The right word in the right place at the right time

 

Well, what I mean is, like, you know, when the stuff comes out nice, everyone thinks it’s cool. 

However, when you don’t have the right word to express yourself, you’ve lost an opportunity to communicate, irrespective of whether everybody thought it cool, uncool or otherwise. 

Vocabulary helps you make a point crisply and accurately. It has been acknowledged as a desirable competency for a while – you’ll find all manner of competitive exams demanding to assess your vocabulary level, and many people memorizing endless word lists in an attempt to widen their vocabulary. 

Our observations on vocabulary building (seems to work for any language): 

  • Don’t see words in isolation. Understand how they are used and what roots they come from – helps establish patterns.
  • Keep it personal. Pick topics and words that make sense to your life and start from there.
  • Read. Read. Read. Anything will do - even film posters and leaflets.
  • Listen. Listen. Listen. The TV, other speakers, audio books, songs…
  • Make your own sentences. The old primary school exercise is perfect to get going with using words on your own.

If you’d like to read more:

Provoked to be creative!

When you hear the word creative, what picture comes to your mind? An artistic type – someone who draws, paints and dabbles in art? Or the eccentric type – someone who’s brilliant, slightly disheveled, unpredictable, and wild-eyed? Or is it something else? 

Creativity deserves a broader definition. Firstly, creativity is about new ideas or the use of older ideas in newer ways. Second, it’s an important part of everyday life, whether you are solving a problem at work, cooking a meal, fixing a broken shoe, or creating 5 extra minutes in your hectic morning schedule. The wiki article lays out the scope quite well

People per se can’t be labeled “creative” or otherwise. Being Creative is a, well, state of being! Some people are in that state more often than others, and almost all of us are creative at least once a year! Also see these nice mind maps outlining what blocks creativity and what supports creativity.

We’re often asked if creativity can be learned, and the answer seems to be yes. True, it’s not something you can pick up by reading a book or listening to someone explaining how it works. However, one’s capability to remain creative can be enhanced by doing some kinds of exercises and practising some kinds of thinking / being. Brainstorming is a popular method. “Provocation” is another. When we use it with children we’ve seen some really great responses, some really interesting ideas and a great deal of learning happening.

How to practice Provocation:

Begin by making a deliberately shocking statement (Provocations), where ideas that are normally taken for granted have been discarded.  For example, we could say ‘Children should not have an education’. On the face of it, it’s not a good idea. It may even be difficult to contemplate. However it might lead us to think about what we mean by education, and what its alternatives might be.

Once you have a provocative statement, suspend judgment and generate ideas. Provocations usually give good starting points for creative thinking. You could think in terms of:

 

  • What could be the consequences of the statement?
  • What could be the benefits?
  • Are there any circumstances under which it might be a sensible solution?
  • If this had to work, what underlying priniciples are required? 
  • How it would work moment-to-moment?
  • What would happen if a sequence of events was changed?
  • Etc.

 

You can use this list as a check list. The ideas generated may not always be relevant, but it often open up new ways of thinking, which in turn leads to new solutions. Read more about provocation.

Brainstorming “Balance”

The last session of BUGS turned out to be thinly attended (thanks in large measure to Sonia Gandhi and her travels across town!) but very interesting (thanks in large measure to enthusiastic sharing and discussion on the topic of Balance).

Some of the thoughts that surfaced: Balance is about

  • Creating a congruent self (in other words, saying what I mean and meaning what I say + acting in line with what I say and mean)
  • Learning when to say yes and when to say no (and by extension, learning when to work, when to rest, when to stretch and when to be go with the current rhythm…)
  • Recognizing that we have choices. When we do, there are fewer “automatic decisions” that lead to imbalance
  • Being aware. It’s probably the single largest step to being in balance. (The single largest step to any sort of growth, really)
  • Generating a “creative tension” between what we are and what we desire to be
And since all the participants happend to be parents, we agreed that parenthood offers all the opportunities we’ll ever need to practice all these nice thoughts on Being in Balance.

Conversations: The art of listening, sharing and learning

Conversation works best when everyone is participating, listening, talking, having disagreements, asking questions, making discoveries, cutting jokes… And being silent when appropriate. This combination of things makes conversations the great learning tool they are. 

It would seem that conversations would come naturally to social creatures such as ourselves. But apparently not. Many conversations are one sided monologues. Many more degenerate into observations about the weather or traffic and never take off from there. Or they are long silences with all the people having frantic internal conversations inside their heads, but not saying anything aloud to each other!

People agonize about not being “good at conversations”. They look for solutions in speaking skills courses, vocabulary building exercises, learning body language cues, or even mugging up starter lines and jokes. All of them good ideas … but only when you have some other basics in place:

  • Listen
  • Ask questions
  • Clarify what you heard or understood
  • Think what might interest the other person
  • Disagree if you must… 
We found a really well-written piece on the art of conversations. (Complete with one minute video full of conversation tips, dos and don’ts). What we liked best about this piece was that it focuses on the basics – the real basics – of a good conversation.

 

Mind your own business!

We had a great * e x p a n d * class last week. It was the “big project” where three teams had to set up three different “companies” and take the company through one entrepreneurial cycle. It was a full fledged realistic game played with real products and real customers (Only the money — BizBucks —  was notional and printed on the back old cardboard )

In “playing” the whole cycle, some of the things the 10-14 year olds did:

  • Formed and named their company. Decided what business they wanted to be in. It turned out two companies wanted to make key chains and the third made greeting cards. Deciding the business seemed to be a fun thing – it was not until much later that the concept and impact of “market competition” really hit them.
  • Wrote resumes and convinced each other why each was the best for a particular job. And there were six important jobs in each team – President, and the VPs of Finance, Marketing and Sales, Design and Manufacturing / operations.
  • Raising money for their business venture. Smart pitches were made to VCs (the facilitators) who invested BizBucks (BB) in the companies based on the quality of the presentations they made.
  • Designed and prototyped their products. Estimated which designs were feasible, how much materials they would need and what effort it would require.
  • Raised additional BB by taking loans (at a 10% interest) or approaching the VCs again.
  • Creating marketing mateials, setting up a stall and getting ready a sales pitch.
  • Selling their goods to real customers armed with BB (parents and other well wishers who had been coopted into the game!)
  • And then balancing out the accounts. This was an on-going process, though. The VPs of finance had never been this involved with simple addition and subtraction!
  •  And finally, the companies were valued based on their profits and cash on hand.

To say the experience was a tremendous learning would be an understatement. It was monumental both for the students and the facilitators.

In fact, we are now so convinced about the design of this program (which we prototyped for the first time in *e x p a n d *) that we plan to offer it as a standalone 15 hour workshop during the summer. Watch this space for more information and pictures!

What’re you reading?

Reading books is as much fun, and as much habit-forming as playing a video game. That’s what we tell people who come to Kaleidoscope, wishing their children were a little more interested in reading. However, for book-reading to become a habit, children need to be introduced to the joys of reading for its own sake.

We’ve always believed that children develop a reading habit when they enjoy books for the worlds it opens up for them. We’ve also noticed that children find it off-putting to be set well-intentioned “reading assignments” at the end of which they have to generate a report or review of what they have read. So we formulated these beleifs into a new reading program. We’ve called it “What’re you reading?”

The program is for young children aged 6-9 years. In this program: 

  • Children develop a comfort with books and reading and enjoy professional audio books.
  • They discover the joy of words, pictures, stories. This happens by
    • listening to facilitators read aloud books,
    • reading books themselves
    • participating in role-based reading with the group
    • recording, and listening to their own voice (this gives them powerful, feedback on their reading, free of value judgements)
  • As a by-product, children improve their vocabulary, acquire correct pronunciation and develop listening skills.
  • And importantly, children learn to value books, and handle them with care.

Other details:

One hour sessions, three times a week – on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. 4.30 pm to 5.30 pm

12 sessions per month. This is an on-going program. You can join the program at any time.

Fee per month: Rs 1000

Something to do…

Looking for interesting, off-beat, and not-so-off-beat ideas for things to do on an evening or a weekend? Try Kaleidoscope’s list of Things to do today!

Print them out, pin them up on your desk, be inspired to try something different.

We’ve also just released them as handy bookmarks. Ask us for some if you are interested. Or share them with your family, colleagues and friends.

Reflections!

The first of the Positive Parenting sessions happened on Nov 8. Geeta’s approach to the seminar was just perfect – balancing the science behind hyperactivity, with down-to-earth, practical tips to deal with it. The discussions in the group involved a lot of examples, comparing of notes, questions, answers… (and some relief to parents who found that they were really not alone!)

Key takeaways from the seminar:

  • Overactivity or high energy is often mistaken for hyperactivity.
  • Hyperactivity can be established only after a clinical assessment. This is usually not done before the child is five years old.
  • In case you believe your child may be hyperactive, you would be better off consulting a psychologist before going to a neurologist or psychiatrist. You’ll be able to make a more informed decision about the need for medication.

Other discussion points:

  • The scientific basis of our understanding of hyperactivity.
  • Specific signs of age-inappropriate activity
  • Concrete tips to deal with excessive activity.