ESSENTIAL WORDS TO USE WHEN ANALYSING POETRY – 1

  • Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood. T. S. Eliot
  • Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers. Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Ever TriedWRITING AN ESSAY ON POETRY at High School can be one of the most demanding tasks that many students face in a literature class. Poetry, by its very nature, makes demands on a writer who attempts to analyze it, that other forms of literature do not.

So, how can you write a clear, confident, well-supported essay on poetry?

What’s the Point of Writing An Essay?

In order to write effectively about poetry, one needs a clear idea of what the point of writing about poetry is. When you are assigned an analytical essay about a poem in an English class, the goal of the assignment is usually to argue a specific thesis about the poem, using your analysis of specific elements in the poem and how those elements relate to each other to support your thesis.

There are two key questions to this:

  • So, why would your teacher give you such an assignment?
  • What are the benefits of learning to write analytical essays about poetry?

Several important reasons suggest themselves:

  • To help you learn to make a text-based argument. That is, to help you to defend ideas based on a text that is available to you and other readers.
  • This sharpens your reasoning skills by forcing you to formulate an interpretation of something someone else has written and to support that interpretation by providing logically valid reasons why someone else who has read the poem should agree with your argument.
  • To help you to understand what you are reading more fully. Nothing causes a person to make an extra effort to understand difficult material like the task of writing about it.
  • Also, writing has a way of helping you to see things that you may have otherwise missed simply by causing you to think about how to frame your own analysis.
  • To help you enjoy poetry more! This may sound unlikely, but one of the real pleasures of poetry is the opportunity to wrestle with the text and co-create meaning with the author.
  • When you put together a well-constructed analysis of the poem, you are not only showing that you understand what is there, you are also contributing to an ongoing conversation about the poem. If your reading is convincing enough, everyone who has read your essay will get a little more out of the poem because of your analysis.

This isn’t a skill that is just important in academics by the way, but a life-long one! High School writing prepares you for university life. More so, lawyers, politicians, and journalists, as well as in your adult life; often find that you will need to make use of similar skills.

READ THE POEM all the way through at least twice. Read it aloud. Listen to it. Poetry is related to music, so the sound is important. You listen to your favourite CDs many times; the principle is the same. It takes time to fully appreciate and understand a work of art. Make a note of your first impressions or immediate responses, both positive and negative. You may change your mind about the poem later, but these first ideas are worth recording.

A POET IS LIMITED in the materials to use in creating his/her works: all s/he has are words to express his/her ideas and feelings. These words need to be precisely right on several levels at once:

  • they must sound right to the listener even as they delight his ear.
  • they must have a meaning which might have been unanticipated, but seems to be the perfectly right one.
  • they must be arranged in a relationship and placed on the page in ways that are at once easy to follow and assist the reader in understanding.
  • they must probe the depths of human thought, emotion, and empathy, while appearing simple, self-contained, and unpretentious.

Fortunately, the English language contains a wide range of words from which to choose for almost every thought, and there are also numerous plans or methods of arrangement of these words, called POETIC DEVICES, which can assist the writer in developing cogent expressions pleasing to his/her readers. Such poetic devices help you in analyzing a poem.

By Grade 11/Year 11/Form 4 you should be familiar with most of the terms used in this post.

 What style should I use?

 It is useful to follow some standard conventions when writing not only a poetry assignment but a literature essay in general.

  • It is best to use present tense rather than past tense for your verbs.
  • You must learn to use numerous quotations from the poem and explain their meaning and their significance to your argument.
  • After all, if you do not quote the poem itself when you are making an argument about it, you damage your credibility.

While this isn’t common in High School, unless you are carrying out a research paper on poetry, there are some teachers who ask for outside criticism of the poem as well, this means you should also cite points made by other critics that are relevant to your argument. Furthermore, it entails you to cite both the material you get from the poems themselves and the information you get from other critical sources.

 TYPES OF POETRY

Blank Verse – Unrhymed iambic pentameter, often resembling the rhythms of ordinary speech. Blank verse is found in much of Shakespeare’s work.

Narrative Poem – A poem that tells a story. Ballads and epics are types of narrative poetry, eg: Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade.” 

Lyrical Poem – A poem that is usually short, and expresses a speaker’s personal thoughts and feelings, eg: “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth.

Ballad Poem – A fairly short, simple poem that tells a story. Ballads were often meant to be sung, and are one of the earliest forms of literature.

 Elegy – A dignified poem mourning the death of an individual, eg: “O Captain! My Captain!” is Walt Whitman’s elegy to president Lincoln.

Ode – a serious, sincere poem written in praise of something or someone.

Parody – a poem written that mocks the subject, structure, or format of another poem.

Epic – a long poem on a heroic subject

Dramatic Monologue – a speaker, who is explicitly someone other than the author, makes a speech to a silent auditor in a specific situation and at a critical moment.

Occasional Poetry It is written for a specific occasion, a wedding.

Descriptive and Didactic Poetry – Both lyric and narrative poetry can contain lengthy and detailed descriptions (descriptive poetry) or scenes in direct speech (dramatic poetry) which primarily is to teach something.

Dramatic Monologue – A poem in which an imaginary character speaks to a silent listener. This poem is in the form of a speech or narrative in which the speaker unconsciously reveals certain aspects of his or her character during the description of a situation or certain events.

