select Calendar.
  2. Find the meeting you’ve scheduled for which you want to add polls, and click or tap it.
  3. Select Chat With Participants.
  4. Select Add a tab Add button , and then select Forms.
  5. Select Save. A new Polls tab will be added to your meeting.
  6. Select Add a button to Create New Poll.
  7. Add your question and answer options.
  8. As appropriate for your meeting, select Share results automatically after voting and/or Keep responses anonymous.
  9. Select Save. This will save your poll as a draft until you’re ready to launch it during your meeting.
  10. Note: You’ll see DRAFT marked in green in the upper left corner of your poll to indicate it hasn’t been launched yet.
  11. To create more polls for your meeting, select Add button Create New.
  12. You can launch a poll using either of these methods: In the Polls tab, select Launch on the poll for which you want responses. You can do this before, during, or after your meeting OR Select the Polls icon in your meeting window, which will open a Polls pane. Select Launch on the poll for which you want responses.

When you launch your poll, meeting attendees will see your question and answer options in a poll notification that appears in the middle of their meeting screen.

  • Polls that have been launched and are accepting responses will be marked in red with LIVE in the upper left corner of the poll.
    • Polls that have been closed and are no longer accepting responses will be marked in dark gray with CLOSED in the upper left corner of the poll.
    • If you want to reopen the poll, select the drop-down list next to Export results and choose Reopen poll.
  • If you want to close a poll, export poll results, or a delete a poll, select the drop-down list next to View results and select Close pollExport results, or Delete poll, respectively.

To view the results . . .

If you want to see which choice each user chose, open the Forms application and click on the poll form.

Only the person who created the poll will be able to see the responses in Forms, but the responses can be exported to Excel and shared with the team, just like any other document.

Dear Teacher . . . There is a lot to gain in making our lessons more entertaining, and ultimately, more enterprising; and polls, surveys or quizzes are just one way of beating the routines. Please try it and see it for yourself.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!!

TOP TIPS & TRICKS IN USING MICROSOFT TEAMS: GROUP WORK IN BREAKOUT ROOMS

Do you want to have group work in your live class session?

If so, then Group Work In Breakout Rooms is quite a possibility. Here you can divide students into smaller groups for a discussion, monitor individual groups or even record the group’s proceedings with very little tricks to implement.

One of the key advantages of breakout rooms is to allow teachers/presenters to divide the meeting lesson into sub-groups to facilitate discussions and brainstorming sessions.

Group Work In Breakout Rooms

Breakout rooms or mini-meetings allow a meeting teacher/organizer to split attendees into multiple online rooms for discussion and collaboration in Microsoft Teams. Only the meeting teacher/organizer can create breakout rooms. That means, literally, only one person in the meeting is able to do this, and must be present throughout the duration of the meeting.

Click the breakout rooms button in the meeting toolbar. Note that the breakout rooms icon might be either of the two shown below.

Choose how many rooms you’d like—up to 50— . . .

In the pop-up settings window, select the number of breakout rooms you want to create and how participants will be assigned:

  • Automatically – Participants who have already joined the meeting will be assigned into equal-sized rooms. Participants who join the meeting after automatic allocation will need to be assigned manually.
  • Manually – This allows you to assign participants to rooms as you choose.

Once the meeting has started, Select the breakout room icon.

woman on the phone
Photo by Samson Katt on Pexels.com

There are times when you must assign or move a participant manually – Select the closed room where the participant is currently assigned. Tick the box next to the name of the participant you want to move. Select ‘Assign’ and choose any room you want to place them in.

Participants who have not yet been assigned to a room will appear under the ‘Assign participants’ section. 

Note that participants joining via desk phone or Teams mobile app cannot be assigned and will remain in the main meeting.

Starting Breakout Rooms Meeting

When you are happy with the breakout rooms allocations you need to open the rooms to allow participants to access them. This is quite simple to do:

  • To open all of the rooms at once, select ‘Start rooms’. The status icon next to the rooms will change from ‘Closed’ to ‘Open’.
  • To open individual rooms, hover over the ‘Closed’ status icon of the room and select the ellipsis icon. Select ‘Open’.
  • When participants are in the breakout room, ‘In meeting’ displays beside their name. If this status is not shown beside a name, you can prompt the participant to enter the breakout room by selecting their name and ‘Ask to join’.

