Archive for August, 2009

Fostering thinking skills.

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Adults and in particular teachers, play a crucial role in providing opportunities and experiences that enable children to develop their thinking skills. Teachers need to teach, explain, demonstrate model, scaffold and support.They need to give students the time and space to experiment with the knowledge and skills they learned and experienced, to discover for  themselves. Students need to feel secure enough to make mistakes. Mistakes made should be seen as a means of discovery or learning and not failure.

According to Jenni Clarke : “When children have opportunities to play  with ideas in different situations and with a variety of  resources, they discover connections and come to new and better understandings and ways of doing things. Adult support in this process enhances their ability to think critically and ask questions”. (“Creativity and Critical Thinking”, EYES 2007).

Pascal and Bertram (1997) identified the following key features of adult behaviour that promote good-quality thinking, learning and development in young children:

  • Sensitivity: The adult’s ability to be aware of the children’s  feelings and emotional well being;  to empathise and to acknowledge children’s feeling of insecurity and to offer support and encouragement.
  • Stimulation: The adult’s ability to offer or introduce an activity or resource in a positive, exciting and stimulating way; offer extra information; or join in with play in a way in which extends children’s thinking or communication.
  • Autonomy: The adult’s ability to give children the freedom to experiment, support children with their decisions and judgment, encouraging expression of ideas and involving children in rule making for everyone’s safety and well being.

Teachers need to model appropriate language and encourage the development of thinking vocabulary. According to Macro & McFall (2004), “A  classroom where a questions are celebrated and modeled will create an ethos of creative and critical thinking.”

As teachers we should think about the followings:

  • making time to listen carefully to student’s ideas, and to show that their ideas are valued;
  • offer student the opportunity to explore and experiment with words, ideas and concepts that they are forming in their thinking by frequently asking open questions. This will allow the teachers to gain deeper understanding of the student’s understanding and develop thinking skills;
  • giving constructive feedback (praise) encourages thinking, and praise need to be specific. Students will then learn what they did well and what they can think about for the next time;
  • displaying new words to encourage their use – thinking aloud;
  • telling stories as well as reading from a book;
  • using puppets to ask questions and suggest solutions to problems, using appropriate language.

Teachers should also create a rich environment that invite students to discuss, ask questions, find their own learning journey, share their discoveries in different ways to different audiences. According to Thornton & Brunton, (2005) : “Children have a right to a rich, complex environment – one that provides a wealth of sensory experiences”.

Teachers need to have learning corners in the classroom, so that students know where to go when they want to plan, discover, answer questions or gather information. Such corners may be play-based – eg role play, creative workshop explore and investigate, think and reflect; curriculum based - eg writing, science, mathematics, book corner, art and craft, etc.

The outdoors activities should be seen as an extension of the classroom activities rather than a separate place to go at set times. Some students need to be outside in order to think creatively. An outdoor environment should reflects the indoor one – encourage different types of thinking and learning right across the curriculum. There should be space to run, spaces to be still; and quiet and secret spaces for reflection and talk; to think and work together on large-scale projects or problems.

Teachers also need to reflect on what they use displays for. Displays should support thinking in a variety of ways such as:

  • stimulating memory and discussion -such as a photo dairy of a student’s journey through a task;
  • problem-solving – involving the students in making their own displays;
  • discussion and questions – a project or questions that students want to answer;
  • being interactive – involving hands-on sensory experience, with speech bubbles in which students’ comments can be written.
  • conveying messages – a space for anyone who enters to write daily information, such as, “I am 13 today”.

Resources provided should be stimulating, of good quality, attractively presented and interesting. This will ensure that students will use them with care and respect. Thus your resources should:

  • the best quality you can afford. It is better to have a few resources of high quality than vast quantities of cheap resources that wear out or break easily;
  • made up of a variety of manufactured, recycled and natural materials – this will encourage students to think, create, make decisions and problem-solve;
  • attractively presented. Display collections of similar objects in a beautiful basket, treasure casket or in a material – covered box;
  • easily accessible. Students need to know that they can move resources around, and return them later;
  • labeled. It is important that students know where to find a resource, without the teacher’s help.
  • teachers should regularly checked and assessed the quality and cleanness of resources - broken objects are removed, etc.