Sonnet – A poem consisting of fourteen lines of iambic pentameter. There are two popular forms of sonnets:

  • Italian (Petrarchan) Sonnet: It has two parts; an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines) usually rhyming abbaabba, cdecde. Often a question is raised in the octave that is answered in the sestet.
  • Shakespearean (English or Elizabethan) Sonnet: It consists of three quatrains (four lines) and a final rhyming couplet (two lines). The rhyme scheme is abab, cdcd, efef, gg. Usually the question or theme is set forth in the quatrains while the answer or resolution appears in the final couplet.
  • A volta – It is the turn of thought or argument occurring between the octave and the sestet in the Italian sonnet and in the English sonnet, it occurs before the final couplet.

SOME KEY POETIC DEVICES

Below is a list of poetic terms that can help you interpret, critique, and respond to a variety of different works of poetry. This list is by no means comprehensive, but instead offers a primer to the language frequently used by students when tackling and analyzing a poem. This list and the terms included in it can help you begin to identify central concerns or elements in a poetry that might help facilitate your interpretation, argumentation and analysis.

Poetic Devices are techniques used by poets to give their writing style, emphasis and meaning.

Figurative Language is an expression in which words or sounds are arranged to achieve a particular effect.

Literary Devices are techniques that add texture, energy and excitement to the writing, grip the reader’s imagination and convey information.

Diction refers to an author’s choice of words.

POETIC DEVICE DEFINITION EFFECT
The Sound Devices are: Alliteration, Assonance, Consonance, Onomatopoeia, Sibilance, Euphony, Cacophony, Repetition, Rhyme and Rhythm
 Alliteration

ggg

Repetition of initial consonant sounds in a group or words close together It emphasises words and ideas, making descriptions more vivid. It unites words and concepts together.
Assonance

aeiou

Repetition of a vowel sound It helps create tone and effects rhythm, e.g. a, o, and u can slow down a line making it sound sad and weary and it can speed up a line. It also gives a sense of continuity.
Consonance

bcfghj

Repetition of a consonant sound It helps create tone and effect rhythm, e.g. ‘s’ sound is slow/soothing.
Onomatopoeia The use of words which imitate sound It emphasises words and ideas, making descriptions more vivid.
Sibilance A consonant characterized by a hissing sound (like s, sh or z). The repetition of this sound to create an effect is know as sibilance. The most common sibilant consonant is, ‘S’ sound, and also Z, SH and ZH (as in ‘azure’ or ‘measure’). It’s silent, hushing and sensual.
Euphony It is a pleasant combination of sounds; smooth-flowing meter and sentence rhythm These are lines with a high percentage of vowel sounds in proportion to consonant sounds which tend to be more melodious, or “euphonic”.
Cacophony & dissonance The use of harsh sounding words OR the use of words to evoke a harsh or unpleasant image. It is used by writers to give their writing a special effect; dissonance is the arrangement of cacophonous sounds in words or rhythmical patterns.
Repetition The purposeful re-use of words and phrases. It reinforces words and ideas, making them memorable and leaving a lasting impression. It makes a poem more contained.
Rhyme The use of words with matching sounds. Can be internal or at end of lines. It makes it memorable by driving forward the rhythm. It also unifies the poem and adds structure.
Rhythm The pace or beat of the poem – can vary from line to line It is chosen to achieve a particular effect, e.g. to mirror pattern of natural speech or the pace of walking, etc. may be fast, lively, slow, regular, irregular, awkward, tense, brisk, flowing, smooth
Imagery Words that appeal to the senses It creates vivid mental pictures and evokes ideas, feelings and atmosphere by appealing to the senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound).
 Simile

‘like’   ‘as’

A comparison between two unlike things using like or as. It enhances descriptions, expanding reader’s understanding of what the poet is trying to convey, and clarifying meanings.
 Metaphor

‘is’

A direct comparison between two unlike things, stating that one is the other or does the action of the other. It can uncover new and intriguing qualities of the original thing that we may not normally notice or even consider important. It helps us to realize a new and different meaning by making it more interesting to read.
Personification Giving human qualities or characteristics to animals or inanimate objects: eg The days crept by slowly, sorrowfully. It makes the objects and their actions easier to visualize for a reader. It also makes the poem more interesting and achieving a much more vivid image.
Symbolism A word, phrase or image which stands for something. It enables the writer to convey images directly to the mind of the reader – it serves almost like an emotional short-cut.
 Rhetorical question? A question which does not expect an answer. It plants a question in the reader’s mind and then guides them towards the answer they want them to reach. It makes a deeper impression upon the reader than a direct statement would.
Colloquial language Non-standard English, slang. It makes it sound realistic, part of speaker’s identity, can indicate pride in roots, shows a relaxed and casual attitude.
Free Verse

&

Blank verse

Lines with no regular structure, rhyme or rhythm.

