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!!

INCREDIBLE WAYS TO HELP OUR STUDENTS & CHILDREN APPRECIATE THE VALUE OF WORK

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Are We Losing our Societal Norms About Work?

Work is something which is becoming less and less appreciated among our dear folks. Parents seem to think it is their duty to give their children everything they possibly can. Really, is that fine?

In this article, I am looking at:

  • Tips for Teaching About Work
  • Work Experience – A Case Study For Schools?

Some parents try to compensate for the time they spend at work rather than in the home by spoiling their children with material things. The effects of these actions on both parents and children are negative and are becoming a real problem.

If you have been handed everything all your life, consider some of the following points and maybe you can make some good changes in your life now which will affect the rest of your life.

I guess every parent has a good job teaching children the value of work and the value of their contribution. That being said, sometimes it is like pulling teeth to get our children to consistently do their weekly chores. So, lest you think our family is perfect, we struggle sometimes with getting them to complete their homework, or at times even finding their room in a mess.

Have we lost the opportunity to teach children in a real way, the value of working hard?

Tips for Teaching About Work

While we hope our children learn the intrinsic value of work, many of us struggle with that concept. What would we do with our time if we were independently wealthy? Many would not work much! So, we have to be creative and set an example for our children to follow as:

  • Work is honourable.
  • It is good therapy for most problems.
  • It is the antidote for worry.
  • It is the equalizer for deficiency of native endowment.
  • Work makes it possible for the average to approach genius. What we may lack in aptitude, we can make up for it in performance.

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Communicate About Work – Child psychologists recommend that parents share their experiences with work outside the home and talk about the personal benefits of working well. Parents would be well advised to talk about their successes at work and the personal satisfaction of performing well. When you get a raise or a bonus, talk about it with your children. Let them know there are internal and external rewards for a job well done.

Give Responsibility and Rewards – Teaching our students and our children to be successful in their delegated maintenance responsibilities is a bonus. When given duties and responsibilities over something, demonstrate it to them or even coach and clarify certain concepts to them on how to do it. Eventually, with some coaching and working side by side to allow a mentoring experience, OUR students and children will learn the value of responsibility and reward. Whether it is cutting the lawn, doing the dishes, the vacuuming or a cleaning their room, or cleaning their classroom, children need to learn responsibility and work first hand.

Teaching One on One – Most parents learn that the best way of teaching work is to work alongside our students and children. Too often, we put the chore chart up on the wall and move into our own projects without proper coaching and mentoring. Taking the time to work through projects and responsibilities together is the best teaching mode.

Personal Satisfaction. When we teach our children to invest their time and energy into something that requires hard work, it offers them a personal satisfaction they can only gain from experiencing work first hand.

Focus on Balance – Parents who have indulged their children and not yet taught much about work need to be careful in changing that mode. Just as “all play” children are a challenge, so are “all work” kids. The key is striking balance. Don’t go overboard in either direction.

Parents certainly have the responsibility for providing the basic necessities of life for their children, and many would argue that parents also have a responsibility to provide what joy in life they can for their children, but our students or children will never be fully able to appreciate the sacrifices their teachers and parents have made for them until they learn to work themselves.

Self-Denial – Teaching hard work also helps teach our children to think outside themselves and their own personal comfort all the time. Life is not about constantly playing and living a comfortable, leisurely life. In fact, the rewards of rest and recreation are far greater when work is included in a child’s day to day life.

Helping Your Child Get The Best Out Of School – For any work or task done, try to give encouragement and show appreciation of your child’s achievements, whether great or small, as this can help boost their confidence. Teach them basic organisation and time management skills so they are not overwhelmed with projects or homework.

Please check out my article on realising the benefits of potential in our children entitled:

Realising Your Full Potential – Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People

Be realistic and avoid putting your child under pressure by having over-high expectations. Let your child develop at their own pace, but if you do have concerns, please speak to them or seek professional advice.

Feedback and Criticism – Try to give feedback rather than criticism, eg: saying ‘that didn’t seem to work’ rather than ‘you got it wrong’. This helps them think about where they went wrong and how they can improve in future, rather than just feeling like a failure.

