Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 2010: Eleanor Rouse – Somatic Strategies Superstar


April 2010 Strategy of the Month


Girls For A Change logo

Eleanor Rouse has almost single handedly built up the somatic (mind, body, and heart) side of the America Learns National Strategy Library.

During the 2009-10 school year, this Girls For A Change coach created a number of innovative, effective strategies to help middle school girls focus and center themselves, ultimately leading to greater concentration and teamwork throughout each session. You’ll see one of those strategies below.

Like Megan Conners, who we’re also celebrating this month, Eleanor is one of the few individuals we’ve served since 2003 who has shared three or more strategies that were promoted to the America Learns National Strategy Library.

Eleanor Rouse

Eleanor didn’t pull her strategies out of thin air. On top of her work in the nonprofit space (she has managed two arts organizations and raised more than $5 million for a number of organizations, including Girls For A Change), Eleanor coaches and facilitates workshops for clients who are interested in connecting deeply with their authentic selves and their own concept of a Higher Power.  From that place, her clients create greater fulfillment in life, work and relationships.  Learn more about Eleanor’s company.

When we asked Eleanor to share some advice that others can use as they try out her strategies, she noted that, “The girls think I'm crazy when I try somatic coaching practices with them; however, I always notice a difference in their own presence and energy, even if we do it for just a few seconds. Particularly for middle school girls, it helps them become ready to listen to each other and to participate with a bit more concentration during the meeting.”

Not Familiar with Girls For A Change?

If you’re not familiar with the work of Girls For A Change, invest 60 seconds in a video that was recently produced by TNT.  We’re so proud of (and blown away by) the amazing accomplishments and impact that this organization continues to have around the world.

Eleanor’s Strategy

Presence Practice
(Centering & Grounding for Girls)

Created by: Eleanor Rouse, Girls For A Change
(America Learns Network member since July 2008)
Topics: Check In/Check Out
Activities to Begin Sessions
Grade Levels: Sixth - Eighth
Arrangements: Small Group; Large Group

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

Situation: Our middle school girls have a lot of physical energy after school, so we wanted to try out a grounding practice to see what the impact would be on their ability to channel their energy and to be present for themselves, for each other, and for the meeting.
Step 1: As an intro to check in, we had them stand in a circle feet hip width distance apart (a good solid stance). 

We then asked them to close their eyes.  Girls who are uncomfortable with closing their eyes in the group may stare towards a single spot on the floor.
Step 2: Said to the girls, "Feel tree roots coming out of your feet, grounding you into the floor and the Earth. Raise one of your hands above your head and pull a string as if you were pulling the top of your head to the sky. Feel your length."
Step 3: Then, "Open your arms and hands wide to the side. Breathe into your heart, your belly, your chest. TAKE UP SPACE. Take up your rightful space in this room, on this team. Feel how wide you can be."
Step 4: Next, "Now imagine you have a dragon tail coming off the back of your body 30, 40 feet long. Big fat, heavy, scaly. It can be any color you want it to be -- green and scaly, purple with sparkles etc. Imagine this tail holds everything you've lived in your 11, 12 ,13 years. Now lean back against it. Let it hold you up."
Step 5: Lastly, "Breathe deep into your belly. Let your belly get very big as if you were pregnant. As girls and women we're always told to hold in our bellies, let it out. Breathe low and deep."
Step 6: We debriefed with them about how creating social change (a core focus of the Girls For A Change program) means we have to be very grounded in our own bodies and have the presence of a leader.

Then we had them do check in without words -- acting out with their bodies what animal they would be.  It was challenging for some of them to not use words and to not be self conscious but they all did it.

The rest of the meeting felt far more calm than usual.  And we pulled "centering and presence" back in later in the meeting when we asked them to visualize their neighborhoods and feel what they want to be different.

Attend a Planning & Action Hour!

Individuals attend these sessions to reflect upon, take stock of, and begin making concrete plans to improve their tutor, mentor, and/or coach training, monitoring, and support practices.

The session is ideal for administrators and coordinators of volunteer-, AmeriCorps-, and service learning-driven organizations.

>> Learn more & reserve your spot today.



April 2010: Megan Conners – Speed Dating Towards Improved Literacy Skills


2010 April Strateg of the Month
Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County


Literacy AmeriCorps Palm Beach County does an absolutely amazing job of recruiting, training and supporting its AmeriCorps members.  If you ever need to find some of the most talented, creative, passionate tutors and staff members serving adult learners, look no further than this program.

Case in point: Megan Conners


Megan became one of our America Learns Network Superstars last October.  Since that time, she created and shared a number of additional strategies that have not only been included in her organization’s own America Learns Network strategy library, but also in the America Learns National Strategy Library – the most thorough collection of the best youth development, youth education, and adult literacy strategies that were created by tutors, mentors, coaches, and student teachers in the field.

Check out the strategy below to learn how Megan created a speed dating-based activity to help her adult English language learners become far more comfortable with asking and responding to questions.

Be sure to leave a comment for Megan at the bottom of this post to let her know what you think about her strategy!

Megan’s Strategy

Speed Dating
(Asking & Responding to Questions)

Created by: Megan Conners, Literacy AmeriCorps Palm Beach County, Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County (America Learns Network member since August 2009)
Topics: English Language Learners
Asking & Responding to Questions
Arrangements: Small Group; Large Group
  • Index cards and tape for name tags
  • Speed dating questionnaire sheets with separate boxes for each student to interview half of the class (regular sheets; present perfect tense sheets)
  • Pencils or pens
  • A long table or desks pushed together

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

Situation: I wanted to give my students a fun and interesting way to practice asking and answering questions in English.

The students constantly see questions on the board and in textbooks, but rarely do these modes of learning force the students to pose questions out loud.  In the end, they gain the confidence in answering questions, but not in asking their own.

My goal with this "speed dating" activity was to involve everyone in an exciting, interactive speaking and listening activity that would help them to become less fearful of asking questions to others.

Megan Conners and Her Students

Step 1: Give each student an index card with a typical English name on it.

Attach tape to the back and have each student wear it as a name tag (they love this!).

With only one male in my class, I chose to assign half of the students as boys and half as girls.
Step 2: On a new index card, ask each student answer the speed dating questionnaire questions for their own character.  (If your students need practice with the present perfect tense, consider using these questions instead.)

Remind them that as they answer the questions, they are not writing about themselves, but about the fictional person they’re acting as.  Tell them to be creative with their answers because the activity will be more fun that way.  (In our game, the characters with the crazy answers were the ones that proved to be more desirable.)

Depending on the level of your students, you might want to give them prompts for the answers, such as "I like to...", to which the student could respond in many normal or more imaginative ways.

My students prepared six complete sentence answers, but this number can be adapted depending on the amount of time you wish to spend on this activity.

NOTE: You can also consider brainstorming with your students about what questions should appear on the questionnaire.

Step 3: Tell your students that they will all be going speed dating!

You may need to explain and/or demonstrate this concept, and then move around the classroom furniture so that the "boys" and "girls" can sit across from each other.

Give them the speed dating questionnaire sheets, which should contain all of the written-out questions that they answered on their index cards earlier. Each boy should interview each girl for a set amount of time (we took approximately four minutes), and then the girl will interview the boy for the same amount of time.  If your students are ready for the challenge, encourage them to also ask one or two questions that are not on the sheet.

Everyone should write down the responses of the person he or she is interviewing, in complete sentences if time permits. 

After each pair of students interview one another, the students on one side of the table will shift down one seat, with the last person moving to the other end of the table.  Eventually, each boy will talk with each girl.

Step 4: Once everyone is finished interviewing, tell the students that they must decide which of the people they interviewed would be the best match for their character. They must then secretly write down the name of the character they chose on the back side of their questionnaire sheet.
Step 5: Now the game show begins!

As the teacher, you become the game show host.  Your goal is to make love matches.

Call up one student at a time (using his or her character name), and ask who they chose as their match. They must then explain to the class why they chose the person they did, using complete sentence answers.

For example, "Brian" might tell you, "I chose Sarah because she likes to go to the beach and she does not like to eat insects."

As game show host, you now ask Sarah to stand up and show the back side of her sheet. If it says "Brian," a love match has been made and the class will probably applaud and be very excited. If it does not have Brian's name on it and has for example, "James," written on it, you will ask James to come up to the front and show the audience who he chose. The activity continues in this way until everyone has the chance to stand up and try to make a match with someone else.

The important thing is that each time someone tells the audience who he or she chose, they also must explain "why" using complete sentence answers from the responses they received from one another during the interview process. The class will also have a great time pretending to participate in a real game show, and will be proud of themselves for asking questions, interpreting answers, and explaining their reasoning in English!

Attend a Planning & Action Hour!

Individuals attend these sessions to reflect upon, take stock of, and begin making concrete plans to improve their tutor, mentor, and/or coach training, monitoring, and support practices.

The session is ideal for administrators and coordinators of volunteer-, AmeriCorps-, and service learning-driven organizations.

>> Learn more & reserve your spot today.