Top 10 Ways to Combat Speaking Anxiety

I was recently approached by a friend in the banking industry to tell what she needs to alleviate anxiety for a major presentation she needed to give the next day to a large group of chief financial officers.   I’m happy to oblige and placed my speech coach hat on!!  Prior to teaching speech in the classroom, I spent a couple of years working as a speaking coach for a trade association, coaching CEOs of member companies on both content and presentation of their speeches at conferences.  Here are the big items to remember:

Top 10 Ways to Combat Speaking Anxiety

Nothing relaxes you more for presentations than the knowledge you are prepared:

1. Know the Room – become familiar with the place in which you will speak. Arrive early and walk around the room including the speaking area. Stand at the lectern, nspeak into the microphone. Walk around where the audience will be seated. Walk from where you will be seated to the place where you will be speaking.

2. Know the Audience – If possible, greet some of the audience as they arrive and chat with them. It is easier to speak to a group of friends than to a group of strangers.  At the very least, know the basics about your audience (who they are, their likes, background, etc)

3. Know the Material – If you are not familiar with your material or are uncomfortable with it, your nervousness will increase. Practice your speech or presentation and revise it until you can present it with ease.  (a future post will detail specific methods to become familiar with material)

4. Learn how to relax – You can ease tension by doing exercises. Here is my “Just Breathe” exercise: Sit comfortable with your back straight. Breathe in slowly, hold your breath for 4 – 5 seconds,then slowly exhale for 4 – 5 seconds. To relax your facial muscles, open your mouth and eyes wide, then close them.  Repeat.   No previous yoga practice needed here. 🙂

5. Visualize yourself speaking – Imagine yourself walking confidently to the lectern as the audience applauds. Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and assured. When you visualize yourself as successful, you will be successful. Truth.

6. Realize people want you to succeed . . . they really do.  All audiences want speakers to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They don’t want you to fail.

7. Don’t apologize for being nervous – Most of the time your nervousness does not show at all. If you don’t say anything about it, nobody will notice. If you mention your nervousness or apologize for any problems you think you have with your speech, you’ll only be calling attention to it. Had you remained silent, your listeners may not have noticed at all.

8. Concentrate on your message – not the medium.  Your nervous feelings will dissipate if you focus your attention away from your anxieties and concentrate on your message and your audience, not yourself.

9. Turn nervousness into positive energy – the same nervous energy that causes stage fright can be an asset to you. Harness it, and transform it into vitality and enthusiasm.

10. Gain Experience – Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking. Most beginning speakers find their anxieties decrease after each speech they give.


coming soon . . . Combatting anxiety for a meeting, for a group discussion, and for social occasions

GG's blackboard

Reading – Fitness for the Brain

May 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Mini-Lessons

Overcome your obstacles one step at a time!

Overcome your obstacles one step at a time!

As I encourage my students to take part in our school’s summer reading program, I can’t help but remind them that their brains are muscles too that need “exercise” over the long summer break.  We’re all aware of the benefits of exercise to make us stronger and healthier, and we know how much knowledge we can gain through reading.  Both activities consume a significant portion of my life; it seems only fitting I provide my twist on how the two activities correlate:

1.  We travel. On the track or treadmill, we walk, bike or run.  When reading, we travel to destinations we may never physically reach.  I’m anxious to race through And The Mountains Echoed by Khaleo Hosseini, for instance, and travel to Kabul.

2.  We strive for goals.  With exercise, we strive to achieve certain goals:  shed pounds, prepare for a run, or master a skill.  With reading, we similarly strive to achieve a goal:  finish a book, read the next book in a series, or learn something found within the pages.

Maintaining balance is always key.

Maintaining balance is always key.

3.  We balance. We balance what we read for fun, for work and school.  Similarly, testing our balance physically benefits and lessens chance for injury.

4.  We practice.  In the classroom, students practice strategies modeled by the teacher until those strategies become an automatic part of one’s reading repertoire to build comprehension.  In the gym, fitness folks practice exercises modeled by the personal trainer until those exercises build muscle to a desirable shape or size.

5  We hit obstacles along the way.  Whether we literally hit obstacles (as pictured above) or hit a mental block and lose motivation, no one in the gym is constantly “on.”  Both good and bad days play integral parts of the process to help reach goals and grow stronger.  By the same token, we have good and bad times reading – sometimes there will be more distractions, some days will include more difficult text, and some days we will simply be bored.  Success lies in how we face these obstacles.

