Monday, September 26, 2011

Game of the Month: Fear Field

Talk to your kids/class about enacting courage.  Here's a great game to get you started...

Materials: One small piece of paper per participant, One blindfold

Goal: To have players make their way through all the fears in "The Fear Zone", discussing them as we encounter them.


  • You will need an open space of approximately 10' x 15'
  • Split your group into smaller groups of approximately 4-6 participants per group
  • Have each participant sit separately to write a different fear on each of their three pieces of paper (the fears can be anything they fear in life, at school, etc.)
  • Crumple each piece of paper into a ball and randomly spread them out in the 10' by 15' space
  • Pick one group to start this challenge, from that group you will pick 1 player to be blindfolded and the other players to stand around the perimeter of the open space (aka "The Fear Zone")
  • The blindfolded player must walk through The Fear Zone, attempting to avoid all of the fear balls of paper.  His/her teammates will give verbal directions from their positions around the perimeter of The Fear Zone.
  • If the blindfolded player steps on one of the fear balls, that player must stop, take off his/her blindfold, pick up the ball that he/she stepped on and read it out loud.
  • The parent/teacher should now lead a discussion about that particular fear, survey the group to see if others share this fear, and be sure to compliment those for having the courage to share their fears.
  • Pick another group to repeat the process.
  • Continue with this for as long as you see fit.
Discussion Tips:
Here are some suggested points/questions for your discussion:
  • Just talking openly about fears is courageous
  • When did those first experience the fear they wrote down?
  • What are different ways to begin to face your fear?
  • Are we born with courage or can we learn it?

This activity has been adapted from the Dynamix Family Challenge seen in Character Is The Key by Sara Dimerman.

Getting the most from your Positive Reinforcements

An incredible lesson we learned years ago at Dynamix is the power of Positive Reinforcements.  In a post earlier this month we pointed to Positive Reinforcements at The Key Ingredient to Group / Classroom Management.  But like any other strategy it must be used properly and deliberately to get the full affect.

It seems intuitive that it will be easier on you, as the educator, and the participants if you were to say "Thank you for sitting quietly" rather than yelling "Everyone sit quietly!!!"  This is what Positive Reinforcement is all about.  Too often educators will focus on the 10% of the group making the wrong choices, when 90% of making the right choices and are even MORE deserving of your attention.

The best way to keep positive behaviours reoccurring is to reinforce the specific behaviours/choices as they occur.  This will give the children a clear picture of what your expectations are, and how they too can get your positive attention.

To get the most from your Positive Reinforcements you must be SPECIFIC.

Being specific is what tells not only that child, but the entire group what your expectations are.

It is the difference between:
-1- "Good job Mike!",  and
-2- "Good job Mike, I love the way you are sitting quietly waiting for us to begin."

In reinforcement #1 above Mike will feel good about himself and may continue to try and please you.
In reinforcement #2 above Mike, and everyone within earshot, will learn what behaviours are expected of them and how to get your positive attention (which they all desperately crave!)

Remember, all behaviours that you want repeated must be praised.  Don't sit back and wait for them to happen.

Good luck and stay positive!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Get on the same page... literally!

Have you ever had those moments where you and your teammates just didn't seem to be on the same page?  Those times where, even though everyone had the best intentions in mind, you seem to be moving in completely different directions?  Well it's time to get your team on the same page!

Earlier today we shared this tip (via @getdynamix on twitter)
TeamTip 27: Clearly define and state your team goals, and work together to achieve your common goals. #teamwork

Of course, this is easier said than done!  So to take this tip to the next step, I suggest you get your team, literally, on the same page.  Have a team meeting, bring out a large sheet of paper, and clearly define in writing what your major objective or goal is at that moment.  Have everyone sign the page and post it on the wall.  Doing this will:  (A) serve as a great reminder of what you are ALL trying to achieve TOGETHER, and (B) create more accountability for everyone on your team to play a part in achieving that goal.

Good luck to you and your team!!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The key ingredient to Group / Classroom Management

Even if you are the absolute master in your subject area, your vast knowledge could never be transferred to a group of students who are out of control.  So how does one manage the group in an effective way?  Of course, there are MANY strategies and techniques one could use.  We, at Dynamix, feel that there is one -very underutilized- approach that is the key ingredient to Group / Classroom Management:  Positive Reinforcements.