Blank verse is a type of poetry written in a regular meter that does not contain rhyme

It allows the poet’s creativity. It can imply freedom, flexibility, and fluidity. The long lines may suggest excitement or a passionate outpouring, whereas, short lines may break the flow and add emphasis.
Couplet A pair of lines, usually rhymed It keeps a tight structure. It can also help conclude a poem.
Enjambment A line ending in which the syntax, rhythm and thought are continued into the next line. It draws the reader from line to line and verse to verse and makes poetry flow quicker by making it less blocky. It makes end rhymes more subtle. It may also  indicate excitement, anger or passion.
 Caesura A natural pause or break in a line of poetry indicated by punctuation It stops rhythm becoming predictable. It mirrors natural speech with lots of pauses, thus, slowing the pace of the poem. It may also make you pause abruptly, drawing attention to that idea.
 Semantic field

or

Lexical field

It is a set of words grouped by meaning referring to a specific subject. A general description is that words in a semantic field are not synonymous, but are all used to talk about the same general phenomenon. When a text has a topic or subject that a group of words relate to, for example if a passage of writing included the words “heart”, “flower”, “music”, “passion” the semantic field would most likely be considered ‘love’.

writing-notes-idea-conference.jpgESSENTIALLY when analyzing a poem and then carrying out an answer to a question, you will have been tackling three key issues:

  • What purpose does this poetic/literary device serve?
  • How does the author communicate his or her purpose through this device?
  • Why do readers have this response to the poetic device?

This is a skill you need to harness at High School. It is not easy but with practice you will get the hang of it. To do so, I have two important posts I have done to help you achieve a top grade in English Literature essays. Please access them here on:

AGAIN, all these strategies require commitment and dedication, so PRACTICE AND PRACTICE MORE!!

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!

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LEARNING THROUGH MNEMONICS – NEW WAYS OF UNDERSTANDING AND ANALYSING POETRY

  • How many of us out there find it difficult to understand and analyse a poem?

If you answered with an emphatic YES, then the techniques explored here will be of great help. Above all, the amount of elements, techniques, and creativity found in poetry is unanswered in the prose world.

If your answer to the question is a straight NO, then let me be honest with you that “You are smart.” My techniques here will help you consolidate your existing repertoire.

ACRONYM OR MNEMONICS?

AN ACRONYM is a word or name formed as an abbreviation from the initial components in a phrase or a word, usually individual letters as in NATO, for instance. Put simply, an acronym is a word from first letters of other words in the name of something, being pronounced as a word.

A MNEMONIC, (derived from the Greek word mnemonikos, which means “of memory”) on the other hand, deals with memory. It is a device helping learners in recalling pieces of information, be it in the form of lists, like facts, characteristics, steps, parts, phases and stages.

Apparently, way back in 1967, a study conducted by Gerald R. Miller was a major breakthrough in confirming that mnemonics increased recall. Miller found that students who regularly applied mnemonic devices in their learning increased test scores by up to 77%. Rather put in simple terms: Mnemomic helps us remember – it is an aide memoire or a memory aide.

In short, many mnemonics also take the form of acronyms.

For example, the seven coordinating conjunctions are FANBOYS which stands for For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So.

ROY G. BIV = colors of the spectrum/rainbow (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.)

Expression/Word – The order of the planets from the sun outward: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. See how it is constructed for you to remember: My Very Elegant Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.

My position in the coming weeks is to execute the use of MNEMONICS in enhancing our teaching and learning repertoire. In these posts, I want to show how mnemonics can help us learn, understand and recall important concepts better.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Mnemonics

Mnemonics serve an important role in memory, but they have limitations and should be used sparingly. If you use mnemonics too extensively, they become cumbersome and can add confusion to your learning process. If you do not study the mnemonics accurately, they hinder rather than help you recall information accurately. The following chart shows the advantages and disadvantages of using mnemonics.

Advantages

Disadvantages

1. They provide a memory bridge to help you recall information that otherwise is difficult to remember. 1. They must be recited and practiced in a precise manner in order to work correctly.
2. They involve rearranging or reorganizing information, which also helps you personalize the information and be a more active learner. 2. They require time to create, learn, and practice.
3. They add interest to studying by providing you with new ways to work with information. 3. They can become “crutches” and can give you a false sense of security that you know the information.
4. When used properly, they allow you to spend less time retrieving information from your long-term memory. 4. They rely more on rote memory than on elaborative rehearsal, so your actual understanding of the concepts may be inadequate.
5. Overuse can result in confusion and an excessive expenditure of time reviewing.

UNDERSTANDING AND ANALYSING POETRY

1661-182

Ways to interpret poems…

Over the years, I have seen that interpreting a poem through mnemonics is easier and has impact on students’ understanding:

First, let’s review some vocabulary used in poems:

  • LITERAL= means “exact” or “not exaggerated”. Literal language is language that means exactly what is said. Most of the time, we use literal language.
  • FIGURATIVE = the opposite of literal language. Figurative language is language that means more than what it says on the surface. Often used by poets and other writers.
  • DENOTATION = the dictionary definition of a word or phrase.
  • CONNOTATION = a meaning suggested by a word or phrase, in addition to its exact (denotative) meaning; can be the emotional feelings associated with the word.

IMAGERY This is language that (normally, though not always) evokes the senses.

  • Visual imagery – relating to sight. (The most frequent type of imagery.)
  • Aural or auditory imagery – relating to sound.
  • Olfactory imagery – relating to smell.
  • Gustatory imagery – relating to taste.
  • Tactile imagery – relating to touch.
  • Kinaesthetic imagery – relating to movement and bodily effort.
  • Abstract imagery – appealing to the intellect or a concept.