Among many other things you, as the Teacher, can do all the following:

Send An Announcement To All Breakout Rooms – The meeting organizer can broadcast an announcement message via meeting chat to all breakout rooms so everyone in all rooms are informed of updates, changes, or news during their breakout sessions.

Join A Breakout Room As The Organizer – The organizer cannot be in all breakout rooms at once; however, they can jump between breakout rooms as necessary. To enter a breakout room, click the room’s ellipses and selecting Join room.

To Create An Announcement, click the ellipses in the Breakout Rooms pane and select Make an announcement. In the pop-up box, write your announcement then press Send.

Record Breakout Rooms – The meeting organizer can begin recording by jumping between each room. To record the breakout room, you need to be in it. In the meeting toolbar, click the ellipses then click Record.

Sharing And Accessing Files – While breakout rooms are open, attendees can upload files to the room chat for sharing and collaborating. To share a file in a breakout room, open the breakout room chat from the Chat icon in the main Teams window (not the meeting window nor the breakout window). Find the chat for the breakout room. Below the chat text box, click the paperclip icon to upload a new file or share an existing file from OneDrive. Press send once you’re ready. Everyone else in the breakout room (including the meeting organizer) will be able to access the file and edit it live at the same time as you.

What Students Cannot Do in a breakout room:

  • Students cannot add participants.
  • Students will not see suggestions of people who should join (organizers may).
  • Students cannot get meeting details or dial out (akin to not being able to add participants).
  • Students cannot rejoin the original meeting themselves.
  • Students cannot switch between breakout rooms

Close Your Breakout Rooms – Once you as the organizer decide it’s time to end the breakout rooms, you can close them, pulling everyone back into the main meeting. To close your breakout rooms, click the Close rooms button to close all the rooms at once. Or you can close them one-by-one by clicking the room’s ellipses and selecting Close room. At this time, breakout room participants cannot return to the main meeting room on their own nor can they close their own breakout room.

After Your Breakout Rooms – Once you close your breakout rooms, you can actually re-open them if you want. They will have the same artifacts—shared files, whiteboards, things like that—as before, so the attendees can work on existing content. Or you can delete the existing breakout rooms and create new ones for a fresh experience.

YOU can Download An Attendance List And Transcript, just like regular meetings. The recording will become available afterwards via Microsoft Stream. Only breakout room attendees and the organizer will have access to these because they’re in the breakout room-specific meeting chat, at least until the new meeting recap feature rolls out.

Switching Between Main Meeting And Assigned Breakout Room – If this feature is enabled by the teacher, students can return to the main meeting at any time while the room is still open by selecting ‘Return’. Students will still be able to return to their assigned breakout room from the main meeting while the room is open by selecting ‘Join room’.

Accessing The Breakout Rooms After A Session – You can revisit the breakout rooms after the session and view chats, shared files, whiteboards as you can with standard chat areas and meetings. The chat area for each room is available via the standard Teams chat panel: However, students are not able to add or share files within the chats once the meeting has ended.

I have enjoyed using breakout rooms with all my students and they have benefitted immensely. If run properly, and with efficiency, the greatest benefactors is not just the teacher, but the students themselves.

Please try it and see for yourself.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!!

BRILLIANT TOP TIPS AND TRICKS IN USING MICROSOFT TEAMS

At a glance:

  • What is Microsoft Teams?
  • Microsoft Teams Features
  • Two User Roles: Owner And Member
  • Some Top Tips And Tricks For General Use
  • Top Tips And Tricks In A Live Class/Meeting Session
  • Group Work In Breakout Rooms

With hundreds of thousands of people working from home, this is a huge shock to the system for information and technology teams. Technology has only been previously using 10% to 20% of the time but is almost operating at full capacity at 90% to 100% now. By the way no one was ready for that volume! From Slack, Google to Collaborate, Zoom to Microsoft Teams, there has been an array of technological applications that our modern-day scholars have access to, all, on the click of a button.  Among the lot, Microsoft Teams has, at least for me, proved to be the most enterprising and reliable.