According to Epstein (2003), teachers need to give children time to think: “Engaging children in planning and reflection makes them more than good actors following prescribed roles. It turns them into artist and scientists who make things happen and create meaning for themselves and others”. This is because thinking takes time, concentration and perseverance. Thus children need to be motivated; have choice and control. Student-initiated learning creates the right motivation and opportunity for developing thinking skills as it incorporates the key elements of time, choice, value, opportunities to think about “what, how, when, why and next time” along with teacher’ support and guidance. Thus is the ideal time for the teacher to find out what the student know, how they use their knowledge and what might be needed to encourage more thinking.

Teacher-initiated challenges can be useful as starting points for some students. It can be an extension to something the students have been investigating. However, if the students are doing their own thinking, setting their own challenges and problems, then these are not needed. But if teachers do initiate any projects, make them as open-ended as possible and encourage thinking and decision-making. Challenges can be very simple – such as adding a variety of different spoons to the sand can spark new thinking. Challenges need to arise from the children’s interest and play, manageable,  meaningful and fun.

Thus teachers’ role in supporting students learning is to:

  • organise the environment and resources;
  • support students to make choices;
  • observe and listen;
  • play in a role;
  • play alongside;
  • model/demonstrate language and thinking;
  • provide support and guidance through a problem;
  • help children to cope with conflicts;
  • be flexible with time.

Further Readings:

  • Epstein, Ann S (2003) “How Planning and Reflection Develop Young Children’s Thinking Skills”, Beyond the Journal, Young Children on the Web. September 2003
  • The Early Years Foundation Stage (2007) DFES Publications
  • Macro, C & Mc Fall, D (2004) ” Questions and Questioning: Working with Young Children”, Primary Science Review 83, May/June 2004.
  • Pascal, C & Bertram, A(1997) Effective Early Learning: Case Studies for Improvement. Hodder & Stoughton
  • Thornton, L & Brunton, P (2005)  Understanding the Reggio Approach. David Fulton Publishers


How to Lose 10 Pounds in 3 Weeks.

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

The most important rule for losing weight is  not to starve yourself. This temporal and exhausting form of weight loss can do quite a significant damage to your system. Instead, opt for a good weight loss program which involves a healthy diet and regular exercise regimen for a healthy and natural way to lose weight fast.


For losing weight in three weeks eat, eat and eat some more. No, it is not a joke. One of the best ways to lose weight fast is by eating the right foods. It is what kick starts the metabolism, which is so essential for losing weight. If your body senses you have not eaten anything for hours at the end, it will shut down. This is a measure that the body takes to protect you from the “famine” caused due to crash diets. Therefore, to keep your metabolism up, you must eat regularly, be it three main meals and two small snacks, or six small meals throughout the day. These regularly meals will keep your body happy, your metabolism alive, which in turn, keeps the calorie burning.

Say “no” to Junk Food: Keep away from the junk food like cookies, candies, soda and chips; and instead opt for a high fiber diet and devoid of those excess carbohydrates. You can cut down on the carbohydrates by removing rice, pastas and breads from your diet. Avoid oily and deep fried foods and say no to red meat.

Foods to Eat: Salads and green vegetables are the best option for those wanting to lose weight the natural way. Instead of red meat you can have eggs, chicken or a high protein fish.

Water: Drink lots of water a day, at least six to eight glasses. Cut down on soda drinks, the highly sugared juices ,tea and coffee. Drinking water will help flush out the toxins that build up in your system especially; your colon,liver and kidneys.

The Physical Strategy

Three weeks of aerobic and strength building exercises help to loose weight faster than any detox or fad diet. Including a regular exercise regime in your schedule can guarantee you the best results.

Cardiovascular exercises: Engaging in highly intensity cardiovascular exercises like running, swimming, brisk walking, cycling, squash, aerobic exercises are best ways to loose weight really fast. Include 4 to 5 workouts per week and include at least three sessions of cardiovascular exercises.

Strength Training:  I am not really asking you to  pull a Schwarzenegger, however, strength training exercises done 2 to 3 times a week, at home, with dumbbells or in a local gym can help shed the extra kilos. As your muscle mass increases, the metabolism gets a boost and you start burning calorie rapidly.

Remember, that with a bit of determination and will power you can achieve the target quite easily. Mentally prepare yourself to not get distracted by unwanted temptations, such as binging on fast food and remain consistent with your weight loss agenda.