If used properly, Positive Reinforcements can be a game changer!

Earlier today we tweeted the following tip via @getdynamix:
Stay Positive: thank a #child who is doing the right thing instead of reprimanding one who is doing the wrong thing.
This simple tip, if used consistently can be incredibly effective.  Let's use an example to better illustrate how this works and why it is so effective.

Situation: You are working with a group of 20 students.  As you are giving your instructions for what the students are to work on next, 2 students are talking to each other and not giving you their attention.

The Traditional Approach:
Time and time again, we see educators stop giving their instructions, and immediately address the two students speaking out of turn and asking them nicely to pay attention.  This may correct the problem in the short term, but there are other factors at play here.  The message we've just sent to the class, is that even though 90% of the class is doing the right thing, and only 10% of the class is choosing to misbehave, that 10% will command my attention.  With this message presented, you are more likely to get other students starting to speak out of turn to get the same attention from you.

Using Positive Reinforcements:
So, how do we flip things around, and give our attention to the 90% of the class doing the right thing instead?  That's easy!  Start thanking those students doing the right thing.  Make a clear and public acknowledgement to those making the right choices.  If you do this properly, you will be sending a message to those making the wrong choice that A) those doing the right thing will get your attention first, and B) you will be giving them a clear idea of how they can make better choices, so that they too can get your attention. As soon as you see the students, who were making the wrong choice, correct their behaviour, thank them immediately for correcting their behaviour and move on!

This very simple (and positive) approach, will take no extra time from your class.  It is easy to implement, and best of all it is incredibly effective.

What other techniques are you using to maintain a positive classroom environment?  Please share with us!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Don't let this happen to you when you go back to school!

Back-to-school doesn't have to be so painful!

Reminder to students AND teachers... 
HAVE FUN going back to school!!!

All the best in the new school year!
From the Dynamix team

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Structure doesn't have to mean BORING

Posted by Mitch Zeltzer

Earlier today we tweeted the following kids tip: (via @getdynamix on twitter)
"Structure doesn't make things less fun for #kids, in fact, it creates an opportunity for MORE #fun!"

When I'm running professional development workshop for professionals in the youth sector and make this statement, participants are often puzzled by this claim.

To a lot of people, working both in and out of the youth sector, structure means;
  • Tell the kids exactly what to do and how to behave, 
  • Have everyone sitting quietly facing forward,
  • No moving, talking, laughing, or anything ending in "ing"
This, of course, would be boring and is NOT what we mean by structure!!

At Dynamix, structure means:
  • Keep things organized
  • Keep the students engaged by having them sit / stand in strategic positions
  • Use audio, visual and kinesthetic instructions and demonstrations
  • Make the experience unique and FUN
So to illustrate the difference between boring, seemingly structured and Structured the Dynamix Way, here's an example:

Situation: You've just finished teaching a lesson and would like to review the content

Option A: 
- Ask a review question
- Call on one person to answer (which by the way the only people likely to raise their hands are the ones who really understood the content, not the ones who truly need the review!)
- Ask another question
- Call on another person (or possibly the same smarty-pants!)
- And so on...


Option B:
- Split the class into groups of 4-5 students
- Provide the class with a topic of discussion
- Let the students discuss as you circulate

Review: Not too bad, but still not quite structured/creative enough to really keep ALL of the students engaged.

Option C: The Dynamix Way
- Split the class into groups of 4-5 students
- Provide each group with dice (enough for each student to get 1)
- Provide the class with a topic of discussion
- Before students start discussing, all players roll their die at the same time.  The student to roll the highest number starts the discussion.
- Starting with that student, and moving clockwise, each student will have 1 minute to respond to the topic
- At the front of the class place a countdown timer that counts down the minute, and assign a fun action and/or sound that the rest of the students in the group are to make with the student's turn is over
- Pick a new topic and repeat the process

Review: More structured, more accountability, more fun!

There are tons of examples and situations out there where you can apply the same logic and creativity.  You just have to look for them and try different things out!

Stay structured and have FUN!!!