What is Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is a combination of already existing features of Skype (chat and conferencing), SharePoint and OneDrive (file sharing and collaboration), OneNote (note-taking), Planner (everyday project management), Stream (video sharing), plus built-in applications tabs that bring other tools like GSuite, MailChimp, Salesforce, and so much more in one place. Access to all of these features —and more—is available directly through Microsoft Teams.  Thus, Microsoft Teams is a tool that provides global, remote, and dispersed information via a common space – Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams Features

Microsoft Teams features make it stand out from other collaboration software due to a number of enterprising features. These include:

Teams And Channels: Teams are made up of channels, which are conversation boards between teammates.

Conversations Within Channels And Teams: All team members can view and add to different conversations in the General channel and can use an @ function to invite other members to different conversations.

A Chat Function: This basic chat function is commonly found within most collaboration applications and can take place between teams, groups, and individuals.

Document Storage In Sharepoint: Every member who uses Microsoft Teams will have a site in sharepoint online, which will contain a default document library folder. All files shared across all conversations will automatically be saved to this folder.

Online Video Calling And Screen Sharing:  One can enjoy seamless and fast video calls to colleagues or students, alike within your business, school or clients outside your business.

Online Meetings: This feature can enhance communication through meetings, and even training with an online meetings function that can host up to 10,000 users. This feature also includes a scheduling aid, a note-taking application, file uploading, and in-meeting chat messaging.

Audio Conferencing. This is a feature you won’t find in many collaboration platforms. With audio conferencing, anyone can join an online meeting via phone. With a dial-in number that spans hundreds of cities, even users that are on the go can participate with no internet required.

woman coffee apple iphone
Photo by Stefan Coders on Pexels.com

Two User Roles: Owner And Member

Within Microsoft Teams there are two user roles: owner and member. By default, a user who creates a new team is granted the owner status. In addition, owners and members can have moderator capabilities for a channel

As the Teacher is the owner, s/he has the right to be the sole rights ownership on presenters:

1 Team owners can create teams unless they’ve been restricted from doing so.

2 An owner can turn off some items at the team level, in which students would not have access to being presenters but as members only.

3 After adding a member to a team, an owner can also promote a member to owner status. It is also possible for an owner to demote their own status to a member.

4 Team members can add other members to a public team: the class.

5 While a team member can’t directly add members to a private team, they can request someone to be added to the team of which team owners will receive an alert that they have a pending request that they can accept or deny.

NB: Make sure you’re on a paid Microsoft Teams plan in order to have full access.

Some Top Tips And Tricks For General Use

Customize Teams For Your Unique Scenario – Whether you’re preparing lesson plans, creating a personalized learning environment, developing an after-school program, managing any other team-based activity or project, Teams can help you get organized for success.

Create Your Team And Invite Team Members – On the online application launcher, click Teams to open the online application (or download it to your desktop). Then click the Join or create a team button at the bottom of the channel list in Teams, After that, then click the Create team button then select Classes. In the Create Your Team Window, name your class and write a brief description that explains the purpose of the class, then click the Next button.

Creating Members List – You can easily add people, groups, and distribution lists from your school. As you begin typing names, a dropdown list of people in your email directory matching your spelling will appear. Click the Add button to add team members, or click the Skip button to add team members later if you want to set up your content first.

pexels-photo-5355644.jpeg
Photo by Shotkit on Pexels.com

Sign In and Get Started with Teams – In Windows, click Start Start button > Microsoft Corporation > Microsoft Teams. On Mac, go to the Applications folder and click Microsoft Teams. On mobile, tap the Teams icon. Sign in with your Office 365 username and password.

Create A Few Key Channels and some tabs with great content – When you create a new class, a “General” channel is automatically added to the class. You can create additional channels to keep your class organized. By default, anyone on the team can access these channels.

Duplicate To Eliminate – Setting up the lesson can be tiresome, especially if you’re having to do it several times a day. Minimise your work by setting your lessons to repeat for the rest of the term. To do this go to “repeat” and set to weekly or daily, or to custom if you need fortnightly repetitions for your two-week timetable.

To Create Additional Channels, select the ellipses (…) next to your team name in the channel list. Select Add channel from the dropdown menu. In the dialog box, name your channel and write a brief description that explains the purpose of the channel, then select the Add button.

