Counselor’s Corner: Combating Stage Fright

medium-Speaker-Podium-0-16699Many people fear speaking in front of groups; children and adolescents are no different. Some common scenarios in which students might have to speak in front of a group include school plays, book reports, and class presentations. Even the act of answering a question in class can strike fear in some students’ hearts.

Here are some ways to ease the fear that children and adolescents (and adults) have of public speaking and help them feel less anxious about it in the future. Use these tips with students, or try them yourself.

Many people instantly become stressed at the thought of speaking in front of a group. Deep breathing and/or relaxation techniques such as these from Harvard Health can help. Everyone can benefit from practicing calming techniques before entering a stressful situation. Rehearse these techniques on your own before giving a presentation or delivering a report. You can also recite a personal mantra such as “You can do it” or “I will do my best” to yourself before you give a presentation.

Girl Studying common license via sweet clip art freeThe stress of presenting in front of a group can be great by itself, but it can be even more stressful if you’re not properly prepared. Determine everything you need to know, research, create, or do well before getting in front of a group. Organize your materials so you know exactly what you want to say or present. Being properly prepared will remove one more stressor from an already stressful situation.

When you think you’re finally ready to get in front of a group, begin to visualize your presentation or performance. Go through each step of the information or product you want to present. Visualizing the process may help you think of things you may have forgotten to prepare or that you may want to add. Picturing yourself successfully giving your presentation can give you an added confidence boost.

Boy doing presentation from Discovery Education Free Clip Art for EducationPractice not only makes perfect, but also makes you feel less stressed. Practice your lines, your report, or your presentation until you feel very comfortable. If possible, practice in front of another person or a group. Ask for feedback to help make your presentation better. You can also practice in the actual space or a similar location to familiarize yourself and troubleshoot any potential problems.

Once you have delivered your successful performance or presentation, celebrate! It’s stressful to present in front of a group. The more you do it and celebrate your success, the more you may grow to enjoy it.

How do you help students combat stage fright?

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

Suggested Resources
Fighting_Invisible_TigFighting Invisible Tigers: Stress Management for Teens by Earl Hipp; has excepts for focused breathing and relaxation at this link.
What to do When You are Scared and Worried: A Guide for Kids, by James J. Crist, Ph.D.
Rx for Stress In a Jar®: Tips for Less Stress in Kids’ Lives
Too Stressed to Think? A Teen Guide to Staying Sane When Life Makes You Crazy, eBook Annie Fox, M.Ed., and Ruth Kirschner
Be the Boss of Your Stress: Self-Care for Kids by Timothy Culbert, M.D., and Rebecca Kajander C.P.N.P., M.P.H.
Stress Can Really Get on Your Nerves! by Trevor Romain and Elizabeth Verdick

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Enter to Win Notable Nonfiction for YA Readers!

giveaway button © by Free Spirit Publishing lgThis month we’re giving away all of the YA titles pictured here. Entries must be received by midnight, November 28, 2014.


How Rude!®
The Gifted Teen Survival Guide
Being Me with OCD
Words Wound

To Enter: Leave a comment below telling us how you help teens succeed.

For additional entries, complete the following tasks and leave a separate comment below for each:

Each comment counts as a separate entry—that’s up to four chances to win! Entries must be received by midnight November 28, 2014.

The winner will be contacted via email on or around December 1, 2014, and will need to respond within 72 hours to claim his or her prize or another winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way affiliated, administered, or endorsed by Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Winner must be a U.S. resident, 18 years of age or older.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Guest Post: Take Part in National Family Volunteer Day

By Jenny Friedman, Ph.D., and Jolene Roehlkepartain, authors of Doing Good Together

Jenny and Jolene

Jenny and Jolene

On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, families across the country volunteer in ways that are meaningful and make a difference. This year, National Family Volunteer Day is November 22. You can do your part—it’s fun and easy!

Consider these five simple ideas (or create your own) to volunteer as a family.