Work Ethic When we start our children young, we instill in them a strong work ethic. When we teach our children to work hard and do their work well, it will carry over as they become adults and get a job. Unfortunately, excellent work ethic is something that is sorely lacking today. Teach your child how to stand out as “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” (Proverbs 14:23)

Benefits of work – Poverty is financial, but it’s also much more than that. A body that doesn’t work and exercise itself becomes unhealthy, unfit, and naturally bent towards laziness.

…a child left to himself shames his mother ~ (Proverbs 29:15)

As parents, when we think about responsibility and our roles as parents, there comes with it the reality of duty. Duty is not a dirty word. Duty is recognizing we have an obligation we are expected to uphold, whether we feel like it or not.

God has given us our children to care for, teach, nurture, discipline, and disciple. Are we all doing our duties?

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Work Experience – A Case Study For Schools?

Many schools across the globe are lacking in this development and concept about work experience. However, in UK schools, for instance, they have a statutory requirement and guidance for a period of work experience, or a more extended work placement for students. They have a core part of programmes for all post-16 students (from Grade 10/Year 10/Form 3) to Grade 13/Year 13/Form 6) whether following an academic or a technical curriculum to support them in developing their work readiness.

Alongside the guidance, the government also expects schools to offer high quality work experience as well as encouraging them to engage fully with their local employer and professional community. Schools have a Work Experience Coordinator, coordinating teams of students to help make arrangements for work.

The duration, timing and content of work experience placements always vary markedly between schools and by the student’s programme of study. Generally work placements range between 8 – 12 days with internships going for a month.

Work experience placements are understood to serve multiple purposes for our students, including:

  • experience of the world of work,
  • employability skills development and
  • experience in helping guide their future career decision-making.

The importance of experiencing the world of work and the need for students to develop and apply skills learnt during study programmes are essential. Once students have been placed with an employer, schools typically support students and monitor their progress through telephone calls and face-to-face visits.

Time To Grow Up

In my twelve years teaching in London, the impact of work-related activities were extremely beneficial to our students. We identified multiple benefits of work-related activities, with soft employability skills like communication and interpersonal skills; and increased confidence being the most beneficiaries among our students.

When our students and children are learning the values of work, both intrinsic and extrinsic, we will be instilling in them a life-long lesson. If you haven’t started yet, you need to start now.

Try it, dear folks, and the benefits will be astounding.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!

 

AWESOME WAYS TO CHALLENGE YOURSELF AND ACHIEVE MORE THIS YEAR

LIFE in 2021: “CHALLENGE YOURSELF!”

Human nature has got certain attributes which are just hard to erase. These traits are wired in us so much that they are part of who we are. But, if you want to make the most of your career and life in general, JUST WEAVE these two words into the fabric of your approach to LIFE in 2021: “CHALLENGE YOURSELF!”

There is nobody who can doubt that setting goals is one of the most important life-changing scenarios. Regardless of whether the life-changing scenario is big, with audacious goals or just a small adjustment, it takes a lot of courage to get committed.

Whilst we seem to have no problems identifying goals we want to accomplish, putting these plans into action is frequently much more difficult than we think. Why?

This is essentially because of two issues:

  • There is lack of self-discipline and motivation contributing to this behavior.
  • It could also be because of low self-efficacy as deep down one doesn’t believe that one can achieve their plans.

SELF-EFFICACY is an individual’s belief that he or she will be able to accomplish a specific task. It is believed that an essential component to accomplishing something is our confidence that we can. Thus, self-efficacy drives one’s motivation – Albert Bandura.

Dear Reader, try to ponder on these questions, as honestly as you can:

  • What are the factors affecting your self-efficacy?
  • How can you develop more confidence in your abilities?
  • What are the most important things you need to know about the influence of your mind on your achievements?

There are some ways of challenging oneself that are better than others. Research seems to agree on three fundamental conditions on changing oneself:

  1. They take you out of your comfort zone without putting you in serious danger.
  2. They provide you with an intense, accelerated learning experience.
  3. They help you develop skills and attitudes that are highly valuable to you in life.

 12 Ways To Challenge Yourself

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do” – Leonardo da Vinci.

Introducing your own challenges at work or at home will not only improve your career performance, but also provide the perfect opportunity to enhance your skills and future career prospects.  By adopting this approach in your current role, you will gain invaluable skills and experience in 2018 that will seamlessly transfer into your next position when you’re ready to move on.

  1. Push Yourself Out Of Your Comfort Zone

I have stepped outside my comfort zone enough to know that, yes, the world does fall apart, but not in the way that you fear – Tan Le

Every job or task has certain tasks that involve a bit more thought and time investment, which many of us tend to shy away from during our day-to-day work life.  In order to challenge yourself, you have to take these tasks head on; embrace the challenge and learn something new from it.

If you feel like you’ve exhausted your own role and the responsibilities within it, try to take on new projects and opportunities that are not normally expected of you.  Specifically consider projects that push you out of your comfort zone, challenge your strengths and address your weaknesses.

But it’s not being out of your comfort zone that gives the results, it’s the length of the stretch you are about to make when out of it.

I want to challenge you today to get out of your comfort zone. You have so much incredible potential on the inside. God has put gifts and talents in you that you probably don’t know anything about – Joel Osteen

2. Be Competitive

I am competitive and I feel bad when we lose. You can see it in me when we’ve lost. I’m in a bad way. I don’t like to talk to anyone – Lionel Messi

A little competition can go a long way at work.  This doesn’t necessarily mean trying to beat other employees as this can generate conflict and make you unpopular in the office or staffroom.  What you need to do is to simply try to be the best that you can be. Try to consider your past achievements and use them as a basis to define new goals to work towards.  Always try to push yourself that little bit further.

It’s all about people. It’s about networking and being nice to people and not burning any bridges. Your book is going to impress, but in the end it is people that are going to hire you – Mike Davidson

Most of our engagement at work may only be within our teams so what about learning from others. It really plays a vital part in our overall career success.  Make sure you stay connected not only with your own team members, but also with the wider corporate network. It is an excellent way of selling yourself. You just never know what is around the corner but colleagues whom you have known for years may just be the antidote for a career change.

By communicating with other departments and colleagues in different positions, you will gain a different perspective, which you can then apply to your own processes and make your job better or safer.

  1. Don’t Procrastinate

Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill – Christopher Parker

Everyone is guilty of procrastination at work from time to time.  We put off tasks that we don’t want to do in favour of more mundane tasks, which quickly makes us feel bored at work. In order to combat procrastination, a shift in attitude and the way you approach work is necessary.  Don’t wait for the perfect time to do something.  Seize the moment and try hard to do things as they occur rather than putting them off and waiting for the perfect time to occur.

  1. Be Independent

We all need assistance from colleagues from time to time, but try to fulfill your job responsibilities with minimum help.  Completing a task on your own from start to finish, will not only make you feel more challenged, but will provide a greater sense of achievement and accomplishment.

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new” – Albert Einstein

Remember that your success and devotion not only benefit the company, but also advances your own skill set and increases your employability.  In this instance, it’s important that you don’t always wait for your boss to delegate tasks to you.  Take initiative and look for new tasks that you can take on.  Be open to change and always give 100% at work to make the most of every opportunity.

  1. Evaluate And Re-evaluate Your Skills and Flaws

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions” – Stephen Covey

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed” – Michael Jordan

Don’t wait for a work review to evaluate your performance, instead you should constantly evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses in relation to your position.  By fully understanding your competencies, you are better able to overcome the negative aspects of your performance and utilize the positive ones.

Pay particular attention to your flaws and try to take on different roles that can help you to improve upon them.  Always be open to learning new skills and building upon your existing skill set in order to enhance your current position as well as future career prospects.

  1. Figure Out What You’re Scared Of – And Do It For One Week Consistently.

“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve” – Napoleon Hill

If you’re in sales, and you’re scared of talking to people personally or over the phone, then you have a problem. You can’t just relate with your clients online, can you? Now, instead of crippling in fear and automatically thinking you’ll fail, spend at least five minutes a day to pick up the phone and make a call to a prospect. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, you may embarrass yourself. And yes, someone may hang up on you. But don’t stop on the first try, just yet! You’ll get the hang of it eventually. After a while, you can look at fear in the eyes and say, “Go on, I’m not scared!”

  1. Aim High in Your Career

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears” – Les Brown

Big, bold career goals can really challenge you and help you grow as a person. But I’m not talking about theoretical goals though, that you dream of achieving, all the while spending most of your time watching TV. I’m talking about well-defined career goals that you work to achieve.

These goals can relate to the amount of money you make, the number of people you impact through your work, the role you play in a company, or the magnitude of the projects you manage. Whatever floats your boat!

The main point is that by setting and pursuing such goals, you will be forced to develop as a person. You’ll need to study, to develop your expertise in your field, to innovate and to take calculated risks. All of this implies unbelievable self-growth.

  1. Have A Positive Attitude

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” – Audrey Hepburn

Having a positive attitude is one of the most attractive assets in an employee. Always approach tasks – even difficult ones – with a positive attitude and a belief that you can do it.  Don’t underestimate yourself or your abilities, and carry out your position with dedication and enthusiasm.

By making these simple changes to your position, you will not only feel more challenged at work through the tasks that you take on, but you will also improve your own skill set and future career prospects.

  1. Physical Exercise

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” – Vince Lombardi

Physical exercise is often talked about as a way to be healthy and stay in shape. I see another side to it, though. I see it as a good way to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Ever since August 2015 when I challenged myself to walk 30-35 kilometres a week, I have never faltered. I walk everyday and the benefits have been astounding!

This is because when you exercise, you put in some degree of effort. Whether you’re running, or lifting weights, or jumping rope, some sort of physical and mental exertion is involved. And this exertion has many benefits in terms of self-growth.

Through regular exercise, not only that you train your body and you develop your strength, speed, endurance and so on, but you also train your mind. You develop willpower, vigilance and confidence. And there are now studies that show regular physical exercise is associated with a higher level of perseverance and determination, which you know, are important in life.

Aside from the obvious reason that exercise can help you maintain your regular weight or shed those unnecessary pounds, it can also aid in making you feel better about yourself, by releasing endorphins.

  1. Make Failure A Learning Process

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” – Maya Angelou

Regardless of how smart or hardworking one is, failure is inevitable. Everyone makes mistakes or fails to meet expectations at some point in their professional lives, and it’s important to frame those situations correctly or a career can be sidetracked. Again, the leader has much power here.

Employees will go further for a leader who they know has their back. It’s important to build your employee back up after a failure and get them back on their feet again as soon as possible. Discuss the failure as a learning opportunity, and avoid being overly critical or berating them about the issue. Make sure they know that you view failure as a necessary part of growth and innovation, and that you see great things for the person ahead.

  1. Push Yourself Out Of Complacency

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination” -Jimmy Dean

There’s a natural tendency for us to gravitate towards what we’re good at doing. Then we get stuck there because we’ve gotten comfortable.

This kind of stasis can be too much of a good thing and inhibit growth. Try pushing yourself to try things you have potential for and give yourself the opportunity to take a risk.

Remind yourself that it’s about the effort, not just innate skills.

 “Our society worships talent, and many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability—along with confidence in that ability—is a recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 35 years of scientific investigation suggests that an over-emphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings” – Stanford Psychology Professor, Carol S. Deck

  1. Travel And Allow Yourself To Be Interested In New People

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

We’re not talking about the expensive kind of travelling here. Something cost-effective like going to your local museum or visiting the resort in the next city can all count as travelling! Here, don’t just limit yourself to your fellow travelers – try to connect with the service staff, like the lifeguard, or the receptionist, or the tour guide. You never know what kind of people they’re going to be. Get out of your house or go online right now to book your class – ONCE things get back to normality.

Start now and learn to challenge yourself from time to time. We all need a little push once in a while.

Surely, our challenges are way out there, seemingly unrealistic at the time being. It is only when we step out of our comfort zone in a resolute manner, reaching further than we were used to, that we begin in earnest to yearn for more.

I don’t know about you, but I find the strategies above are like the pieces of a puzzle. Putting them all together and what you have is a lifestyle that entails constantly challenging yourself and growing in all the relevant directions: you grow socially, you stimulate your mind and body, you develop your expertise and you get wiser each day.

Good luck in all your endeavours. Any comments of yours on ways you are challenging yourself in 2018 would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

 Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!