By Parul Solanki, 2009.

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Vitamin K and Warfarin.

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

There are six (6) main types of vitamins:

  • vitamin A;
  • vitamin B;
  • vitamin C;
  • vitamin D;
  • vitamin E;
  • vitamin K.

Each of these vitamins plays an equally important role in maintaining good health. Of these, vitamin K is responsible for ensuring proper blood clothing and for increasing the bone mass which aids in bone development. Naturally, deficiency of vitamin K can lead to slower blood clotting which is not a good sign. However, that does not mean that one should stock up on his vitamin K levels by eating loads and loads of  vitamin K rich foods. This is not advisable because it can in certain cases, lead to the formation of internal blood clots which is a type of blood disorder and one that can prove to be very dangerous. Therefore, those people who by default have very thick blood or those who have been diagnosed with internal blood clots are sometimes advised to use a blood thinning agent known as warfarin. People using this product should always be wary of the vitamin K and warfarin levels in their body.

Regulating Vitamin K and Warfarin Levels in the Body

Warfarin aims at thinning the blood whereas the function of vitamin K is to produce blood proteins that assist in clotting. Some people tend to have unusually thick blood. This can lead to the formation of thrombi or embloi i.e. clots as well as air bubbles in the blood vessels. If this clot grows in size and gets stuck in a vital organ, it can very well become life threatening. In such cases, warfarin is prescribed to serve the purpose of an anticoagulant.  People who are on warfarin therapy should be careful about their vitamin K intake. It should be consistent, i.e it should not drop sharply nor should it rise sharply. A sudden drop or rise in the vitamin K levels can have a contradictory effect on the benefits of warfarin.

Here is a list of foods containing vitamin K which can give you an idea of how to achieve a balance between the vitamin K and warfarin levels in your body.

Vitamin K Foods: Here is a list of vitamin K rich foods which ideally should be avoided or else should be eaten in low or moderate quantity, if you happen to be taking warfarin;

  • spinach and other green leafy vegetables;
  • lettuce and green salads;
  • broccoli;
  • kale;
  • green tea;
  • Brussels sprouts
  • parsley;
  • asparagus;
  • cabbage;
  • spring onions;
  • collards
  • mayonnaise;
  • soybean oil;
  • cranberry juice.

The following is a list of low to moderate quantity vitamin K foods that you can eat while on warfarin therapy:

  • most high fiber fruits such as apples, bananas, oranges, peaches, etc;
  • eggs, cheese and butter;
  • spaghetti;
  • breads;
  • tomatoes and potatoes;
  • mushrooms;
  • corn;
  • carrots;
  • pumpkins;
  • beans;
  • chicken, pork , beef and ham.

For a person undergoing warfarin therapy, it is very important to consistently monitor your vitamin K and warfarin levels. The best way to do so is to consult your doctor (and a dietician if necessary) about what you can eat and in  what amounts.

By Parashar Joshi (2009)

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What are Some Good Personal Habits to Have?

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Following is a list of some good habits you need to have.

Personal Hygiene: Personal cleanliness and hygiene is one of the determinant factors to a healthy life. A daily bath is the basic good habit that has to be inculcated in children from an early age. You need to maintain personal hygiene so that you can remain healthy.

Eat Healthy: Following a healthy and balanced diet is one of the good personal habits that you should have. Frequent consumption of junk foods and constant deviation in meal timings affect your health negatively. The most tempting  foods can be addictive and harmful. Follow a balanced diet. Do not skip meals. This good personal habit, if developed from childhood, is sure to be with the person for a lifetime.

Sleep Well: We all know the saying, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” We have heard of this, we think of this, but we seldom follow it. This simple statement says a lot about how a person’s lifestyle should b. By sleeping well, we do not mean to sleep for long hours. The statement rather implies that habit of going to bed early and rising early keeps you fit and fine. An eight-hour sleep is sufficient for a human being. Taking excess of it and sleeping late in the morning in bound to bring laze and ill health.

Exercise: Daily exercise is one of the most important personal habits that every single person needs to have. It is one habit that applies to every phase of life and it reaps plentifully. You need to understand the importance of daily exercise and start following it with dedication. It is absolutely necessary to find some time from your busy schedule and devote it to exercise.

Meditate: Along with making physical activity an integral part of daily life, mental exercise is equally important. Rather, I look at mental well being as the most vital factor factor to creating an environment conducive to thrive in. A daily habit of meditation is very helpful for one’s mental health. It helps you achieve mind control and peace of mind. It is beneficial in the fostering of a positive spirit in you. Making meditation a daily habit can actually lead to enhancement of your mental strength and make you feel happy.

Read: This is one personal habit that should be developed since childhood. Children need to be made to take interest in reading during their initial years of learning to read. Once a child develops the habit of reading, it is there to stay! Reading good books opens doors to new horizons and exposes a child to new experiences. Reading is one of the most effective ways through which a child learns the values of life. Moral stories are the most effective media of cultivating moral values in a child. Reading thus proves a very good personal habit that all of us should have.

Be Humane: This personal habit is the one that make you a human being. Humanity is one value that needs to be fostered since one’s early years. Develop a helpful nature. Man is a social animal and hence needs to take everyone along. Help the less fortunate ones, help them fight their difficulties, help them wear a smile on their face.

These were some of those good habits that you should have. The basic understanding of bad habits help you differentiate between the good and the bad. Make a habit of following everything that is positive. Cultivate every habit that fosters positivity. Adopt every principle that makes you a better human being.

By Manali Oak (2008).


Writing Skills

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Writing is the best way to communicate, and oftentimes the only way to get your message across.

Write With Necessary Caution

When writing, be mindful of the fact that once something is in written form, it cannot be taken back. Communicating in this way is more concrete than verbal communications, with less room for error and even less room for mistakes. This presents written communicators with new challenges, including spelling, grammar, punctuation, even writing style and actual wording.

The Importance of “Style” – Some of the most basic tips to remember when writing include:

  • Avoid the use of slang words;
  • Try not to use abbreviations (unless appropriately defined);
  • Steer away from the use of symbols (such as @, /, &);
  • Cliches should be avoided, or at the very least, used with caution;
  • Brackets are used to play down words or phrases;
  • Dashes are generally used for emphasis;
  • Great care should ALWAYS be taken to spell the names of people and companies correctly;
  • Numbers should be expressed as words when the number is less than 10 or is used to start a sentence (example: Ten years ago, my brother and I…);
  • Quotation marks should be placed around any directly quoted speech or text and around titles of publications;
  • Keep sentences short.

Letter Writing Hints

When writing letters, it is best to address the letter to an individual. When beginning the letter with a personal name, be sure to end it with an appropriate closing, such as “Sincerely yours”. If you cannot obtain an individual’s name, consider ending it with a more generic (less personal) closing, such as “With kindest regards”.

For normal business letters, your letter should start with an overall summary, showing in the first paragraph why the letter is relevant to the reader. It’s not a good practice to make the reader go past the first paragraph to find out why the letter was sent to them.

The body of the letter needs to explain the reason for the correspondence, including any relevant background and current information. Make sure the information flows logically, ensuring you are making your points effectively.

The closing of the letter is the final impression you leave the reader. End with an action point, such as “I will call you later this week to discuss this further”.

The Importance of Careful Proofing

  • The most important thing to remember when writing a letter, memo, proposal is to check it thoroughly when it is completed. Read it at least one more time – even when you think it is exactly what you want.
  • Use both the grammar and spell check on your computer – paying very close attention to every word highlighted. You should also have both a printed dictionary and thesaurus nearby to double-check everything your computers editing tools highlight, as these tools are certainly not always reliable, for a variety of reasons.
  • When checking your written communications, make sure the document is clear and concise. Is there anything in the communication that could be misinterpreted? Does it raise unanswered questions or fail to make the point you need to get across?
  • Can you cut down on the number of words used? You do not want to waste the reader’s time with unnecessary words or phrase;
  • Is your written communication well organized? Make sure your written communications are easy to read and contain the necessary information, using facts where needed and avoiding information that is not relevant.
  • Close appropriately, making sure to include your contact information.  This is sometimes overlooked and can make your written communications looks amateurish and thus can diminish your chances of meeting your written communication’s goals.

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Active Listening

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others. We listen:

  • to obtain information;
  • to understand;
  • for enjoyment;
  • to learn.

We are not good at listening. Depending on the study being quoted, we remember a dismal 25-50% of what we hear. This means that when you are receiving directions or being presented with information, you aren’t hearing the whole message either. You hope the important parts are captured in your 25 – 50%, but what if they’re not?

The way to become a better listener is to practice “active listening”. This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying, but more importantly, to try and understand the total message sent. In order to do this you must pay attention to the other person very carefully.

Becoming an Active Listener: There are five key elements of active listening. They all help you ensure that you hear the other person, and that the other person knows you are hearing what they are saying.

1.  Pay Attention – Give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge the message ( a nod of the head or a simple “uh-huh”). Recognize that what is not said also speaks loudly.

  • Look at the speaker directly;
  • Put aside distracting thoughts. Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal!
  • Avoid being distracted by environmental factors;
  • “Listen” to the speaker’s body language;
  • Refrain from side conversations when listening in a group setting.

2.  Show that you are listening – Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.

  • Nod occasionally;
  • Smile and use other facial expressions;
  • Note your posture and make sure it is open and  inviting;
  • Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “yes” and “uh-huh”.

3.  Provide feedback. Our personal filters, assumptions,judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect what is being said and ask questions.

  • Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is ..” and “Sounds like you are saying …” are great ways to reflect back.
  • Ask questions to clarify certain points. “What do you mean when you say…” “Is this what you mean?”
  • Summarize the speaker’s comments periodically.
  • If you find yourself responding emotionally to what someone said, say so, and ask for more information: I may not be understanding you correctly, and I find myself taking what you said personally. What I thought you just said is XXX; is that what you meant?”

4.  Defer Judgment – Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.

  • Allow the speaker to finish;
  • Don’t interrupt with counter – arguments.

5.  Respond Appropriately – Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.

  • Be candid, open and honest in your response;
  • Assert your opinions respectfully;
  • Treat the other person as he or she would want to be treated.

It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be an active listener. Old habits are hard to break, and if your listening habits are as bad as many people’s are, then there’s a lot of habit breaking to do!

Be deliberate  with your listening and remind yourself constantly that your goal is truly to hear what the other person is saying. Set aside all other thought and behaviours and concentrate on the message. Ask question, reflect, and paraphrase to ensure you understand the message. If you don’t then you’ll find that what someone says to you and what  you you hear can be amazingly different!

Start using active listening today to become a better communicator and improve your workplace productively and your relationships.

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Questioning Techniques

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Asking the right question is at the heart of effective communications and information exchange. By using the right questions in a particular situation, you can improve a whole range of communication skills:  for example –  you can

  • gather better information and learn more;
  • build stronger relationships;
  • manage people more effectively and help others to learn too.

Some common questioning techniques, and when (and when not) to use them.

Open and Closed Questions

A closed question usually receives a single word or very short, factual answer. For example, “Are you thirsty?” The answer is “Yes” or “No”. “Where do you live?” The answer is generally the name of your town or your address.

Closed questions are good for:

  • Develop your understanding, or the other person’s: “So, if I get this qualification, I will get a raise?”
  • Concluding a discussion or making a decision: “Now we know the facts, are we all agreed this is the right course of action?”
  • Frame setting: ” Are you happy with the service from your bank?”

A misplaced closed question, on the other hand, can kill the conversation and lead to awkward silences, so are best avoided when a conversation is in full flow.

Open questions elicit longer answer. They usually begin with what, why, how.  An open question asks the respondent for his or her knowledge, opinion or feelings. “Tell me” and “describe” can also be used in the same way as open questions. Here are some examples:

  • What happened at the meeting?
  • Why did he react that way?
  • How was the party?
  • Tell me what happened next;
  • Describe the circumstance in more detail.

Open questions are good for:

  • Developing an open conversation: ” What did you get up to on vacation?”
  • Finding our more detail: “What else do we need to do to make this a success?”
  • Finding out the other person’s opinion or issues: “What do you think about those changes?”

Funnel Questions

This technique involves starting with general questions, and then homing in on a point in each answer, and asking more and more detail at each level. It is often used by detectives taking a statement from a witness”.

“How many people were involved in the fight?”

About ten”

Were they kids or adults?”

Mostly kids.”

“What sort of ages were they?”

About fourteen or fifteen

“Were any of them wearing anything distinctive?”

Yes, several of them had red baseball caps on”

“Can you remember if there was a logo on any of the caps?”

“Now you come to mention it, yes, I remember seeing a big letter N”

Using this technique, the detective has helped the witness re-live the scene and gradually focus on a useful detail. It is unlikely he would have got this information if he’s simply asked an open question such as “Are there any details you can give me about what you saw?” When using funnel questioning, start with closed questions, As you progress through the tunnel, start using more open questions.

Funnel questions are good for:

  • Finding out more detail about a specific point: “Tell me more about Option 2″;
  • Gaining the interest or increasing the confidence of the person you’re speaking with: “Have you used the IT Help desk?”. “Did they solve your problem?” . What was the attitude of the person who took your call?”

Probing Questions

It is another strategy for finding out more detail or additional information for clarification, such as “When do you need this report by, and do you want to see a draft before I give you my final version?” or to investigate whether there is proof for what has been said, ” How do you know that the new database can’t be used by the sales force?”

Probing questions are good for:

  • Gaining clarification to ensure you have the whole story and that you understand it thoroughly; and
  • Drawing information out of people who are trying to avoid telling you something.

Leading Questions

Leading questions try to lead the respondent to your way of thinking. They can do this in several ways:

  • With an assumption “How late do you think that the project will deliver?” This assumes that the project will certainly not be completed on time.
  • By adding a personal appeal to agree at the end: “Lori’s very efficient, don’t you think?” or “Option 2 is better isn’t it?”
  • Phrasing the question so that the “easiest” response is “Yes”. A good way of doing this is to make it personal. For example, “Would you like me to go ahead with Option 2?” rather than “Shall I choose Option ?”
  • Giving people a choice between two options, both of which you would be happy with, rather than the choice of one option not doing anything at all.

Leading questions are good for:

  • Getting the answer you want but leaving the other person feeling that they have had a choice;
  • Closing a sale: “If that answers all of your questions, shall we agree a price?”

Rhetorical Questions

Rhetorical questions aren’t really questions at all, in that they don’t expect an answer. They’re really just statements phrased in question form: “Isn’t John’s design work so creative?”

Rhetorical questions are even more powerful if you use a string of them. “Isn’t that a great display? Don’t you love the way the text picks up the colours in the photographers? Doesn’t it use space really well? Wouldn’t you love to have a display like that for our products?” People use rhetorical questions because they are engaging for the listener – as they are drawn into agreeing – rather than feeling that they are being “told” something like “John is a very creative designer”.

Using Questioning Techniques

By consciously applying the appropriate kind of questioning, you can gain the information, response or outcome that you want even more effectively. Questions are powerful way of:

  • Learning: Ask open and closed questions, and use probing questioning;
  • Relationship building: People generally respond positively if you ask about what they do or enquire about their opinions. If you do this in an affirmative way, “Tell me what you like best about working here”, you will help to build and maintain an open dialogue.
  • Managing and Coaching: Here, rhetorical and leading questions are useful too. They can help get people to reflect and to commit to courses of action that you’ve suggested: Wouldn’t it be great to gain some further qualifications?”
  • Avoid misunderstandings: Use probing questions to seek clarification, particularly when the consequences are significant.
  • Diffusing a heated situation: You can calm an angry customer or colleague by using funnel questions to get  them to go into more detail about their grievance. This will not only distract them from their emotions, but will often help you to identify a small practical thing that you can do, which is often enough to make them feel that they have “won” something, and no longer need to be angry.
  • Persuading people: No one likes to be lectured, but asking a series of open questions will help others to embrace the reasons behind your point of view.

Make sure that you give the person you’re questioning enough time to respond. This may need to include thinking time before they answer, so don’t just interpret a pause as a “No comment” and plow on.

Skillful questioning needs to be matched by careful listening so that you understand what people really mean with their answers.

Your body language and tone of voice can also play a part in the answers you get when you ask questions.

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Speaking to an Audience.

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Speaking to an audience can be fun and exciting. However, lack of preparation or not clearly defining the presentation’s goals and its audience can make even the best-intended presentation a complete disaster.

Preparation – The Key to Successful Speaking: To ensure your presentation is effective:

1.  Determine your objective. Ask yourself:

  • Why am I giving the presentation?
  • What do I want the audience to take away from the presentation?

2.  Determine your audience. Their familiarity with the presentation topic will determine the level at which you present your speech.

How to Structure Your Presentation

Once you have determined your presentation’s objective and overall goal, as well as the audience, it’s time to structure your presentation:

1. Start this process by determining the length of the presentation.

2. Take the allotted time and break it into smaller segments, with each segment tackling a specific task. For example, the first segment, you should give an overview of your presentation, or a short summary of your speech, explaining the topic, why you are covering this topic, and what you hope to accomplish.

3. The next segment should tackle the first item on your agenda, with the following segment tackling the following item on your agenda, and so on.

4.  Once you have developed the introduction and outlined the following segments, spend some time thinking about the conclusion of the presentation. The introduction of the presentation and the conclusion of the presentation are the most important parts and should have the strongest impact.

Achieving Clarity and Impact.

Keep your presentation short and simple. Your audience will not remember every point of your presentation, so highlight the most important parts. The longer the presentation, the higher the risk of boredom.

When in doubt, use the “tell ‘em” structure:

  • Tell them what you are going to tell them (For example, “In this presentation I will show you…”);
  • Tell them the key points, expanding and illustrating each one, clearly and concisely;
  • Tell them what you have told them (For instance, “In closing…” or “In summary …” and conclude.

Reinforce Your Message With Visual Aids

Next, consider the use of visual aids. Slide projectors, data projectors,  video machines, and computers should be tested out beforehand to make sure they are operating correctly and that you know how to use them.

Make sure that you do not cram too much information onto any single visual. A good rule of thumb to follow is to keep each visual to six lines or less.

Also make sure any type or graphics are large enough the audience can see it clearly (from all seats) and make sure the colours used are easy on the eyes, taking into account the lighting.

Overheads should be clearly marked and arranged in order beforehand. Flip charts should be prepared in advanced when possible. When used during the presentation to take notes, make print large enough for all participants to see.

When using these various visuals, do not turn your back to the audience. Position yourself so you can use the visual while facing your audience.

Arranging the Room

If possible, visit the room in which you will make the presentation well in advance.

  • Determine seating (circle seating encourages interaction, rows of seats discourages interaction, etc);
  • Determine how the visual aids you choose will work;
  • Consider lighting, space, even the temperature of the room;
  • Consider placing notepads and pencils at each seat if participants need to take notes;
  • You may want to have glasses at each seat with a few pitchers of water if the presentation is going to last more than half of an hour;
  • Rehearse the presentation in its entirety as often as you can before delivering it to a live audience. The more you rehearse, the more confident you will be and the more fluent you will seem to your audience.
  • When in doubt or nervous, stay focused on your purpose – helping your audience understand your message. Direct your thought to the subject at hand. The audience has come to hear your presentation and you will succeed!

Tips and Techniques to help make your presentation a smashing success:

  • Avoid too many statistics and confusing information in your presentation. Instead, put this information in a handout for participants to refer to at a later date.
  • If you forget your words, pause for a moment and remember your objective. This will help keep you on track and may even help you to think of additional thoughts and ideas your audience will benefits from hearing;
  • Visualize yourself succeeding;
  • Begin by breathing;
  • Before the presentation, focus on the needs of the audience;
  • Take a public speaking course – to obtain the important skills that will enhance your confidence in this area.
  • Videotape yourself going through the presentation. Then, run through the video and make changes according to  your thoughts on the taped presentation.

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Business Story – Telling

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Stories can be very,very powerful leadership tools. Stories can change the way we think, act, and feel. Great leaders know this, and many top CEOs today use stories to illustrate points and sell their ideas. Leaders use the power of a good story to influence and motivate their teams to new heights. Stories can inspire everything from understanding to action. They can create legends that an entire workplace culture can build upon, and they have the power to break down the barriers and turn a bad situation into a good one. Stories can capture our imaginations and make things real in a way that cold, hard facts can’t.

But how to tell a good story? When should you tell a story, and how do you know what kind of story to tell to get the results you want? The following summarizes the points given by Annette Simmons, author of  “Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins“.

Types of Stories:

Learn what kind of story to tell for different situations. There are six main types of story that you can use in the workplace.

1.  “Who I Am Stories – When you start leading a team, members of your new team sometimes make automatic judgments about who you are. They may see you as controlling, mean, or “out to get them” without really knowing you. If you tell a “Who I Am ” story when you first become a team leader, you can give a powerful insight into what really motivates you. This can break down walls and helps your team realize that you’re a person just like them.

2.  “Why I’m Here” Stories – These are very similar to “Who I Am” stories. The goal is to replace suspicion with trust, and help your team realize that you don’t have any hidden agendas. Show that you’re a good person, and that you want to work together with them to achieve a common goal.

3.  Teaching Stories – It can be very hard to teach without demonstrating, and that’s the whole purpose of Teaching Stories. Use Teaching Stories to make a lesson clear and to help people remember why they ‘re doing something in the first place.

4.  Vision Stories – Tell these to inspire hope, especially when your team needs occasional reminders of why they’re doing what they should be doing.

Vision Stories are meant to stimulate action and raise morale. Find a story that reminds everyone what the ultimate goal is, and why it’s important that everyone reaches that goal. This type of story should be told from your heart, with emotion.

5.   “Values in Action” Stories – When you see the word “integrity” what do you think of? Honesty? Doing the right thing to the right person? Every value can mean something different from person to person. If you want to pass on values to your team, start by defining what those values mean to you. So, if you want your team to demonstrate a high level of customer service, then tell a story that reveals exactly what customer service means to you.

6.  “I Know What You’re Thinking” Stories – The world of business involves frequent bargaining. The advantage of telling this type of story is that you can recognize another person’s objections, and then show why those objections aren’t applicable in this situation. You can show respect for the other point of view while convincing the person that you’re right.

Tips When Telling Your Stories:

Keep these suggestions in mind when telling your stories:

  • Be authentic – The best storytellers talk from their hearts, so don’t try to fake an emotion that you don’t feel. Your listeners will probably see through this, and your story will crash and burn.
  • Pay attention to your audience: Stories that are too long are generally boring. Tell the story well, but don’t go on forever.
  • Practice – Try to practice before you tell the story. Even if you tell it to yourself just once in front of a mirror or video camera, this can help you when you’re in front of your real audience.
  • Create an Experience – Remember that when you tell a story, you’re creating an experience for your listeners. Don’t just use sound (words), but the other senses as well. Show your listeners the picture you’re painting, don’t just tell them.

Know which kind of story to tell, and spend time brainstorming some good ideas from each type of situation. Remember, you’re creating an experience for your listeners, so focus on using at least two or three senses when you tell your story. Create interest, and draw your listeners in. Show them what you’re saying, don’t just tell them.

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Green Schools

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Students from 22 schools were part of the Toyota Eco Rangers Programme, a partnership between UMW Toyota Motor SDN Bhd and Yayasan Anak Warisan Alam (Yawa), which kicked off last year with a Eco camp where they learn how to care for trees and plant them in their respective schools.

This three-year programme involves workshops, concept paper presentation, tree planting, nurturing activities and networking with community and governmental bodies.

Executive director of strategic marketing group of UMW Toyota Motor Aminar Rashid Salleh at the first-year award ceremony recently said that: “As we end the first year of the programme, a total of 755 indigenous trees have been planted in the 22 participating high schools within the Klang Valley, by the students who have successfully applied the knowledge acquired from the Eco Camp Workshop.”

He also added that students will be taught on how to do labeling and inventory in the second year. They would also be encouraged to carry out nurturing activities such as composting, producing enzymes and recycling, and also networking with the community, and move towards greening their school’s environment.

Schools were presented with a RM500 grant and starter kit of weeding, pruning and measurement tools, a test kit and fertilizer recipes. To encourage the students in their endeavours,  each school is monitored and assessed every year, with awards presented to schools in various categories.

The students and teachers agreed that they had gained valuable lessons and experiences through the past year. “I’ve learnt how to plant trees correctly, know the scientific names, how to dig ponds, plan the “softscape” and the “hardscape” and even prepare presentation” said one of the participants.

She added that when she leaves school, she would still return as an alumni to finish off the programme.

Education Ministry deputy director-general (General Education Operation) Datuk Noor Rezan Bapoo Hashim said the ministry hoped the environmentally-friendly culture would extend beyond school.

“In understanding the importance of trees, comes a sense of responsibility towards the environment, not only within the school community but at home too,” said Noor Rezan.

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