1. Bake something yummy
People always enjoy homemade food, even if you make something that you buy in a box at the grocery store. Identify someone who would enjoy a treat (such as a grandparent, a sick neighbor, someone new to your child’s school, or a friend). Then bake something such as a batch of cookies, a cake, a loaf of bread, or whatever your family would like to make together. Animal_shelter_in_ND_FEMA Photo Gallery Open Source DocOnce your baked good is ready, put it on a colorful paper plate, call up the person, and deliver it. Take time to visit, which is especially meaningful for elderly, sick, or homebound people.

2. Visit an animal shelter
Many children love animals. Take your family to an animal shelter to play with the animals waiting to be adopted. (Be careful, however, that you don’t come home with a new pet if that’s not your intention.) Call ahead to find out what their rules are for such visits. Some families take their children to an animal shelter a few times a year as a way to show support and care toward furry friends. Our book Doing Good Together includes family volunteer projects that you can do for animals.

3. Go shopping to buy things to donate
Food shelves always look for donations, and most people give food or money. But food shelves also need other things, such as toiletries, cleaning products, diapers, dish soap, facial tissues, and bandages. As a family, figure out what you’d enjoy giving (within your budget) and then go shopping together. Donate the items to a local food shelf. Find the one nearest you by calling 2-1-1 (the human services hotline) if available in your volunteer day logo from generationOn Or visit Feeding America to find your local food bank, which can direct you to your nearest food pantry.

4. Make cards to send to people
Few people receive personal letters and cards because most communication happens via email and cell phones. Brighten someone’s day by sending a card, a picture that your child draws, or a short note. (If you enjoy photography, take a picture of your family and send it to someone you love.) Once you get going, you may find that your family wants to send cards to a variety of people. Another possibility: Visit Send Kids the World and see the photos and read the stories of children with serious illnesses who are eager for some “happy” mail. Make a card for one or more of these children.

5. Clean up a small area of a local playground or park
Take your kids to a playground or park, and bring a garbage bag and work gloves for each family member. For ten minutes before you start to play, pick up stray papers, cups, and other pieces of litter. You’ll be surprised by how much you can improve an area in only a few minutes.

If you want more ideas, visit generationOn or Doing Good Together.

Whatever you choose to do, be sure to discuss and reflect on your experience. Emphasize what your family has accomplished and the difference it has made. You can find questions to jumpstart those conversations on the Doing Good Together website.

Finally, share your story with generationOn. When you do, you’ll be entered to win a prize pack, and ten families will be selected for a profile in an upcoming issue of Family Fun magazine.

Doing Good Together by Free Spirit PublishingFamilies that volunteer together connect even more deeply and have fun. Take some time on National Family Volunteer Day to do something your family enjoys—and that helps others.

Jenny Friedman and Jolene Roehlkepartain are the authors of Doing Good Together: 101 Easy, Meaningful Service Projects for Families, Schools, and Communities.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Guest Post: Help Students Write Personal Statements for College Applications

By Ann Camacho, editor of  Bookmarkeda collection of teen essays

Ann Camacho, FSP Author (c) Free Spirit PublishingThe big question that so many of my students ask me at this time of year is “How do I write a personal statement that will assure me entrance to my school of choice?”

It’s no simple task to “respond to the prompt,” but that is the single most important thing I tell my students, again and again, when teaching the personal statement: Respond to the prompt. For example, I have been asked to give guidelines about writing a personal statement here, in this blog. If I wrote about my summer vacation, readers would be disappointed—no matter how interesting or entertaining my summer vacation story was. Likewise, if students are asked to write about their best quality, they need to write about their best quality. If they are asked about their family background, they need to write about their family. The number one rule for scholarship or college application essays is, Answer the prompt!

Beyond that, here are a few other tips for students. I hope these guidelines will help those of you working with teens who are preparing their college applications.

WRiting a college essay GNU Common LIcense1. There is no formula. You might list your favorite things in your life and explain why, or share a specific accomplishment, or even tell about a heart-wrenching event that changed you forever. However, the most important thing is to write about what is real to you. Authenticity is key in your personal statement, more than fancy wording or an intricate tale about your life.