Sharing Files in Microsoft Teams – In Microsoft Teams, users can share content with other Teams users within and outside their organization. Sharing files and folders in Teams is based on the settings configured in SharePoint and OneDrive, so whatever you set up for SharePoint and OneDrive will affect sharing in Teams as well.

Users can share files from OneDrive, from teams and sites they have access to, and from their computer

Conversations – Persistent chat is the name of the game with Teams as you make contact with colleagues and students, and as they make contact with you. While it might seem like you’re using iMessage, WhatsApp, or Android Messenger, you’re definitely not.

Chat – Start a new conversation with a person or group. At the top of the application, click New chat. In the To field, type the name of the person or people you want to chat with. In the compose box, say what you have to say and click Send button.

Reply To A Conversation – Channel conversations are organized by date and then threaded. The replies in threads are organized under the initial post so it’s easier to follow multiple conversations. Find the conversation thread you want to reply to. Click Reply, add your message, and click Send button.

Make Announcement Message – Have an image banner with large text when announcing important information to groups or class. It is advisable to use subject lines when starting new conversations.

Move Email Conversations To Teams – You can send emails to a channel within Teams. To create an email address for a channel, select the ellipsis (…) to the right of the channel. Then select Get email address in the dropdown menu. Finally, select the Copy button and save the email address to your contacts list or email address book.

Create Class Assignments – To create assignments in teams, select the assignments tab in your class tab. Select the Create button in the top right corner and then select New assignment. In addition, you can . . .

Review And Grade Students’ Work by heading back to the Assignments tab in your class. Select Review to see all the assignments your students have turned in. You can then assess them and provide feedback.

Have Fun With Emoji, Memes, And GIFs – Express yourself and impress your classmates. Click Sticker button under the box where you type your message, then pick a meme or sticker from one of the categories.

Share A File – Sometimes words aren’t enough, and you need to post a file to a channel conversation. In your channel conversation, click Attach and Choose file button beneath. Select a file, click Open, and then Send button.

You can also always see all the files you post to a channel by going to the Files tab.

Collaborate In Teams – @mention someone. An @mention is like a tap on the shoulder—a way to get someone’s attention in a channel conversation or a chat. In the compose box, type @, then type the first few letters of the person’s name. You can also @mention entire teams and channels. Repeat for as many people as you want to @mention. Each person you @mention gets a notification in their Activity feed.

Stay On Top Of Things – Notifications let you know when someone @mentions you, likes something you’ve posted, or replies to a thread you started. The Activity feed helps you stay on top of all your notifications.

Click Activity Button – The feed shows you a summary of everything that’s happened in the channels you follow. Click Filter button to show only certain types of notifications such as @mentions or likes.

Select Feed and then My Activity to see a list of everything you’ve been up to lately in Teams.

Search For Messages, People Or Files – Searches cover your entire organization—all the channels that you’re part of. Type a phrase in the command box at the top of the application and press Enter. Select the Messages, People, or Files tab. You can click Filter button to further refine your search results.

Sharing Your Screen – Move your mouse to the bottom-middle corner of the screen during a meeting in Teams. Click the square icon in the toolbar and select the window you want to share. Then, Click the third icon from the left, it’s the icon with the square box and arrow. You can then choose either one of your screens or desktops or a window or program to share.

Scheduling a Meeting – When the time for the meeting has arrived, select the meeting by clicking on it in the Calendar view and then click the Join button in the top right. This will make you join the meeting.

Recording a Meeting – Inside of a meeting, hover over your picture in the middle of the screen and the meeting toolbar will appear. Click the …(ellipsis) button. Click Start Recording. The recording will begin and you will see a red circle to the left of the meeting toolbar.

Click “Stop Recording” –  You’ll then see a message that the recording is being processed and will be available shortly.

Retrieving a Recording – If you are still in the meeting, after the recording has finished processing, you can access it from the Chat window. Click the speech bubble button on the meeting toolbar to open the Meeting chat pane, and then select … to reveal the options for the video. Once the meeting has ended the recording will show up in the Chat tab of teams under the Recent section. From this chat window, you’ll see options to manage the recording.

Transcript Over Teams Meeting – If you’ve just finished a call in Microsoft Teams, you can go back and read a transcript of what just happened by going to Microsoft Stream. If your administrator has enabled the ability to transcribe meetings, and you’ve already recorded your call, you can also go back to the transcript to highlight important points and to provide a more finalized copy for distribution within your organization.

Some Top Tips And Tricks In The Live Meeting – Class/Meeting In Session

Spotlight Yourself Or Others – This means putting the focus on a specific person for all participants. Only meeting presenters can spotlight a participant. To use the feature, you just need to click the ellipsis icon next to any participant and select “Spotlight.” When a person is spotlighted, an icon appears next to the person’s name within the participants.

Manage Permissions – Go to the team name you are the owner of and select More options and  select Manage Team. In there, you will be able to enable and disable all the options available for your team by checking or unchecking them.

Brainstorming Session With A Whiteboard – When you create a meeting you can access the Whiteboard even before the meeting has started. All you need to do is to open the meeting chat and click on the Whiteboard tab. Still, you can launch by tapping the Whiteboard icon on the Start Screen where you can immediately begin inking with the pen, adding images or sticky notes, and signing in.

Someone Raises Their Hand – During a meeting, you can raise a virtual hand to let people know you want to contribute without interrupting the conversation. Everyone in the meeting will see that you’ve got your hand up. Meeting presenters will also receive a notification that your hand is raised.

Quick Poll – QuickPoll is designed to allow you to set up one-question anonymous surveys which your students may complete quickly and efficiently. It is helpful to the teacher as you receive valuable feedback from your students.

Go to the “More Options” menu. Go to Settings. Select the “Only people in my organization can respond” button. De-select “record name” and select “one response per person.”

Follow-Up Questions/Pin Chat Message – The pinned chats/messages, means that whatever message or chat that you want is pinned at the top of the screen, meaning that no matter how many other chats pop up, that particular chat will always remain at the top. Got to your recent chats on the left side of the Teams screen. Click the three little dots to the right of the staff listed in the chat. Then select “pin.” The pinned chats will come up in a new “pinned” list above all the other chat

Mute/Unmute Button – While the meeting is in progress, you have the option to mute or unmute yourself. On the bottom toolbar, you will see a camera icon on the left and a microphone icon next to it. Click it to mute yourself, click it again to unmute yourself. You can also press Ctrl + Shift + M on your keyboard to mute/unmute.

Muting Other Participants – Click on their name on the right side of the screen and select Mute Participant (or unmute if they are already muted) If a user is muted, they receive a notification letting them know. They can unmute themselves if they need to be heard.

Download Attendance – This allows teachers to take student attendance and generate simple attendance reports. Open the participants’ pane, click the ellipses to the right of Participants, then click download attendance list. The file will be downloaded to your computer’s default downloads folder. This has to be done during the live meeting!

Group Work In Breakout Rooms

Breakout rooms or mini-meetings allow a meeting organizer to split your attendees into multiple online rooms for discussion and collaboration in Microsoft Teams. Only the meeting organizer can create breakout rooms. That means literally only one person in the meeting is able to do this and must be present throughout the time you want to use breakout rooms for them to be used in a meeting.

Click the breakout rooms button in the meeting toolbar, as above shown above. Note that the breakout rooms icon might be either of the two shown.

Choose how many rooms you’d like—up to 50—and decide whether you’d like to have attendees randomly and evenly distributed among the breakout rooms or if you’d like to organize the rooms manually.

Turn On Live Captions – Live captions can make meetings more inclusive to participants by giving them another way to follow along. I use this one when we are reading a text. To use live captions in a meeting, go to your meeting controls and select More options button > Turn on live captions. To stop using live captions, go to the meeting controls and select More options and > Turn off live captions.

Background Images – If you’re working from home, or a sensitive environment, use Microsoft Teams background images to hide your background.

In Microsoft Teams, you have several options to hide your background.

Blur your background – To do this:

  • Click on your audio and video settings screen when you join a meeting
  • Choose the ellipses “…” for more options,
  • Tap on Blur my background

Use A Teams Background Image – To do this:

  • Tap the … when you’re in a Teams meeting
  • Click “Show background effects”
  • Choose your image from the default options
  • Click preview to test it out
  • Click apply to save your background image

There is so much that one can do in Microsoft Teams. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the different applications and activities to actually have the hang of it. It is only through practising that it will become fully interactive and functional to you.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!!