Wednesday, May 20, 2009

May 2009: Brandy Peterson & Lianna Wood, Recognition & Encouragement Superstars


 The May 2009 America Learns Global Strategy of the Month    

Girls For A Change 

  Check out this video about GFC!  

Brandy Peterson and Lianna Wood ROCK!

Brandy and Lianna are both coaches with Girls For A Change in Richmond, Virginia.  The organization empowers thousands of teen girls to create and lead social change across the U.S. and around the globe.  GFC volunteers and staff members have already earned Superstardom a number of times this year (see here and here). 

Girls For A Change Action Team in Richmond, Virginia
(Brandy and Lianna (sitting) with their Girl Action Team)

Why Brandy and Lianna are Superstars
Several weeks ago, Brandy and Lianna had a tough time refocusing their girls during their sessions.  The girls were rowdy and had lost their focus.  After doing a lot of work, Brandy and Lianna successfully motivated the girls to shift their focus and behavior.  As a result, the two coaches wanted to take some time to recognize the girls’ significant turnaround.

Now, “catching students while being good” is a tried and true strategy.  Volunteers are regularly instructed to celebrate students’ achievements to encourage more positive interactions or behaviors.  (As a basic example, a tutor might tell a student who has a history of not listening to instructions, “You did a great job listening to me while I explained the directions.  That made me feel appreciated and it will help make this assignment easier for you.”)

Brandy and Lianna took this practice to a completely new level last month.  As you’ll read below, it made quite an impact, leaving their girls speechless.

The Strategy

Fortune Cookies as “Recognition, Encouragement & Appreciation Cookies”

Created by: Brandy Peterson and Lianna Wood, volunteer coaches, Girls For A Change (America Learns Network member since Summer 2008)
Topics: Engagement & Motivation
Team Building
Grade Level Used With: Eighth
Arrangements: Any
Materials: - Regular cookies, fortune cookies or any team favorite snack
- Cards/paper and something to write with

- - - - - - - - - - - -


Our girls had a particularly successful meeting after a few weeks of rowdy behavior and little focus.

When the girls shifted their focus and behavior, we wanted to show them that we really appreciated that intentional shift.  We also wanted to express how glad we are to be their coaches.

(America Learns Note: Before implementing this strategy, please check in with your supervisor about any food policies your program has.)

Step 1:

One coach made cookies and the other made cards.

Initially, we considered making actual fortune cookies, but settled on chocolate chip cookies for mass-production purposes, figuring that a handful of cookies for each girl would be better than one.  I heard no complaints!   As long as the appreciation is genuine and sugar is involved, everyone's happy.

Step 2:

The cards included praising their attendance/dedication, emerging leadership skills, sense of humor, creativity, listening abilities, etc.

Each card began with, "We are fortunate to...,".  We highlighted things like frequent attendance, upbeat attitude, willingness to speak up, and leadership potential.

It's so important to make each fortune unique for each girl.  Immediately, our team compared notes.  When the girls found out that each card was personalized, they were speechless!  Well, speechless until they found that there might be leftover cookies :-).

Where this Strategy Came From

Girls For A ChangeLianna and Brandy contributed this strategy on the America Learns Network.  The strategy was then made available not only to Girls For A Change coaches, but also to the thousands of tutors, mentors, coaches and student teachers who are using the Network to report their progress, reflect on their recent sessions, and get the support they need to reach their goals. 

To date, more than 2,600 strategies have been contributed by members of the America Learns Network community.

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