2. Find the seed to your own story. Everyone likes a good story or anecdote. But whether it’s a quote that anchors your life philosophy to your story or an event that has shaped who you are becoming as a young adult, focus on this seed and don’t feel forced to have to “share it all.” Writing about a particular time in your life that encapsulates your personal evolution can open the eyes of your reader.

3. Tell the truth, or at least an important truth about yourself. Not everyone has or needs a “sob story” to reveal a kernel about who they really are. This is your opportunity to share a truth you have come to know about yourself, and this is the time to reveal an inner strength or beauty that is uniquely yours.

4. Let the reader in. Share enough of your life to let someone see a slice of your personal history that has shaped you. Perhaps include your most significant challenge or struggle, and then show how you triumphed over this obstacle. Be willing to be vulnerable about what matters most to you in your quest for a higher education.

5. Use your words—your best words. Choose your words carefully and wisely, but don’t substitute elaborate synonyms for natural writing; fit your words to reflect your own writer’s voice. Some of the best essays are the simple ones. Stay away from colloquialisms and clichés; they are other people’s words. Likewise, don’t be afraid to sound educated. After all, colleges are hoping you’re already a skilled communicator.

(c) Girl writing (c) Lisafx | Dreamstime.com6. Write. Edit. Write some more. Writing is hard work! But the only way to write a personal statement is to actually sit down and write, and write, and rewrite. Be willing to take constructive feedback, which is really hard to do when you’re pouring your heart onto paper; but also be willing to revise and rewrite your own essay, draft after draft. Relying on a teacher, parent, or peer to do your writing defeats the very purpose of the personal statement.

7. Embrace the “gaps.” Be content to share just enough to let the reader know who you are, realizing that few of us can express it all in 1,000 words or less. If you explain just a bit about what motivates you, you can trust the reader to fill in the gaps between your personal statement and the larger you. Let the rest of your application, including your grade point average, SAT scores, community service work, and extracurricular activities, speak for itself.

The best advice I have when it comes to writing a personal statement is Howard Thurman’s injunction: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Bookmarked by Ann Camacho, FSP AuthorAnn Camacho has been an English teacher for more than 20 years. She currently teaches American literature at North High School in Riverside, California. Her students (and the student body as a whole) are very diverse, and many are in the school’s International Baccalaureate program and AP classes. Ann also participates in the AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) college preparation program for students who have college aspirations but are falling short of their potential or who don’t believe college is within reach. Her book Bookmarked: Teen Essays on Life and Literature from Tolkien to Twilight, is a collection of 50 essays from Ann’s former students on how literature has influenced their lives.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Cash in on Learning: Homework and the Gifted Learner

Richard Cash EdD, FSP AuthorFew topics in education can stir more conversation and controversy than that of homework. Typically, we consider homework any practice that is done outside of the school day or classroom. Most often, homework is practice of what was taught during the day, completion of work assigned during class, or work toward a product or presentation in school. For gifted students, homework usually has little variation from that assigned to all kids. However, I want to start a campaign to change the focus of homework for all students, and most specifically gifted kids.

There is little to no evidence to support the use of homework as a way to increase student achievement, test performance, or engagement in future learning. In fact, studies show that too much homework can actually have an adverse effect on learning and school engagement. And study after study—and conversation after conversation with teachers, parents, and students—reveals that homework is a huge matter of discontent.

Teachers dislike it because they don’t have the time to evaluate the materials or provide feedback to the student in a timely manner that has an effect on the learning process. Students are frustrated by it because there is little connection between what they did during the day and what is expected in the practice. Doing_Homework_(8118995558) Alex Proimos wikimedia commons upload magnus manskeParents hate it because they don’t understand the “new” methods employed in the subject (especially mathematics), can’t help their child, or don’t know how to support their child during the practice process.

So why do we continue to give, do, and support homework when indications are that it not only doesn’t help but instead causes discord for all involved?