6.  There are no shortcuts.   We can’t get stronger by osmosis; it takes some sweat but even just a few moments of exercise a day adds up to burned calories. By the same token, we can’t become better readers without reading.  Study upon study shows the number one way to improve reading is simply to read – as little as 10 minutes a day is all it takes to improve our reading comprehension, fluency and enjoyment.  

7.  We get stronger.  Day by day, rep by rep . . . our muscles grow.  Lesson by lesson, book by book . . . . our brains grow smarter.  🙂

Running and Reading!

Running and Reading!

8.  We get up and try again.  Both are never-ending processes that cause continual growth.  Whether in the gym or the classroom, we strive toward a goal, learn ways to achieve that goal, practice and encounter obstacles along the way, and keep going until we become stronger readers or fit.  Keep running, keep reading!

**Thank you to Scott Robbins for these photos.**

A Turkey and Talking Toys . . . A Girl’s First Writing

January 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Mini-Lessons, Writing Practice

I splurged on composition books for each student in my reading classes this semester; to begin, I am asking students to bring in (or snap pictures of) an early piece of writing they created when they were young.  While the students will have their own web sites to post blogs, I believe good old-fashioned writing in an old-school composition book brings out authentic expression that can’t be replaced.  To initiate that authenticity, I will be sharing my own writings.  Here is a sampling of my first writing experiences**:

Two Early Pieces of My Writing - A Composition and A Book

Two Early Pieces of My Writing – A Composition and A Book

a.  “Thanksgiving” – I was seven years old when I wrote this in the first grade. The only point I remember about the assignment is that we were told to write something about Thanksgiving.  I associated Thanksgiving with my brother’s birthday as he was born around this feast, and I was recalling the special Thanksgiving when my mom was pregnant with my bro.  To this day, I joke with him that my story about Mom having a turkey indeed came true.  🙂  This is one of my first full-length “papers.”  Embarrassingly apparent is my lack  of spelling skills  – thank goodness I grew up relishing spelling bees and Speak & Spell  (true story!).

b.   “The Unusual Christmas Morning”  – I sharply remember this assignment because I enjoyed it immensely – 5th grade, age 11.   It involved drafting, editing, re-writing, and drawing an original Christmas story.  Once the composition and drawings were complete, my teacher sent the drafts off to be “published.”  I recall my anxiousness in waiting for the book to be returned all bound and neat.  This particular storyline is one I was always fascinated with – toys coming to life when humans are not around – and I re-created it again and again using different settings whenever I had the urge.  To this day, I am drawn to similar story lines.  “King of the Dollhouse” by Patricia Clapp, “Wednesday Witch” by Ruth Chew and “The Doll People” by Brian Selznick continue claim to a closet space at this very moment.  I jokingly declare that Pixar needs to send me royalties – Toy Story came after my ‘published’ piece.  My mother still brings this book out to display every Christmas.  Speaking of, I believe one of the reasons I’m driven with my English teaching endeavors is because reading and writing was always celebrated in my home – our fridge was consistently a landing for prized papers coupled with every room in our home accented with books thrown strategically around ( . . . . hmmm . . . sounds familiar!)

My message about writing is this: write  Writing is a release.  Writing is an expression.  Writing is an extension.  Writing is a connection.  I learned this from these very first pieces and I continue to discover more about myself and about the writing process each day.  It is a gift to take full advantage of.

When you cannot write, read.  When you cannot read, write. 

Pieces of Me

**This activity is an adaption from Expository Composition – Discovering Your Voice by Gary Anderson and Tony Romano (a comprehensive resource for writing I refer to again and again!)


NCTE11 News and Notes 2

December 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Achieving Assignments, Mini-Lessons

Need some inspiration during these last few days before Winter Break?!  While the following post does not give the NCTE 11 session, National Literature Project, nearly enough justice, I’m sharing a few inspirational tidbits that continue to stick with me since attending a month ago.  I continue to be inspired . . .

~ Meaning is neither in the text nor the reader.  It is in the transaction.

~ Literature helps us work out our relationship with the world around us.  Students have this experience all the time with games, movies, etc.  We can help them see that they can get just as lost in literature!!

~ “Unless you are educated in metaphor, you are not safe to be let loose in the world.”  Robert Frost

~ NAEP reading framework – % of Literature vs. Informational text:    4th grade – 50%, 8th grade – 45%, 12th grade – 30%

~ Young people betweeen the ages of 8 – 18 are using entertainment media 7 hours, 38 minutes a day!!

~ HOW they read matters much less than HOW MUCH they read!!!!  (in other words, the video game magazines are helping their reading as well!!!)

~ Background knowledge only builds from reading.

~ A student, on average, takes 7 seconds to look at a painting and 36 seconds to read a plaque.  In other words, students are much more likely to interpret visuals freely rather than interpret written text.  Students are visual these days!!!!

~ Reading is a way to have tea with an author.  🙂

~ All teaching and learning is relational.  We are creating culture and knowledge!!


Lesson idea:

A. Write a note to one your favorite authors or teachers.  Include some highlights of that relationship, influences, insights gained because of the relationship, great moments, etc.  Perhaps explore how you have grown with/because of this teacher or author.  How has this author/teacher transformed your thinking?

B.  Exchange letters with your neighbor.  Cirle words that seem to capture the relationship highlighted in your neighbor’s letter.

C.  Use those circled words to create a poem

D.  Once poems are written, ask for volunteers to stand in a line in front of the class.  One at a time, the standing students read one line from their poems.  The teacher (with the help of the students) will move students around to create a “class” poem; place students in the order of lines that build upon one another.

E.  Finally, read the final poem

The moral of this lesson . . . the power of attachment is so much greater than detachment.

“Produce great persons.  The rest follows.”  ~Walt Whitman



NCTE11 News and Notes

November 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Achieving Assignments, Mini-Lessons

My school district afforded me the wonderful opportunity to attend my very first National Council of Teachers of English conference held in Chicago, Illinois this year.  I met wonderful national colleagues, many of whom I’ve been conversing with online but never had the opportunity to meet face-to-face, and I returned to school feeling completely motivated and recharged.

 The following is a sampling of tips from a session titled “Zapping Apathy:  Creating a Sense of Community in English Class”      Please see Gary Anderson’s informative blog, What’s Not Wrong, for more detailed information:

My students' 1984 Chalk Talk!

1.  Build Community Through Movement:  Chalk Talk:  A silent, non-threatening way to generate ideas, spawn discussion, understand connections.  Here’s my students’ first 1984 Chalk Talk.  (see my sample in picture)

2.  Build Community Through Online Means: 6-Word Memoirs with Wordle: A team-building, creative writing activity.  First, show the following two YouTube videos – First video and Second Video.  Second, students write their own six-word memoirs.  Third, have students go to and create and a visual of their memoirs.  They’ll be able to play with font, color scheme, etc to fit their subject and make it come to life.

3.  Build Community through Cell Phone Activity (shared by Lee Anne Spillane):  Did you know that if students text Google, 466453, and punch in Define: (followed by the word), Google will text back a definition of that word?!

4.  Build Community through Discussion  – A means to get the quieter students involved. Provide envelopes filled with slips of paper numbered 1 – 10.  Give these envelopes to about 4 students and have those students stand in front of class.  Read a statement and ask students to hold up a slip that represents how strongly they agree with the statement.(1 = strongly disagree; 10 = strongly agree)

Like these samples? . . . see Gary Anderson’s What’s Not Wrong site for more along with the original handouts and Prezi’s from the session.


There are so many more worthwhile sessions I attended.  For instance, stay tuned for a synopsis of Carol Jago’s Literature Project!!!!


Symbols, Signs and Slides

November 7, 2011 by  
Filed under Achieving Assignments, Mini-Lessons


Whether or not you are an educator, viewing the two videos below will be worth your while.  Sit back and enjoy the symbolism within our daily lives. . . .

Here is an assignment I recently shared with my two accelerated freshman English classes.  We have a rigorous curriculum to follow in the classroom yet I wanted to give the students opportunity to express their more creative sides.  I came up with this to supplement our study and analysis of symbolism.  Aside from the period during which we watched and discussed “Words”, this is a project they had to complete solely at home on their own.  The student sample below is just one example of how well they ran with this!  


In conjunction with our study of “The Scarlet Ibis” and symbolism, watch this video from NPR’s Radiolab to help illustrate how images are contextual. You will complete an assignment afterwards, but first I just want you to watch and enjoy it:  


Now search for the word semiotics and define it.  Watch the video again with that definition in mind.  As you watch, write down all of the words presented through the images and sound in the video.  We will discuss how the varied definitions of these words match the context within which they are shown.

For the end result, you are going to create your own video.  You will need to decide on eight words of your choosing.  Four of the eight words must be from our most recent vocabulary list.  You must find at least two different meanings for each word and at least one image to represent each meaning.

Use PhotoPeach, MovieMaker or another program of your choice.  In addition to production of your slideshow, provide a “key” that highlights which words you used along with an explanation of the word definitions.  Happy producing!!! 



Click here to watch:  Student Sample


1 1.    Perennial (0:00-0:23)
-Rocket Launch (Takes a long time to get into space)
-Time Lapse of Clock (It takes a long time for a clock to move)
-Time Lapse of Clouds (It takes a long time for clouds to move)
2 2.    Feint (0:23-0:47)
-Fencing Feints
-Hockey Deke (Feinted/Faked the goalie in order to score)
-Drunken guy (Guy fainted in the store)
3 3.    Alien (0:48-1:13)
-Alien Animation (Alien from space)
-Illegal Aliens (Illegal aliens jumping the border)
-Tourist (The guy in the movie is a different nationality as everyone else. He’s an alien to the others)
4 4.    Erratic (1:13-1:54)
-Dog (The dog was acting erratic and jumped into the wall)
-Car (The car drove very erratically and flew out of course)
-Train Crash (The train become very erratic and slammed into a wall)
5 5.    Breach (1:55-2:11)
-Clip from Titanic (The hull of the Titanic was breached because it hit an iceberg)
-Massive Sink Hole (The ground was breached by a huge hole)
-WTC (National Security was breached when terrorists hijacked planes and crashed them)
 6 6.    Debris (2:11-2:31)
-Rubble (Debris from WTC attacks)
-Crumbs (The popcorn crumbs are debris from a spilling)
-Cars (The crashed cars left a lot of debris)
7 7.    Deadlock (2:32-3:06)
-Playstation (PSN was hacked and their server was down for a couple of months)
-Bank Of America 2011 (Bank of America’s website was “hacked” and many people tried to close their bank accounts, but S.W.A.T. teams blocked the banks)
-Facebook Security (I typed the wrong password for my Facebook, so I was rejected from logging in)
-Cuban Missile Crisis (U.S. troops blockaded Russian missiles from coming to Cuba)
8 8.    Efface (3:07-3:32)
-Writing a letter (I scratched out what I was writing)
-Proactive (Effaces acne from your face)
-Typing (I effaced the words I was typing)
Programs Used:
-Adobe After Effects CS4 (a.k.a AE CS4)
-AE CS4 Twixtor 4.0 Plug-In (Super slow motion used in the rocket launch)
-AE Magic Bullet Looks Plug-In (Color Correction on all of the clips)
-AE CS4 Exposure Plug-in (Screen flash sync to the beat)
-AE CS4 Scaling (Screen bump sync to the beat)
-Keepvid (To download the clips off of YouTube)
-iShowU HD (Record my computer screen to show me logging into FaceBook)
Songs Used:
-“Dakent” by Banger (Voodoo Bear Remix)
-“Phazing Disposition” by Jeff Rowe

How Reading is Promoted in GG’s House

May 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Reading Fun


Reading with my special girl last summer!

When I was a little girl, my mother would find me with a flashlight under my bedspread reading past my bedtime.  I’ve been reading since as long as I can remember – honestly, I can still visualize the pictures in my head of the first book I learned to read by myself.  I’m happy to say I’ve passed this passion on to my successful, driven college-age daughter, and am now relishing the sharing sessions with my precious niece who hands me books to read again and again.  As summer is upon us, there are many blogs out there divulging how to promote summer reading.  I’d like to add mine to the pile with a twist of my personal methods, quirks and habits I use to promote reading in my own home:

~ Walk into my home and you won’t find a room that doesn’t have a book and/or magazine thrown or displayed in it.

~  Every holiday gift collection (Christmas, bday, Easter basket, etc) included books.  Books were as exciting to receive as toys.  Today, my daughter’s passion for shoes gives books a run for their money but they are still exciting nonetheless.

~ I read every day and made sure I did so in front of my daughter.  I write and journal frequently, and bought her journals of her own through the years.  Oh the lucky soul who finds my hidden journals someday.  😉

~ Every so often, we’d have “reading sessions.” I’d set up pillows and/or stuffed animals in a circle on the floor.  I’d grab my book, my daughter would grab hers, we’d gather in the circle and read to our hearts content.  We still have reading sessions on quiet summer evenings – sans the pillow circle these days – just a quiet time on the couch when we’ll both read, stop and share.

~Bi-weekly library check-out visits were treated as special events.  I would never put a limit on the number of books we could bring home; we’d always walk out of there with AT LEAST ten books when my girl was little.

~ I’d peruse our local library’s event calendar and be sure to regularly take part in the storytelling sessions.

~ Speaking of the library, my daughter participated in the local library’s summer reading program every year.  These programs are an absolutely fabulous way to keep kids learning as the summer rolls along.

~ I’d buy action figures or dolls of favorite characters from books to extend the story engagement.

~ Regular trips to the bookstore were also treated as special events and usually ended with scanning our new treasures over ice cream.  Don’t tell my daughter I’m telling you, but she still enjoys taking a trip to our local B & N on late summer evenings with one of her good friends . . . just because.  An English teacher-mom dream come true. 🙂

~ Whenever we vacationed or took long trips, we’d bring books for the rides. Reading always makes time fly.  Books accompanied us to doctor and dentist visits too.  This kept the ants out of our pants waiting for those delayed doctors.

~ Of course, up until she was in her upper teens we’d have, without fail, nightly story time when I would read aloud for about 10 – 20 minutes before bed.  I did that literally since she was one day old and wouldn’t give up any of those moments.  As both a reading teacher and a parent, I can say this may have been the most significant activity I shared with my child to promote her lifelong journey of reading, learning and discovering.

Happy Reading this summer.  Above everything else, just sit back and enjoy the gifts that reading brings us!!

Involving Parents in the Classroom #1

Shakes Up Close

One of my goals as a teacher this year is to improve my communication with parents and involve them more in the classroom.  Yes, I’ve been sending class newsletters, calling, emailing and meeting with parents more . . . but somehow there still seems to be a disconnect between a child’s day in high school and life at home.  Here’s an idea I came up with for my honors freshmen who are in the midst of studying Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet.”  As I think of more parent involvement ideas, I’ll share them.  Please share your ideas as well!

Instructions on our class blog:

Some teenagers don’t have any qualms over their parents approving dates, believing it is simply one more way parents show their care and concern.  Other teens feel that this is not necessary and, furthermore, shows parents don’t trust a teen’s judgment.    What do you feel?  Should your parents approve of the people you choose to date?

Write a blog in which you respond to this persuasive prompt in the same format that you’ve been responding to with the practice prompts in class.

In your response, take a position on this question.  You may write about either one of the two points of view given, or you may present a different point of view on this question.  Use specific reasons and examples to support your position.

Once your response is complete, I will be inviting your parents to comment on your blogs.  Regardless of their points of view, this will be a chance for your parents to share in your writing and, indirectly, share in our study of “Romeo and Juliet.”  My hope is that this spurs some interesting comment feeds!

"Swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon . . ."


Parent Letter:

Dear E108 Parents,

With the celebrated observance of Shakespeare’s birthday this past weekend, it’s fitting that I’m inviting you to share in our study of “Romeo and Juliet” this week.

As you can check out on our class site, __________________ , the students are responding to the following prompt: Some teenagers don’t have any qualms over their parents approving dates, believing it is simply one more way parents show their care and concern. Other teens feel that this is not necessary and, furthermore, shows parents don’t trust a teen’s judgment. What do you feel? Should your parents approve of the people you choose to date? They are to have this complete by this Friday, April 29th.

Here’s where the fun begins! Once they complete their responses, I’m inviting you to respond to their answers. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not? Does your child’s response surprise you? Feel free to comment in any way you wish; for instance, comments on your child’s writing are very welcome as well. My hope is that this spurs some interesting dialogue and motivates your child’s writing even further. Please respond by Friday, May 6th. I really look forward to your involvement. If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions whatsoever, please do not hesitate to contact me.

By the way, your child may come home and tell you that I brought mini-cupcakes in to celebrate the Bard’s special day. We each had a small treat today not only to celebrate our author’s day but to revel for a moment in our hard work over the past couple of weeks with practice ACT essay writing. As you know, the students have been writing numerous in-class essays addressing issues within “Romeo and Juliet” as well as persuasive prompts addressing issues pertaining to high school life. Concentrating on focus, elaboration and support is crucial to effective writing, and I’m proud that each and every student is displaying improvement. If you don’t hear from me personally via email or phone over the next week, and would like to speak about your child’s writing, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

In the meantime, as Shakespeare once wrote, “It is not in the stars to hold our destinies but in ourselves.” Have a beautiful, safe, and healthful week!

**Next newsletters – Expectations for Great Expectations, Final Exam Tips, Summer Reading and Summer Blogging suggestions


The verdict – Out of 30 students , three sets of parents did not particpate.  (I  had these 3 students anticipate how they believed their parents would respond and proceed from there).  Some parents emailed me back stating they couldn’t wait to begin; others called eagerly with questions on specific how-tos for logging on and commenting. I may even have hooked a few on blogging themselves!  Here is a sampling of student-parent interactions:

Cassidy’s Blog – Cassidy’s father took advantage of the opportunity and posted a set of suggestions to improve parent/child communication

Marley’s Blog – Both Marley’s mother and father took turns to comment.

Austin’s Blog – Austin and his father continued an engaging feed of comments.

The follow-up:  Students read excerpts from The Office of Christian Parents: Shewing How Children Are To Be Gouerned throughout All Ages and Times of Their Life, all articles written in the 1600s dealing with parenting.  After analyzing main parental principles, the class compared parenting today to parenting during the Elizabethan era.

What I will do differently next year:  Next year I will have two sections of accelerated freshmen.  I plan on getting their blogs up and running right away within the first week of school; furthermore, I plan on involving parents within the first month of class.  My goal is to complete at least one parent virtual involvement per quarter.  I will keep GG readers posted!

What Did You Just Say?!

March 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Candid Communication, Mini-Lessons

We are ALL guilty of using some of these.  Below are tips for polishing our presentation skills in both everyday conversation and more formal presentations.

My speech students are presenting a speech on Friday that many fail but walk away with essential lessons learned.  In past years, in fact, students have continually expressed that, despite the low scores, this assignment is their favorite because they walk away much more cognizant of speech blunders.  I’m speaking of The Ummm Speech in which points are deducted each time students blunder their conversation with unnecessary fillers and upspeak.  Students are invited to talk about their own personal topics; however, anxiety still abounds as students fear their habits may be hard to kick.  To preface these presentations, we discussed these verbal tics today.  How many are you guilty of utilizing?!

Speech Spillage

1.  Frivolous Fillers = mealymouthed language littered with “um,”  “you know,”  “ah,”  “like,”  “and so,” etc.  Frivolous fillers are a turn-off in the business, entertainment, political, and professional world.  Presentation is half the battle.  People seem to understand very well these days that networking is important; yet, too many folks lack the presentation skills to network as successfully as possible.

What can you do?  Practice in a no-stakes environment.  For instance, at your local coffee shop, instead of saying,”I’ll have, umm, the, I don’t know, I think the French Vanilla Skinny Latte” . . . . say “A Tall French Vanilla Skinny Latte, please.”  Who’s going to get the better service?

2.  Unnecessary Upspeak = the habit of speaking so that your pitch rises at the end of a sentence?  And everything sounds like a question?  It’s an easy habit to adopt?  Especially if your friends do it too?  This is usually a habit that teenagers adopt.  I hear this too frequently during high school speeches.  The problem is it invites the listener to question the speaker.  If you sound like you’re not sure you believe what you’re saying, why should anyone else?

What can you do?  Record yourself in a brief conversation or while rehearsing a speech.  Hearing yourself?  Talking like this?  Can do wonders to kick-off the process of quitting.  Period.

3.  Creaky Communication – Here’s a site that illustrates the creaky voice loudly and clearly:

Creaky voice is making your voice sound tired or strained.  (Lindsey Lohan, Mary-Kate Olsen . . . you get the idea)  This may be sexy in the right situation however people interpret these sautéed syllables as uncertainty or even smugness.

What can you do?  Relax your vocal cords so your voice sounds creaky, then murmer: “I am the perfect candidate for this position.”  Now say the same words in a forthright, clear, assertive tone.  Who’s getting the job?!

4.  Careless Cussing = While my high school students are careful not to do this, many adults get in the habit of rolling these dirty little words into their everyday conversation.  Not good – not only do curse words sound plain old ugly, they make you sound negative.  Profanity is lazy language . . . people tend to use it when frustrated, angry or impatient.

What can you do?  Challenge yourself to think of different, clever synonyms for four-letter words.  You just might break the ice and get a laugh out of it too.  How about borrowing Shakespeare’s exclamation, “Zounds” or “balderdash” or “bunk?”  See the reaction this instills.

5.  Silly Slang = offensive, very uncool, and often politically incorrect words.  No one seems to remember anything about Jennifer Anniston’s interview with Regis Philbin other than her joking about being a “retard.”  Why?  Slang can easily be offensive.  There’s a reason public figures keep having to apologize for using words such as this.

What can you do?  When in doubt, leave it out.

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Peeling an Onion at Work

February 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Mini-Lessons

Whether you want to avoid meeting mayhem or have your students utilize a new technique to outline problem solution papers, this strategy helps problems become more clear and workable.  Many times, the problems we face have multiple layers that affect the solutions.  In some of these cases, the problem that is most visible, in fact, is the symptom of a deeper issue.

This activity can be performed as an entire group, as small groups, or as individuals.  It asks participants to look beyond the obvious when working through problems:

1.  Create a chart similar to the one drafted below.  (or, if you are artistically inclined, create a picture of an onion with open layers)

2.  The most obvious part of the problem is written in the area that represents the outer part of the onion.

3.  The group members (or individuals) are asked to generate a statement that represents an example of something that is occurring “behind the scenes” or a factor that could be causing the problem on the outer layer of the onion.  Write this in the second level of the diagram.

4. The group members (or individuals) are asked to generate a factor that could be causing the problem or suggestion listed on the second layer of the onion.  The leader writes this idea in the third level of the diagram.

5. The process is continued until the group exhausts its ideas.

6.  The teacher (or leader) asks the members to talk about what they learned as a result of the activity and to make a decision regarding a solution to the original problem written on the top level of the onion diagram.


Peeling the Onion Chart

Layer 1 – Presenting problem:



Layer 2 – Deeper level affecting the presenting problem:



Layer 3 – Deeper level affecting layer 2 situation



Layer 4 – Deeper level affecting Layer 3 situation




The idea is that this creates an energizing experience that probes participants to look beyond the obvious.


A Complimentary Lesson about Complementary Words

February 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Grammar, Mini-Lessons

I just read an essay in which a  student wrote “I gave a complement to the author after the presentation.”   This prickly pair needs clarification.   Here’s my complimentary mini-lesson on these two complementary words: 

The sheen of the bright yellow-orange yolk truly complements the navy purple saucepan.


Complementary vs. Complimentary

Entities that go well together are complementary.

The colors blue and gray complement each other.

Two people who complete each other are considered complementary.


Complimentary refers to items given without charge, usually offered in addition to a product or service purchased. Additionally, it means to praise someone.

The hotel provides a complimentary breakfast to patrons who stay overnight.

The PR Vice President was very complimentary to the qualified intern candidate.

GG hopes this complimentary lessons complements your vocabulary!

Joys of Journaling

February 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Mini-Lessons, Writing Practice

Keeping a journal may be the easiest form of writing there is.  With blogging, it may be even easier – certainly more fun.  Regardless of whether you write in a notebook or blog on a web page, you need only follow three rules:

  • Write freely and honestly, and don’t worry if your entry doesn’t make sense.
  • Make it a habit to write something every single day, even if you think nothing happened that day. Your days are more eventful than you may realize.
  • Finally, make sure it’s kept as private as you want it to be, so you always feel safe saying anything.  If you have a blog, you can make your visibility “private.”  If you have a notebook, you can stash it away for safe keeping.

7 Reasons to Keep a Journal or Blog

1.  Writing is a release.  The act of journaling counteracts daily stress and is a useful tool to learn more about yourself and to clarify your life’s goals. Disorganized in your thinking? Not sure how you feel? Regular journal entries help you to work through everything that is going on in your life and those around you. As you put these thoughts to paper (or screen), you are working through these problems in your mind and subtly figuring out how to solve them.

2.  Journaling also has a lighter side and can be used for the sake of creativity. Journal writing have been shown to improve mental function and stimulate creative thinking for people of all ages, children through senior adults. The process of writing can enable any individual to become a better communicator at home and in the workplace. Creativity begets new ideas and new ways of doing things. It can be producing a piece of art for the pleasure of others. With writing, anything is possible.

3.  Think of journaling as nourishment for your brain. While writing cannot possibly solve all of your problems tomorrow, with some discipline and a regular schedule, gradually you will begin to see improvements in some areas of your life such as mood and mental health. Chances are your physical health will improve as well. As you make decisions, define priorities, strengthen relationships, and generate new ideas, the transformation you will achieve may surprise you.

4.  Even if your life may not seem very exciting now, you’ll have a record of it later, when you’ve forgotten so many details that you now take for granted.  Imagine your grandchildren, years from now, reading about what it’s like to go to a movie (because something tells me that may not be a leisure activity of the future . . . but that’s another post).  A journal is a living part of history.

5.  Your journal will be a record of your best memories, and you will always have access to events that may seem unforgettable now but do fade with time.  I’m so very grateful that I kept a “Mommy Journal” when my daughter was little.  When I read some of those entries now, I’m tickled and realize I would not remember those precious details had I not written them down as they occured.

6.  Write about your favorite people.  Talk about special qualities and what you learn from them.  What’s your grandfather really like?  What is it about Auntie Anne that makes you so happy when you know you will see her?  These people may not always be in your life.  Your journal will keep their memories alive.  I’ve written about a handful of extremely special people in my life – some of which I’ve posted on this site, some of which are private.  Writing about them makes me perceive them as even more special.

7.  If you write honestly, you’ll be able to go back and read entries that will help you learn from your mistakes.  At troublesome times, you can look back and see what went wrong.  If you are always writing about sad or negative things, perhaps it’s time for an attitude adjustment.  If you are writing negatively about one person, perhaps you need to communicate more clearly to him or her.  You can use your journal to solve problems.

Student/Staff Snowball Fight

February 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Mini-Lessons

The snow may be melting outside but snowballs abound inside with this getting-to-know you activity.  I’ve used this in the classroom but it makes for a great ice-breaker at staff meetings.

**I’ve also used this to

1. anonymously exchange creative poetry and guess the author
2. energizingly share analysis (a great alternative for the kinesthetic learner) <
3. review for a quiz (I’ll have paper balls prepared ahead of time and give each student one; students must match answers to questions).

Snowball Fight

~ Each student is given a blank sheet of paper.

~ The teacher asks each student to write something such as the following on his/her paper:

  • Share something about yourself that nobody in the room knows.
  • Share a significant moment that touched your life as a student last year (or last semester).

~ The whole group is divided into two equal groups that stand in two single-file lines facing each other; individuals crumple their papers into a paper balls or snowball.

~ At the teacher’s signal, the groups throw their paper balls or at each other.

~ Students pick up the “snowballs” that land near them and throw them at others; they continue to keep the fight going until the teacher calls time.

~ Everyone picks up a paper ball, unravels it, and tries to find the person in the room to whom it belongs.  Once they locate that person, they engage in conversation about the information on the paper.  This is the part that can get a little loud, and the teacher may have to remind the students to use quieter, conversational tone to begin their productive sharings.  Usually, they’re so energized from the event, that they comply rather quickly.

~ Once rightful owners of paper balls have been identified and conversation takes place for approximately 5 – 10 minutes, the class meets as a whole group again.  The teacher may ask questions such as the following:

  • What did you learn from this activity?
  • What clues did you use to find the person who matched your paper ball?

Did you find this post useful?  Please take a moment to drop a comment below.  All input and suggestions are appreciated!

**adapted from ENGAGING STAFF MEETINGS BY Eller & Eller

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