Saturday, August 11, 2012

Developing Student Leaders

A major focus of Speech Camp week is leadership. Teaching students to be leaders not only impacts their self-esteem and confidence, but it also greatly impacts their ability to learn.  With more confidence, students are more likely to participate and engage in classroom activities.  Students learn to be observers of the information and people around them and learn to interact more effectively with others.  Leadership instills strong communication skills.  By developing students as leaders, we give them the tools they need to succeed outside of the school walls.

During the week, I asked students to engage in a variety of problem-solving and group activities which encouraged them to be active, critical thinkers, and listeners.  They needs to work together to develop strategies and rely on each others strengths.  The more students collaborated, the more meaningful the activities became.

To start the camp, I give the entire group (36 high school students) three small boards.  They need to determine how to Cross the Acid River in a timely manner using only three small boards.   The objective is to get students to work together to get from one side of the river to the next.  Several students were then given handy caps (a few could not see, a few could not talk, and one could not walk). Once students determined how to use the boards, they then stayed active by encouraging each side to work quickly and effectively.  Students loved this challenge, and then debriefed afterward about what type of group member they were (active or passive) and how they contributed to the success of the team.

Blob Tag was another great game that asked students to think critically, collaborate, and create a strategic plan. Playing this game indoors (in the school library), with many obstacles created another layer of challenges.  Students had fun both being part of the blob and avoiding it.

Toxic Waste was another challenging activity that required careful planning and physical skill. Students were asked to remove a small water bottle from the center of a ten foot circle using only rope and other supplies that were meant to distract students from the task.  They needed to work carefully together, communicate with one another to remove the item and deliver it to a safe zone, about 30 feet away.

These three activities, paired with a variety of improv games, acting warm-ups, a scavenger hunt, and concentration activities were just some of the ways that we taught students that being an active group member, listening and sharing ideas, supporting one another, and saying "yes" can help improve their own individual success.  Part of being a leader also means knowing when to take a step back and let others shine.  This week really re-emphasized the importance of teaching students to be leaders in my mind.  Team work and communication skills are essential to success.  I am grateful for the opportunity to help students realize their potential, find success, and make meaningful and fun memories in the process.

There are many places that I got a lot of games and ideas from but here are some comprehensive resources that do a nice job covering leadership activities:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Coaching: Capturing a Week at Camp

This past week was amazing. I am always in awe of the kids I get to work with.  Their positive energy and desire to become better speakers, performers, writers, and teammates is really inspiring.  To capture this week, I always write a letter to the parents to share just how special this week is to me and to their kids.  Coaching is time consuming, challenging, and often comes with some sacrifice, but I am grateful for how it has impacted my life and the life of the kids I've worked with these past four years.

Here is my letter to the parents to capture this past week:

To the parents and friends of the Speech Team
Every year, I am amazed by the enthusiastic and energetic faces that arrive at 9am on a Monday morning in late July or early August. Summers are precious to your students as it is a time to go on vacations with family, relax and be with friends.  This year, your students decided to spend this week at school, at Speech Camp.  The title of the camp often sends people into confusion.  I am often asked by my own family and friends what exactly Speech Camp is.  Trust me when I say that it is not what one would think it to be.

The Speech Team has been a significant part of my life for the past four years.  What has drawn me to this activity and what draws students is definitely not the name, which often incites fear into nearly every person on the planet. It is the relationships, the personal growth, and outlet to share our voices with others that makes this team truly special.  What I have come to learn from your students is that this team is so much more than a place to learn to speak well; it is a place to learn how to live well. 

This week, your students have been tasked with many challenges, have been asked to face their fears, and release any inhibitions they may have about performing and sharing who they are with others.  They have formed strong friendships, spent time in reflection, and have begun to find their passions.  From the variety of improv and leadership activities they have experienced, students have been reminded to embrace the power of their words.

At the end of last season, the Speech Team ranked 33rd in the state out of over 700 teams.  Watching our returning members pass on a legacy comprised of hard work, determination, and genuine desire to support their teammates has been inspiring and will lead this team into the 2012-2013 season with great success.  Having many new, talented members has been as asset to our experience this week. With 12 freshman and several other new faces joining our ranks, we are sure to continue to soar to new heights and accomplish greatness this year.

On behalf of the Speech Team coaching staff, thank you for sharing your students with us.  We are very excited for this season, and we cannot wait to watch each student find success.

Tweets by @Steph_SMac