The imagery used in poetry are often not exclusive to one type – they often overlap.

When you are analysing imagery, for instance in a poetry or in a prose text, it is very important to avoid simply ‘listing’ the images that are being used but one needs to analyse and comment on them.

For each image you discuss, you should consider:

  •  What type of image is being used?
  •  Why is this particular image being used?
  •  What is the effect of this image is on the reader?
  •  How does the image contributes to the poem as a whole?

Thus, when you analyse imagery, you should suggest a possible interpretation, rather than stating your ideas as definite.

USING MNEMONIC IN ANALYSING POEMS

TP-CASTT is a mnemonic for . . .

TITLE – What predictions can you make about the poem from the title? What are your initial (first) thoughts about the poem?  What might be the theme of the poem?

PARAPHRASE – Describe what happens in the poem, in your own words.

CONNOTATION – What might the poem mean beyond the literal level? Find examples of imagery, metaphors, similes, personification, symbolism, idioms, hyperbole, alliteration, rhyme scheme, rhythm, etc. and think about their possible connotative meanings. Consider the emotional feelings that the words may give the reader.

ATTITUDE – Describe the tone of the poem. What is the poet’s attitude toward the subject of the poem?  The speaker’s attitude? Find and list examples that illustrate the tone and mood of the poem (these show attitude).

SHIFT – Is there a shift (a change) in the tone or speaker of the poem?  Where does the shift happen in the poem?  What does it shift from and to?

TITLE – Look at the title again. Have your original ideas about the poem changed? How? What do you think the title means now?

THEME – What is the overall theme of the poem? What insight, understanding, lesson, or truth are we supposed to have after reading this poem?

A. H.I.T. P.O.E.M. is mnemonic standing for . . .

  • AboutWhat is the poem about?
  •  Historical/Social Contextany important contextual information
  •  Imagerywhat images are used and their effect?
  •  Techniqueswhat poetic techniques are used?
  •  Personal Responsewhat are your pf about it?
  •  OrganisationHow is it structured?
  • EmotionsWhat is the tone or mood?
  • Message What is the theme? What is its message?

SIFT Analysis is a mnemonic standing for . . .

  • Symbol – Examine the title and text for symbolism. Ask: “What are the denotations and the connotation of this title?”
  •  Images – Identify images and sensory details. What do you see and feel?
  •  Figures of Speech – Analyze figurative language and other devices.
  •  Tone and Theme – Discuss how all devices reveal tone and theme. What is the author saying?

KEY ELEMENTS

Once you have chosen any of the Poetry Mnemonic above, you should work in conjunction with the Key Elements in combining to create the overall effect of a poem:

CONTENT – It is what the poem is about, or what the message the poet gives to the reader.

FORM and STRUCTURE   – What type of poem is it? It maybe a ballad, free verse, a sonnet, an elegy, etc. Structure is the physical structure of the poem which includes the length of the lines, the rhythms, the system of rhymes and repetition.                         

TONE      – This is the attitude that the poet exhibits towards the subject or audience.

VOICE    – Voice is the writer’s lively, powerful words on the page, speaking to the reader to form a relationship. This is also the persona.

MOOD    – It refers to the atmosphere, emotions and feelings evoked by the poem’s language.

RHYME  –   a repetition of similar sounding words occurring either internally or at the end of lines in poems or songs. It creates a pattern within a poem making it memorable. It also drives forward the rhythm as well as unifying the poem and adding structure.

RHYTHM  –  It is the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables, or beats within a line of poetry.                          

IMAGERY   – These are elements in a poem that deal with the senses. It creates vivid mental pictures and evokes ideas, feelings and atmosphere by appealing to the senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound).

Chaucer

Chaucer reciting his poetry

Another simple approach to studying poems is to approach through:

*Overview – a short summary of what the poem is about.

*Context – background information about the poet/the poem.

*Themes – the main ideas dealt with in the poem. This is particularly useful to know when thinking about the comparison questions.

*Content – step by step through the poem explaining what it is about. The most important section.

*Language and techniques – highlighting key words or phrases and their use, as well as different literary techniques and why they’ve been used.

*Structure – everything relevant about the way the poem is built and explaining how to write about it effectively.

*Tone – the emotion of the poem and the way it would be read.

My next two posts focus on analyzing  poetry. These are entitled:

Essential Words To Use When Analysing Poetry – 1 & 2

The best way to recall all these mnemonics is to pick on one type and use it quite often so that it becomes second nature. That way you will analyse both seen or unseen poems better!

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL

 

ESSENTIAL STRATEGIES ON IMPROVING READING COMPREHENSION

birthday-cake-cake-birthday-cupcakes-40183.jpegMOST 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!

EFFECTIVE GROUP WORK IN THE CLASSROOM – 2

“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” – Amy Poehler

This is my second and final post on EFFECTIVE GROUP WORK IN THE CLASSROOM and please access the first one here.

Groups work best when they have been together for quite some time. This means students get to know each other and besides the camaraderie created, they become committed and work for each other. Of course there are exceptions but knowing the elements for effective group work can help teachers to build and maintain high-performance teams throughout the duration of the task at hand.

group hand fist bump

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

David Ingram identifies FIVE key conditions for teamwork to prosper. Whilst his ideas work well among colleagues at work, I felt the conditions he set up can easily be applied to the classroom IF ONLY, we, as teachers, teach these to our students: These are:

  1. Commitment and Trust . . . Each member must devote a reasonable amount of time and energy to advancing the group’s mission and must be able to trust that all other team members are doing the same.
  2. Communication . . . Effective teams must have open lines of communication. Communication must be honest and flow between all team members equally.
  3. Diversity of Capabilities . . . Take time to ensure that each team member possesses skills and strengths that complement the skills, strengths and weaknesses of other team members.
  4. Adaptability . . . The group must be flexible and adaptable to changing conditions. Team strategies, goals, tasks, workflows and even members can change over the life of the team. Team members should be able to rally together and meet new challenges head-on,
  5. Creative Freedom . . . All team members should feel free to think creatively, that is, to try new things and fail without the fear of consequences.

Some More Types Of Groups

“There is no such thing as a self-made man. You will reach your goals only with the help of others.” – George Shinn

BUZZ GROUPS – These groups involve students engaging in short, informal discussions, often in response to a particular sentence starter or question. At a transitional moment in the class, have students turn to 1-3 neighbours to discuss any difficulties in understanding, answer a prepared question, define or give examples of key concepts, or speculate on what will happen next in the class. The best discussions are those in which students make judgments regarding the relative merits, relevance, or usefulness of an aspect of the lesson.

MICRO LAB – This is a structured small group approach to an issue, question, or problem. This involves only speaking and listening-it is not a time for discussion or dialogue. It means the teacher forms groups of three or four students in small circles. Within each circle, each student has a minute to speak. Designate a volunteer in each group to speak first. Announce when time is up.

MOVING OPINION POLL – The poll is a way to activate students, to gain insight into the possibility that people can disagree without arguing or fighting, that they can listen respectfully to views different from their own, perhaps even change their minds.

Post two large signs on opposite sides of the room: “Strongly Agree” and “Strongly Disagree.” Tell students they are to participate in a moving opinion poll. Each time students hear a statement they are to move to the place along the imaginary line that most closely reflects their opinion. For strong disagreement, move all the way to one side of the room. For strong agreement, move to the opposite side.

FISH BOWL –  This is an especially good for involving the whole class in one small group discussion when students have very different views on a controversial issue. The teacher begins with a conversation asking five to seven students to make a circle with their chairs in the middle of the room. Try to ensure that the group reflects diverse points of view. Ask everyone else to make a circle of chairs around the fish bowl to create a larger circle around the smaller circle. Only people in the fish bowl can speak.

After 15 minutes or so, invite students from the larger circle to participate in the fish bowl conversation by tapping a fish bowl student on the shoulder and moving into that student’s seat. Continue with additional questions.

ROTATING TRIOS – This strategy involves students discussing issues with many of their fellow classmates in turn. Beforehand, prepare discussion questions. In class, students form trios, with the groups arranged in a large circle or square formation. Give the students a question and suggest that each person takes a turn answering. After a suitable time period, ask the trios to assign a 0, 1, or 2 to each of its members. Then direct the #1s to rotate one trio clockwise, the #2s to rotate two trios clockwise, and the #0s to remain in the same place; the result will be completely new trios. Now introduce a new, slightly more difficult question. Rotate trios and introduce new questions as many times as you would like.

THE BELIEVING GAME – This activity asks students to enter as fully as possible into a point of view that may be unfamiliar or even disagreeable, to suspend judgment and experience it, to look for virtues and strengths that might otherwise be missed.

“Everyone agrees in theory that we can’t judge a new idea or point of view unless we enter into it and try it out, but the practice itself is rare,” writes Peter Elbow.

In their discussions, students are to make only statements that support the viewpoint presented. They are not role-playing, but working to find anything with which they can genuinely agree.

“Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.” – Patrick Lencioni

PLEASE try some of the suggestions above and see your class achieve more.

I have used most of the group work activities above and my top FOUR best of all time are:

  1. Fish Bowl
  2. Buzz Groups
  3. Moving Opinion Poll
  4. Rotating Trios

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: BE EMPOWERED AND EXCEL

 

 

EFFECTIVE GROUP WORK IN THE CLASSROOM – 1

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

We have all been a part of that group in an English lesson before. Do you recall that group project where one person takes the lead, leading some members to conclude their ideas are unwelcome, while a select few ride the others’ coattails?

That must be a thing of the past IF you can divide your class into some of the suggestions offered here.  This is the power of inclusivity – the power of group work where WE all participate and enjoy the benefits.

GROUP WORK @ HIGH SCHOOL, when properly structured and monitored, can reinforce skills that are relevant to both group and individual work, including the ability to:

  • Break complex tasks into parts and steps
  • Plan and manage time
  • Refine understanding through discussion and explanation
  • Give and receive feedback on performance
  • Challenge assumptions
  • Develop stronger communication skills
  • Tackle more complex problems than they could on their own
  • Delegate roles and responsibilities
  • Share diverse perspectives
  • Pool knowledge and skills
  • Hold one another (and be held) accountable

It is essential to note that while the potential learning benefits of group work are significant, simply assigning group work is no guarantee that these goals will be achieved so . . .

From the start . . .

