These boots were made for presentin’ | A presentation activity

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I designed this creative visualisation activity on a project where it was ultimately not used and I’ve got permission to share it here. It could potentially be included in a workshop on presentation skills or as a stand-alone activity run in a team huddle or meeting.

Have you ever used creative visualisation? What sort of visual imagery do you incorporate?


Overview

Creative visualisation may help presenters manage their nerves through calming visual imagery, a technique borrowed from acting. This particular activity also uses shoes as metaphors for qualities associated with confident presenters. The technique can be used to calm nerves before a presentation. It puts presenters in a positive mind frame by focusing the inner voice on something productive instead of negative self-talk.

The handout offers a range of visualisation prompts because different people have different sources of anxiety and they’ll need to find a visualisation that works for them. Each visualisation begins with putting on a pair of ‘inner’ shoes and ends with a destination or goal that represents success.

Objective

  • Use creative visualisation as a way of managing nerves just before a presentation.

Procedure

  • Pair off participants and ask them to look at the shoes in the handout and suggest how wearing these different types of shoes might make them feel.
  • Point out to participants that wearing ‘inner’ shoes could potentially boost their confidence in a presentation.
  • Get them to discuss the sorts of situations they would want to wear these inner shoes in. For example, you are nervous and you feel really cold and stiff at the start of a presentation at an industry meet. Imagining yourself in football cleats might help you kick your presentation off with some energy. Some possible responses are given below.
  • Ask participants to recall a presentation where they experienced some nervousness. Get them to close their eyes and talk them through the following creating visualisation:

Your presentation starts in 5 minutes. Your mind is racing and you can’t focus because you are thinking about a million things. You reach out grab on a pair of your inner flip-flops and put them on. Feel the tension melt away from your body. Relax your shoulders. Take deep breaths. When you feel your breathing starting to slow, let your hands hang loose by your side. You’re walking on a soft sandy beach. Feel the sand between your toes. You hear waves in the distance. You look up and see a calm blue sea stretching out in front of you. As the tide goes out, you walk towards the rising sun on the horizon.

  • Have participants work in pairs to look through the other visualisation prompts in the toolkit and choose one that they find useful. Participants then practise the creative visualisation prompt with their partners. Encourage them to add details that make the visualisation feel more real.

Debrief

  • Use the following questions to debrief the activity:
    • Why is this kind of visualisation useful when you’re nervous?
    • Our inner voices sometimes trigger nervousness through negative self-talk. How does the visualisation of ‘inner’ shoes help with this?
    • Why does each visualisation end with a destination or a goal?

Suggested responses 

  1. Flip-flops: relaxed, casual, calm
  2. Sneakers: comfortable, easy-going
  3. Rain boots/wellingtons: persistent, determined
  4. Cowboy boots: self-assured, poised, strong
  5. Football/soccer cleats: dynamic, active, energetic
  6. Hiking boots: adventurous, daring

Download the handout from the following link ⬇️

Image attribution: Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Illustrations from images | Shapes in Adobe Capture

Adobe capture

Here’s a quick post about an app I’ve just started exploring. Adobe Capture is a free smartphone app with in-app camera that lets you do a lot of really interesting graphic design edits. I’ve been looking at the ‘shapes’ function which converts images into pen and ink-type illustrations. Here are some examples of things I took pictures of.

Shape 4

Shape 1

Shape 2 (1)

What’s interesting is that it does a pretty good job with fairly complex objects with lots of details and contours like this statue.

The app is fairly intuitive but here are the steps I followed to convert some keys on my kitchen counter. You can get rid of the background and any other distractions (you can see my shadow in the first couple of images) using a combination of the contrast slider and the wand. Any bits and bobs that are left can be erased. A smoothing function will make things look regular – in this case it actually gets rid of some nice details so you’ll need to play around to get the best results.

The final image gets saved as an SVG file in your own Adobe library but you can export it as an SVG or PNG file. Although I haven’t quite figured out how – you can also export assets as vectors which could be really useful.

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These illustrations would look quite nice in print materials and create a cohesive visual look across say a participant guide, addressing issues associated with printing colour images in black and white. They could also work well in online layouts to create a minimalist course look.

Adobe Capture is available for iOS and Android phones.

Pseudo-design titles | A UX activity

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This quick activity uses Pseudo-design titles, a website that lampoons the often florid and bombastic job titles people have in the UX/design industry. It could be used with learners  who are heading into a design/technology focused degree or  more generally with business learners.


  • Ask learners to work in pairs to discuss the designations or job titles they would like to have when they start working.
  • Get learners to access designtitles.com on their phones. The site randomly generates job titles so everyone’s likely to get a different title.
  • Learners work in groups to discuss what these job titles imply and how this might be different from the sort of work they might actually do. For example, ‘an analyst of archetypal visuals’ sounds like a role that involves innovative work but might in fact be someone who selects stock visuals from an existing image bank.  A ‘multidisciplinary convincer of futuristic predictions’ could be a sales and marketing person.
  • Lead the learners in a discussion about why people try to bolster their ‘value proposition’ with exotic job titles and the impact of this. Ask learners to identify other ways of enhancing their value to prospective employees or within a job.