In my opinion, the reason we continue to assign and reinforce the practice of homework is because we are stuck in an Industrial-Age (19th century) mentality of control and reward and the idea that “what worked for me should work for my kid.” However, our children are living in an increasingly differentiated world where new ideas and discoveries are far more important than repetition of the past. We need to break out of the old pattern for work done outside of the classroom (homework), especially for gifted students.

First, let’s look at a fundamental of learning: motivation! The most effective, long-lasting learning is accomplished when students have an intrinsic desire to be competent. Gifted students are motivated to expand on their skills, talents, and abilities when they find value, joy, and benefit in the work they are doing. In my experience as a teacher of gifted children for over 25 years, they are able to see through work for work’s sake, fluff-and-stuff activities, and “waste of my time” assignments. What is more beneficial for our gifted learners is to learn the process of studying outside of classroom or school time. Learning study habits will be far more valuable to their long-term educational process than the sometimes nonsensical coloring of maps, excessive mathematical equation practice/repetition, or word or vocabulary searches.

Study habits are those tools necessary for acquiring information, connecting old and new content, or preparing for exams or assessments. Effective study habits are far more necessary in future (post-secondary) learning experiences than the excessive and often useless practices of 20th-century homework.

Here are five ideas for teachers to assist gifted students in developing effective study habits:

  1. Have your students select a topic of interest outside of the classroom or school content. Ask them to create a list of websites, texts, or expert resources that can enhance or enrich their understanding of this topic. This activity is meant to get them to approach studying information that matters to them. Home_Office wikimedia commons by MantharofSo many times our students are forced to review materials that are of low interest or that they already know. Studying topics of interest can shift your gifted students’ mindsets toward thinking positively about learning new skills and abilities.
  2. Ask your students to survey their home or study environment. They should look at the surroundings for organization, proper lighting, low or less distracting sound volume, and necessary space to spread out materials or to access the proper technologies. Have your students report back on how conducive they feel their study environment is and what they can do to enhance or change it.
  3. Assign them the task of recrafting the notes they took during a class session. If they took linear notes (bullet points), then have them craft their notes into a nonlinguistic format, such as drawing a picture of the main ideas/concepts or using a Frayer model. You could also have them recraft their notes into a Cornell style graphic or write a script to explain the ideas/concepts in 2–3 minutes.
  4. Frayer Model

    Frayer Model

    Set a time limit for your students and ask that they stick to it. Research suggests that the effectiveness of homework recedes after a student works for two hours. I suggest having your students stick to the 10-minute rule (10 minutes for 1st grade, 30 minutes for 3rd grade, to a maximum of 60 minutes through middle school and 90 minutes for grades 9–12). This is a total amount of time, NOT per class or subject.
  5. Have your students set a timer or ask a parent to tell them when time is up. No matter where they are in the completion of the work, they should stop! This will help them learn to manage their time efficiently and effectively. They can report in class how much they accomplished, what caused them to stumble or succeed, and so forth. Do not grade this type of at-home work! The idea here is to teach (and have students reflect on) the regulation process of studying outside of the class or school.
  6. As above, have students monitor their work time at home. Also have them list things that were disrupting and pleasurable to the learning process, as well as what to avoid in the future and how well prepared they were for the study time. (For example, did they have all the materials they needed? Were resources needed that they didn’t think of? Was there help when they needed it?) Again, don’t grade the work, but assist students in reflecting on the productivity of their time outside of the classroom.

You can find many more ideas on the Internet for teaching effective study habits. As you learn more about your students’ learning habits and levels of self-regulation, you can add more ideas and strategies for them to accumulate.

I’d love to hear some of the strategies and techniques you have found valuable in teaching your students how to be better prepared for post-secondary and beyond.

Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., writes the monthly Cash in on Learning blog posts for Free Spirit. He has given hundreds of workshops, presentations, and staff development sessions throughout the United States and internationally. His most recent book is Differentiation for Gifted Learners, coauthored with Diane Heacox, Ed.D. He is also author of Advancing Differentiation: Thinking and Learning for the 21st Century.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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