Discuss major goals of group work with students early and keep on reminding them the key tenets of being involved in a discussion. The teacher and class need to set goals for discussions, brainstorm criteria for what makes a discussion interesting and useful.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, cloud, sky, baby, closeup and outdoorCome up with questions that will help the group assess the quality and process of small and large group discussions.

AMONG THE QUESTIONS that might be useful for group assessments include:

  1. Did each group member have an adequate opportunity to speak?
  2. Did each person feel that his or her comments were heard and respected, even if challenged?
  3. Did students hear anything that complicated their thinking or that offered new insights or information?
  4. What roles did individuals in the group play: leader, clarifier, idea person, organizer, etc.?
  5. What behaviors help or hinder group work activities?
  6. How useful was the discussion? If useful, why? If not, what problems can you identify?
  7. What specific ideas do you have to improve group discussions next time?

Types Of Groups

“None of us, including me, ever do great things. But WE can all do small things, with great love, and together WE can do something wonderful.” – Mother Teresa

PAIR-SHARE DIALOGUES – Students are paired facing each other. The teacher defines an issue, question, or problem and invites each student, in turn, to speak in response for one or two minutes. As a listener, the student is to focus complete attention on the partner and what he/she is saying. After the pair-share, the teacher asks each student to paraphrase the partner’s views before expressing their reactions in a short general discussion.

LEARNING TEAMS – For this type of group, students are divided into groups at the beginning of the term. When you want to incorporate small group discussion or teamwork into your class, you direct the students to get into these term-long learning groups. Groups of four work well, because each foursome can be subdivided into pairs, depending on the activity.

CONVERSATION CIRCLES – These allow for students to have brief conversations with several other students. The teacher divides students into two groups of equal size. Ask one group to form a circle and face outward, the other group to form an outer circle by pairing with a partner from the inside circle. Pairs should face each other, standing a few feet apart. The teacher presents an issue, question, or problem and invites the pairs to give each other their response. Each student in the pair has one or two minutes to speak. Then the teacher asks the outside partner to move one, two or three places to the right. Each student will now have a new partner with whom to share ideas on the same issue, question or problem or, perhaps, a somewhat different one.

GROUP GO-AROUND – This process can multiply student conversations and promote participation. The teacher divides students into groups of four to six or seven sitting in a circle, perhaps to discuss the same issue, perhaps one of several questions under class consideration. One student begins the go-around without being interrupted, followed by each of the other students who wish to speak in turn. The go-around then is repeated with another question or problem.

THINK-PAIR-SHARE – This strategy has three steps. First, students think individually about a particular question or scenario. Then they pair up to discuss and compare their ideas. Finally, they are given the chance to share their ideas in a large class discussion.

SNOWBALL GROUPS/PYRAMIDS – This method involves progressive doubling: students first work alone, then in pairs, then in fours, and so on. In most cases, after working in fours, students come together for a plenary session in which their conclusions or solutions are pooled together. Provide a sequence of increasingly complex tasks so that students do not become bored with repeated discussion at multiple stages.

“It is literally true that YOU can succeed best and quickest by helping OTHERS to succeed.” – Napolean Hill

Groups work best when they have been together for quite some time. This means students get to know each other and besides the camaraderie created, they become committed and work for each other. Of course, there are exceptions but knowing the elements for effective group work can help teachers to build and maintain high-performance teams throughout the duration of the task at hand.

PLEASE try some of the suggestions above and see your class achieve more.

I also have a second post coming on the topic and would encourage you to enrich yourself through reading it. Thanks.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: BE EMPOWERED AND EXCEL

VOCABULARY WORKSHOP – THE KEY WORDS TO USE IN WRITING OR SPEAKING COMPETENTLY 8

This is my EIGHTH post on this interesting topic. Posts 1-7 can be accessed here too:

Vocabulary Workshop – The Key Words To Use In Writing Or Speaking Competently 1-7

I also have three related posts which you can easily access here:

THE ACQUISITIONOF VOCABULARY is one of the most important tasks in language learning. If you have enough words, you can make sense of what you are reading or listening to and you can somehow express yourself.

In short, vocabulary acquisition is much more important than grammar. The grammar we have is acquired gradually as we become familiar with the language, with the words, but first of all we need words.

girl writing on a black keyboard

How Do We Learn Vocabulary?

Vocabulary knowledge is not something that can ever be fully mastered; it is something that expands and deepens over the course of a lifetime. Instruction in vocabulary involves far more than looking up words in a dictionary and using the words in a sentence.

Don’t try to remember words alone – It is better (and easier) to learn new vocabulary by giving words some context. One way to do this is to remember words in a sentence. This is a great option because you will not only know the word, but you will also know exactly how to use it in conversation.

Another option is to remember words by groups. If you just learned the word “humongous” (very large), you can memorize it by thinking of a group of words getting bigger and bigger—large, huge, humongous. This also gives you the chance to learn even more words at the same time.

For example: large, humongous, gargantuan. What do you think “gargantuan” means?

In each of the following groups, circle the item that means the same as the boldface word in the introductory phrase: The answers are at the end of the exercise.

  1. Classed with the neophytes: a. novices b. vertebrates   c. experts
  2. A testy waiter:   a. imperturbable b. irritable   c. inexperienced
  3. Indubitable honesty: a. indisputable b. doubtful   c. unquestionable
  4. A coherent plan of action: a. meaningful   b. secret   c. complicated
  5. Watched the calves cavort:   a. gambol   b. eat   c. sleep       d. race
  6. Mordant observations:   a. sympathetic   b. brilliant   c. insightful
  7. A bastion of propriety:   a. criterion b. sense  c. stronghold
  8. The patron’s largesse:  a. generosity     b. stinginess   c. reputation
  9. Costly raiment:   a. repairs   b. mistakes   c. attire
  10. Inordinate demands: a. modest   b. excessive c. curious
  11. Picayune criticisms:   a. scholarly     b. perceptive   c. petty
  12. A convivial group:   a. genial   b. unsociable   c. friendly
  13. Garish costumes:  a. showy   b. traditional   c. rented
  14. Allay their anxiety: a. intensify     b. justify     c. alleviate
  15. Litany of complaints: a. petition  b. revision c. angry

ANSWERS: 1A  2B  3C  4A  5A  6C  7C  8A  9C  10B 11C 12C  13A  14C  15A

How did you fair? Once again Dear Reader, with practice you will see your vocabulary improving so much: both written and spoken.

blur book close up data

Lastly, READ SPECIAL VOCABULARY BOOKS

Reading is a good way to learn new words, but what you read can also make a huge difference in how much you learn.

Choose books that are a little bit challenging for you, and you will learn a lot more than if you read at your level. If you read a book at your level, you may already know all the words. If you read a challenging book, you will need to learn many new words.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: BE EMPOWERED and EXCEL!

INCREDIBLE WAYS TO MANAGE YOUR MOOD

CONSIDER these questions first . . .

  • Do you know that your mood and behavior affect performance?
  • How do you work on attaining the consistent, emotionally intelligent leadership behaviors that breed success in yourself and others?
  • How often do you look for good in others?

Many people would agree with me that the way their boss behaves affects the way they do their job.

Whether irritable or unpredictable, upbeat or encouraging, the range of moods to which leaders expose their followers, is generally viewed as having the potential to encourage or inhibit performance.

In a well written research on moods by Goleman et al entitled ‘Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance’ in the Harvard Business Review of December 2001, the writers demonstrate that this generally accepted truth has empirical support too. In the research spanning over a two-year study, it suggests that a leader’s mood can actually impact directly on organisational performance; to the extent that an organization’s success may actually depend upon its leader having the right kind of moods.

birthday-cake-cake-birthday-cupcakes-40183.jpegResearch On Mood Management

The notion that a leader’s mood affects their staff and, consequently, their organization’s performance, is not new. A number of studies establish a causal link between a leader’s mood and a follower’s performance. Alice Isen of Cornell University, for instance, established that a positive working atmosphere contributes to enhanced mental efficiency, higher information intake and comprehension, and more flexible thinking.

Mood management is defined by our ability to keep powerful emotions in check so that we can make rational decisions that are in our and others’ best interests. The better we are able to stay calm under pressure, the less likely we will overreact and make poor decisions in the workplace.

MOODS are typically described as having either a positive or negative valence. In other words, people usually talk about being in a good mood or a bad mood. People seem to experience a positive mood when they have a clean slate, have had a good night sleep, and feel no sense of stress in their life. Those experiencing negative moods may have important implications for mental and physical well-being. Thus, negative mood has no specific start and stop date. It can last for hours, days, weeks, or longer. Negative moods can also manipulate how individuals interpret and translate the world around them, and can also direct their behavior.

Mood also differs from temperament or personality traits which are even longer-lasting.

The Impact Of A Leader’s Mood

Leaders’ moods are important because of their prominent position within the company or organization. The effect is most apparent in open-plan offices shared by the leader; but the bad mood can also spread throughout the organization by first infecting those with whom the leader deals directly, and then moving downwards as the various subordinates interact.

Goleman et tal’s research demonstrates that when leaders are in a happy mood they galvanize good performance and the rest of the office smiles with them. When a leader is in a happy mood:

  • They think more positively about their own goals.
  • They are more creative.
  • They make better decisions
  • They are instinctively more helpful to those around them.

On the negative side, when a leader is often in a negative mood:

  • They are rarely successful.
  • They have a negative influence on their followers, who seldom reach their potential.
  • They will often end up being blamed for poor results.

However, the research points out that in a negative situation, if the leader can recognise the effect they are having early enough, the impact may not be irreversible.

Understanding The Human Brain

A mood is an emotional state and lies with the human brain. The region of the brain which manages emotions, termed the limbic area, is commonly described as operating on an ‘open-loop’ system. Unlike the self-regulating nature of a ‘closed-loop’ system, the limbic area requires external stimulation to operate. Moods are created based on these external influences. The open-loop system explains why, for instance, a sustained period of severe stress affects isolated individuals far more than socially active ones, or why intensive care patients with a loved one constantly nearby are more likely to recover than those without.

It also accounts for the feelings of warm affection shared between couples. Open-loop also accounts for a measurable harmonisation in physiological characteristics, such as heart-rate, between two friends deep in conversation. Finally, in social environments, such as an office or meeting room, individuals rapidly attune to each other’s physiological and emotional states.