I have to confess that not all of the titles make sense but some of them are hilarious. Which one of these would you want to have for yourself? Have you come across similar job titles in your professional context?

  • Chief Assassin of Colours
  • Neural Arranger of Visualization
  • Whiteboarder of Quintessential States and Post-Human Practices
  • Arbitrator of Design
  • Cognitive Designer of Theoretical Ideas
  • Stimulist for Accessibility
  • Explorer for Heuristic Best Practices
  • User State Mentor

The image in this post is sourced from https://designtitles.com/ and I found out about the site from a tweet by Ajay Pangarkar (@bizlearningdude).

 

Effective decision making | Session materials

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Here are some more materials I developed on the ITDI course – Creating ELT Materials with Katherine Bilsborough. The assignment brief was to design wrap-around materials with short authentic texts. I chose four tweets by an American facilitator and performance consultant, Thiagi on decision making. Thiagi often tweets pithy messages on a variety of management and leadership issues. The original materials had screenshots of his tweets but I wanted to get permission before I circulated them more widely. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard back so I’ve replaced the screenshots with QR codes and links.

The context of this 60 minute session is effective decision making and it explores language for giving advice and decision making. Learners will gets lots of opportunities to speak in pairs and groups and will also write an email and a tweet.

You can download the handout from this link.

Image attribution: Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

An allegorical map of training | A reflection activity

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In the 18th and 19th centuries, allegorical maps of love, courtship and marriage were very popular. Here’s a map of matrimony.

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You’ll find some more examples here. In this reflection activity, participants create their own allegorical map of teaching.

Objective

  • To encourage facilitators to reflect on how they see training as a practice and a profession.

Materials

  • An example of a historical allegorical map (they’re all in the public domain) or perhaps one that you’ve drawn.

Procedure

  • Show an example of an allegorical map such as the one above.
  • Ask participants to draw and label their own allegorical maps of teaching.
  • Encourage participants to share their maps with each other and compare similarities and difference.
  • Get them to reflect on why their maps look the way they do and if they would want their maps to look different.

Extended reflection 

  • Ask participants to take pictures of their maps and revisit them after 3 months or 6 months. Are there any new islands or terrain they’d like to add to their maps? What do these represent? How did these changes come about?

NB: This activity hasn’t been road tested yet. I did create my own allegorical map – I’m not sure I’m ready to share it yet. It’s turned out a bit dark – something for me to reflect on?!

Paring back | Paragraph blogging

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I’ve been watching Civilisations, a lush BBC series about how art has shaped the human experience. In an episode on Japan, the viewer is introduced to Maruyama Okyo’s masterpiece from the late 18th century – Cracked Ice – a painted two-fold screen ostensibly intended for tea ceremonies. Its format and minimalism seem characteristically Japanese and yet elements such as the use of perspective and a vanishing point show the influence of the West. I reflected on this in the context of my teaching. I get very excited by ideas I encounter. I want to try everything but this sometimes results in overstuffed lessons and more critically, a strange pastiche that doesn’t really give learners a cohesive learning experience. As I acquire and adapt ideas and tools, I need to learn to pare back like Okyo and focus on what’s really important and let innovation emerge from what I haven’t articulated in my lesson plan, those  blank spaces I rush to fill.

Image attribution: Maruyama Okyo, Cracked ice, a 2-fold screen painting | British Museum | CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

True speech | paragraph blogging

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I’ve been trying to make a concerted effort to connect with my mother’s L1 – Tamil, a language that’s native to southern India and Sri Lanka. I’ve taught myself to read but I  can’t manage its extreme diglossia so forget literature, even newspapers are out of reach. I am building my knowledge of the language in other ways such as David Shulman’s sumptuous and erudite ‘Tamil a Biography‘. In it, he discusses a concept called ‘vāymŏḻi’ (the ḻ happens to be a retroflex approximant) or true speech which I’ve been mulling over this past week.

“One might think that truth is a universal concept not in need of further, local characterization. There is truth and there is untruth, and the difference between them is, we could imagine, clear in every culture. But in fact the notion of truth or truthfulness is always culturally determined. The Greeks called truth aletheia, a “nonforgetting” or “noninattention,” and linked it with unveiling, penetrating past the shimmering surface. Tamil conceptions of truth are quite different. They are, above all, dependent on ideas about the autonomy and integrity of the spoken, audible (musical) word that, once uttered, will always live out its life in the world independent of the speaker’s will. Thus truth is connected to sound—specifically, to the phonemes of the Tamil language—and what sound can do in, or to, a world that is itself made up of sonic forces, inaudible quivers, subtle buzzes.”

David Shulman

That’s of course fascinating, beautiful and lyrical but what got me thinking was this idea of speech becoming truth because it is spoken in a certain context. When you’re training teachers, particularly trainee teachers, I get the sense that your word as the trainer is accepted as the truth regardless of whether it is or not outside that room or platform. And when these ideas go out into the real world, they continue to evolve because they’re being implemented in some form or the other. I certainly experienced this on my initial training and acquired ideas that continue to influence my practice even today. These notions once utteredlive out their life in the world independent of the trainer’s will. That’s a proposition I find deeply unsettling.

* A big thank you to Matt Noble for prompting me to start paragraph blogging with his frigging paragraph blogging fecundity this month!

Image attribution: Jaffna, Sri Lanka by arileu | Flickr | CC BY-NC 2.0

When wo/men speak up | An evidence-based activity

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It’s international women’s day and I just happened upon some management research into the differences in impact on status and potential leadership position between men and women as a result of speaking up. This research was cited in the latest Harvard Business Review (March-April 2018, p.24) but was originally published in the Academy of Management Journal, 2017 as The Social Consequences of Voice: An Examination of Voice Type and Gender on Status and Subsequent Leader Emergence, by Elizabeth J. McClean et al. It just goes to show that while some progress has been made, we’re still very far from equity and you don’t need to look beyond the article’s title to see what I mean: Men Get Credit for Voicing Ideas, but Not Problems. Women Don’t Get Credit for Either

Here’s an activity for business professionals designed around this text/research


  • Lead in by asking learners what the phrasal verb ‘to speak up’ means and whether there is a culture of ‘speaking up’ in their organisation.
  • Ask learners to then draw this matrix in their notebooks.

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  • Get the learners to individually decide if speaking up in each of the situations helps men and women gain (+)  or lose (-) status in the team or organisation. For example, if a man points out problems, is he likely to gain (+) gain the respect of his colleagues and increase his status or lose status (-). They can also decide that there’s no impact (=).
  • Put them in small groups and have them compare their answers.
  • Ask learners to then access the article on their phones. It’s quite short and the title (Men Get Credit for Voicing Ideas, but Not Problems. Women Don’t Get Credit for Either) says it all. Encourage learners to compare their guesses to the research.
  • Have them read the article again and identify what promotive and prohibitive voice mean and which one they tend to hear in their own team interactions.
  • Finally have them read the last line of the article and discuss what this might mean in terms of team dynamics, diversity, equity, innovation and productivity.

”The researchers say that their findings highlight an impediment to objective, nongendered evaluations of team members’ contributions.”

  • As a follow-up task, learners could come up with suggestions or guidelines for working towards ensuring that everyone’s inputs are valued regardless of who they are.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

 

Review activities | Ideas from Twitter

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Ever since Kamila tweeted about this activity, I’ve been wanting to collect activity ideas people share on Twitter because I find that liking or a retweeting stuff like this doesn’t always translate to revisiting or using it subsequently. What I particularly love about these activities is their simplicity – the picture says it all!


And then thanks to the utterly prolific Pete Sanderson (@LessonToolbox), I found a lot of review activities shared by teachers of other subjects such as history, science and Spanish. I can easily see myself adapting some of these ideas for both my learners as well as for teacher training workshops. There are literally hundreds of tweets with activity ideas but I’ve selected a few that I thought were interesting. Don’t miss place mats for CPD – fair warning – you’ll have to scroll down quite a bit until you get to it.

This one’s not just a plain vanilla review activity, it’s also a metacognitive exercise where students have to decide what they need to focus on.


This twist on Scrabble could lend itself to vocabulary, receptive skills tasks and for reviewing content knowledge such as information about teaching approaches.

Here’s another way of presenting it:

Along with the template:

Here’s a more intensive review activity inspired by Scrabble:


I love this blob activity. It would work well for speaking but it might also be an interesting reflection exercise.

This one seems similar to tasks I’ve seen in a lot of writing worksheets but the old newspaper cutout’s given me some ideas.


Speak like a historian – this is brilliant – Speak like a global consultant, speak like a teacher, speak like a researcher, speak like someone at B2?! I’m going to be using this one a lot!

Another version of speak like a historian:

This has obviously been very popular with history teachers – here’s another:


A more intensive activity – the instructions are given at the top of the worksheet.


I think the creators of this activity intended summary pyramids to be worksheet-based but I am going to be using Cusinenaire rods to bring this to life.


Question balloons might require a lot of prep but it could also be a lot of fun.


Place mats for prompting CPD-related reflection for teachers – this one’s just amazeballs! I can’t wait to try it out.


A simple graphic organiser activity – I’m not completely sure if the learner is also required to create some kind of connection between the different pieces of information s/he writes into the squares.


This school’s Twitter account is the friggin motherload of activities. I am obsessed with verb bugs – can’t wait to try it out with English collocations.

This mingling activity seems more familiar – I like the idea of ‘stealing’ a card and I think my learners will too.

This one’s a great way of encouraging learners to take more ownership for what happens in the classroom as well as their own learning.

I haven’t done linking hexagons in ages – I’m going to try to sneak it in for some vocabulary work.

I don’t know where I’d be able to use this but it looks really neat.


🙂 Head in a hole!


Finally, a fun emoji review:

I set out to catalogue just a few but I’ve ended up with quite a lot and I’ve only been through tweets from a few accounts since the start of this year. I think I’m going to do this as a regular exercise. I’ve got a lot more practical ideas from these tweets than I have from many ELT activity books.

Image attribution: Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash