Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Strategy Tuesday! Spotlight on Danica Ancell at Long Beach BLAST!



Here’s the third of five strategies for this Strategy Tuesday.

The strategy comes from Danica Ancell, a thoughtful service learning student and mentor with Long Beach BLAST in Long Beach, CA.

Below, you’ll learn how Danica created a strategy at the beginning of the school year to begin learning about her students.  Her “mandala” strategy gives tutors and mentors a huge amount of information that can be used to make future sessions relevant and meaningful to students.

About Long Beach BLAST
Since 2000, Long Beach BLAST has placed approximately 4,000 service learning college student mentors with K -12 students at risk of academic failure. Some service learners provide one-on-one tutoring and homework assistance. Others offer rich lessons in technology, science, and the arts. The service learners function as role models, opening the doors to the possibility of higher education and careers.

Strategy #3!

Dream Mandalas
(Learning How Students See Themselves and Their Futures)

Created by: Danica Ancell, service learning student and mentor with Long Beach BLAST 
(America Learns Network member since 2003)
Topics: Getting to Know Your Student  
Grade Levels: Fourth – Eighth  
Arrangements: One-on-One; Small Group; Large Group  
Materials: - Magazines
- Card stock or poster board
- Glue
- Scissors

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Situation: Using a Dream Mandala can be a GREAT way to get some students to identify where they are and where they would like to be in life. 

The mandala creation process not only gets your students thinking about their futures, but also gives you information that you can use to frame your sessions around your student's goals, motivating your student to really get on board with the time you spend together.

Step 1: Give each student a piece of card stock or poster board, and instruct them to draw a large circle on it.

They will need to bisect the circle as well...into two even pieces (with pen NOT scissorsimage

Step 2: Explain to the students that they can flip through the magazines and find pictures that represent who they are today.  They will glue/tape those to one side of the mandala.

If your students cannot find pictures that resonate with them, they can draw their own pictures, find art online, or use words.  They definitely should not post pictures that really do not resonate with how they feel about their present.

Step 3: Your students will then look for or create their own pictures/words for the other side of the mandala.  These images or words will represent who they want to be in the future.

Be sure to define what the “future” means for your students.  Does that mean next year? In five years?  In 20 years?

Remind your students that they don’t only have to focus on professions.  They can focus on the roles they want to play in their families and on personal characteristics (e.g., “honest,” “caring,” “understanding”).
Step 4: As the mentor, you can work on your own mandala or you can help your students look for images and words.

As you notice their selections, take the opportunity to ask questions that allow you to learn more about each student, such as:

  • What led you to choose that picture to represent your present / your future?
  • How are you working to make what you hope for your future happen?
  • What steps do you need to take to make what you want for your future to happen?  (If your student doesn't know the steps he should follow, you’ll find a number of strategies here (for America Learns Network members only) to help you create a game plan with your student and to check in on his progress regularly.)

Obviously, do not not criticize your students’ present or dreams.  If anything comes up that concerns you, connect with your supervisor or program coordinator.

Step 5: Use what you learn from this exercise to shape your future sessions so that you can make them relevant to your students. 

Your students will love hearing the following at the beginning of a mentoring session: “I learned so much about each of you when we made our mandalas.  A number of you are planning to become doctors or scientists, so during today’s session, we’re going to focus on some important information that you’ll need in order to reach your goals.”

You might also bring out the mandalas every few months and ask your students if they want to change anything.  Perhaps some of what they noted for the future can be shifted to the present, or perhaps they have completely new thoughts for their futures.  Let your students know that it’s perfectly okay to change how they see themselves in the future.

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