A study by Bartel and Saavedra showed astounding results  that monitored seventy work teams in various industries and discovered that, when working closely together, the teams soon began to share moods, both positive and negative.

Negative Moods

It is quite interesting to note that negative moods are not as significant in their effect as positive ones. Put differently, positive moods improve performance more than negative moods which cause performance to deteriorate. Yet, a good mood in itself does little; it has to be the right kind of good mood. At a time of crisis, for example, a smiling, upbeat mood would simply be insensitive. Successful resonance should enable leaders to blend their mood into situations as they present themselves.

Goleman et tal attributes the problem, through leaders who have little idea or fail to notice what resonance, if any, they have with their subordinates. The study authors call this,CEO disease’; namely, a complete lack of awareness by leaders of how they are regarded within the company or organization they lead. This arises not through a lack of concern about how people perceive them – most leaders are extremely keen to find this out. Rather, they mistakenly presume both that they are themselves capable of discerning people’s perception of them; and that negative impressions of them will be communicated directly to the leader.

The CEO Disease can also lie with subordinates who hesitate to tell their boss exactly what they think for fear of being penalised. Less evident is that asking people to comment on how a leader’s emotional disposition affects their work is seen as too unconventional and vague.

The implication is that primal leadership demands more than putting on a game face every day. It requires an executive to determine, through reflective analysis, how his/her emotional leadership drives the moods and actions of the organization, and then, with equal discipline, the need to adjust his/her behavior accordingly.

The solution instead is rather more complex. The Harvard team explain that a person’s emotional skills, while having a genetic component, are significantly influenced by one’s personal life experiences. These in turn build on each other, to the extent that a set pattern of behaviour is difficult to alter. As the authors point out:

‘And therein lies the rub: The more we act a certain way – be it happy, depressed or cranky – the more the behavior becomes ingrained in our brain circuitry, and the more we will continue to feel and act that way.’

group hand fist bump

Five Steps To Managing Your Moods Effectively

The solution proposed by the Harvard team is a five-stage process designed in effect to ‘rewire the brain towards more emotionally intelligent behaviours.’

They outline it as follows:

1. Who do I want to be?

This involves imagining an ideal version of yourself. The team asked leaders to imagine themselves eight years ahead as an effective leader, taking into account how they would feel, what they would do, and who would be there. This exercise encouraged them to envisage how their working and emotional lives might change if they had a different outlook.

2. Who am I now?

This step requires leaders to begin to see themselves as others do. A small element of ‘ego-defence’ is inevitable, and indeed is a useful way of remaining enthusiastic and positive when making difficult decisions. Yet as the team suggest, ‘self-delusion should come in very small doses.’ They suggest remaining continually receptive towards criticism, even going as far as actively inviting negative feedback.

Interestingly, the team also stress that it is important not to focus simply on the leader’s perceived weaknesses. Having an accurate picture of their main strengths provides the motivation and focus for them to concentrate on counteracting their weaknesses.

3. How do I get from here to there?

The Harvard research team suggest that the learning process might take the form of the leader requesting written, anonymous feedback from every team member about their mood and its affect on the team.

Other techniques might include a weekly diary in order to compare, week by week, the leader’s self-perception with that of those around him, or the appointment of one or two carefully chosen colleagues to act as both coach and devil’s advocate.

It must be understood that any change will be gradual and will only be successful if the leader’s increased state of awareness is fairly constant. Paying more attention to new methods of behaviour in itself acts as stimulation for the breaking of former habits and the experimentation with new ones.

4. How do I make change stick?

As already suggested, altering ingrained behaviour patterns requires continual rehearsal. But modifying one’s actions in practice is not the only way that these patterns can be altered. This can actually occur merely by visualising a different method of behaviour: ‘imagining something in vivid detail can fire the same brain cells actually involved in doing that activity…So to alleviate the fears associated with trying out riskier ways of leading, we should first visualize some likely scenarios.’ This can be done anywhere when the leader has some spare time, e.g. while travelling to work, or when waiting for colleagues to arrive at a meeting.

5. Who can help me?

The final stage involves forming what the Harvard team term ‘a community of supporters.’ They cite an executive learning programme carried out by Unilever where managers came together in regular learning groups, initially to discuss career and leadership ideas. This gradually evolved as trust built up between the executives to include frank discussion about each others’ technique and performance. The advantage of such an approach is that ‘people we trust let us try out unfamiliar parts of our leadership repertoire without risk.’

Thus, it is important that once you are aware of an emotion, you can trace its cause and change it. Left unchanged, an extended period of emotion becomes your “mood.” A very extended mood can also develop into a character trait. Some people remain trapped in a chronically negative mood which then affects their state and subsequently influences others.

Surely, the ability to manage your own state is fundamental to managing yourself and to influencing the state of another person. Given the high probability of disappointment, failed expectations and loss in the world, we are vulnerable to being pushed into a negative state unless we have learned to self-manage.

THE BAD NEWS is that a leader’s mood affects corporate results.

THE GOOD NEWS is that moods, while certainly ingrained in our individual psyches, are not fixed there permanently.

THUS, with recourse to the proper techniques, unproductive mood swings and harmful fluctuations of temperament can be reduced; to the good of a leader, staff members and organisation alike.

I am sure I didn’t ruffle up a few feathers.

Good luck in all your endeavours to improve your image.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL.