The Art of Persuasion

Persuasion is part of the communications process and persuasion skills refer to:  “the talent of changing the attitudes, beliefs, or behaviours of a person or group towards another person, group, event, object, or idea. It is usually done by conveying, in a message, some feelings, information, reasoning, or a combination” (Source: Cleverism).

Mastering those skills are essential for success in every stage of life and are, therefore, one of the most important assets that students can develop. More than ever, when considering all the pressing issues our society is facing, the art of persuasion becomes the ultimate skill for bringing about any positive changes, for example in ecology, or social justice…

Colleagues AND collaborators

In the past year, I had a few chats with Matt, our HS English Department Head, about my COETAIL journey. He is indeed a former COETAIL-er, information that I found out thanks to his final project video seen online! This is why I naturally approached him when it was time to think about what my own final project would be. He was very open to the idea of building a collaboration that would work for me. But as he currently teaches IB English in grade 11 and 12, we quickly decided that it wasn’t the best fit to implement something new in the Spring.
As I was still considering designing a project within the Social Justice theme, I was about to contact the English 10 teachers, and more specifically Jess. As I explained in Course 5 – The Beginning of the End, the next morning, she walked into the library, which these days, with all the building access restrictions for safety reasons in a pandemic year,  was not something usual.
You might call it a coincidence or one could say that the stars aligned for me… But what I certainly didn’t expect when I started to tell her about my course and its final project, was her reply: she is herself a former COETAIL-er too!
Frankly, that was such a relief for me that she knew the program and exactly what I was looking for in terms of collaboration!

As the three colleagues teaching grade 10 are redesigning the curriculum this year, working with those English classes seemed a great opportunity: there was room for implementing something new (and for me!). For Jess to stay with the common program, it was finally decided that instead of working with her two classes only, I could work with all seven (!).
Another change was the theme to work on: the English team already decided on their next unit, as they have to cover some pre-defined content through the school year, and it was: Persuasive Speech. As I will explain later, students would be free to find a topic of interest and could even use the content of their recent unit on Social Equity from the Change and Challenges in the 21st Century course. At that point, no lesson plan had been crafted yet.


During our first meeting on February 25th (see picture above), once my colleagues explained to me which skills they were looking for their students to develop, we brainstormed on how my contribution could bring an added value to the students final presentations.

How to Organize a Persuasive Speech or Presentation – by Alex Lyon

A persuasive presentation is similar to an informative one but with a big difference in the desired outcome:  you are actually trying to convince listeners to change their minds or behaviours as the result of your persuasive speech.

One of the major aspects of a successful presentation is the appropriate use of voice, gestures, and posture.

Depending on their age, students might first need to realize that speaking in a clear and audible voice is critical. They indeed tend to deliver a presentation in their normal speaking voice, or sometimes even in a softer one if they are intimidated, making it difficult for classmates in the back of the room to hear what is being said. No need to add that, in the current pandemic situation, doing this with a mask on will add another layer of challenge.
Avoiding a monotonous tone is important too, especially in a persuasive speech.

The Youtube video below on “Why students should have mental health days” is a great example of a great persuasive presentation in which Hailey Hardcastle applies well different techniques to keep her audience engaged.

Adopting appropriate posture and gestures are necessary to keep the audience focused and attentive. Besides, actively participating in their own presentation will help the presenter keep the nervous fidgeting under control. Common gestures during a speech or oral presentation include listing numbered points with the fingers, using a solid fist to show intensity, or showing an open palm to build trust.

Obviously, the English teachers were going to teach the content: my role was to bring to the table different elements to broaden the students’ experience when delivering their persuasive speech. Referring back to my COETAIL course 3, “Visual Literacy: Effective Collaborators and Communicators”, I could definitely help students to first understand what efficient audiovisual aids are, and how technology might indeed enhance their presentations. Secondly, I will provide some tech support during the entire process.
As Amelia Harper explains in The benefits of collaborating with school librarians, school libraries are “increasingly being converted into learning commons, where learning takes place on a level not imaginable a few decades ago. […] Teachers can collaborate on the development of teaching modules.”

And I don’t have to mention again that collaboration is part of the COETAIL course DNA, do I?

Before ending this post, I will share another “sign” that was actually sitting next to my desk, on the brand new books cart: a couple of months ago, as I was putting together a book order for our library, I added the following title, thinking that our students could use it:

At the time I had no idea that the English 10 would be working on this topic, and even less that I would be reading that book to understand better my COETAIL course Final Project topic!

What is your best advice to students starting to prepare such a presentation? What should they pay more attention to in order to deliver a great persuasive speech?
As an educator, one can say (or at least hope!) that you are – or have become – an expert presenter, right? How did you grow in this role? What helped you most? And as a tech specialist, what are the tools you would recommend for students?

 

 

 

 

 

Opening our Perspectives – Course 3 Final Project

We should always aim to open up our perspectives: in the workplace,  collaboration is a great way to achieve that. In Keeping the Door Open to CollaborationMinero explains how “intentional teacher collaboration creates a strong professional culture and spreads good ideas room to room”, which will be beneficial not only for the teachers but also for their students. 

I find a lot of truth in Robert John Meehan‘s above quote, and this Course 3 Collaborative Final Project made it all become real.
The first step was to contact my co-COETAIL-ers to form a group. After talking to different people, we created a team of four members working with teenagers.

While my first idea was to go for option 1 and create a 2-4 hour professional development program, once we started brainstorming it became clear, including to me, that offering extra professional development in a pandemic situation was not wise: in the past months, teachers already had to get used to a lot of new online tools to navigate distance learning, and their days (and evenings) became busier than ever.

Therefore we decided to create a unit planner based on the understandings of this course with the objective to support students in becoming Creative Communicators and Global Collaborators.

Our first challenge was to set up an efficient communication channel:  while using Twitter’s group messages seemed a good idea, it took a while to realize that one of us didn’t receive the notifications. Once it got solved, we also created a shared Google Doc where we could suggest some unit plan ideas and comment on each other’s.

As there is nothing better than meeting in person at some point during a collaborative project, we also organized a couple of video calls. Picking a time was not easy because of the different time zones: between Panama, Belgium, Russia, and Cambodia the common decent time window is quite narrow. I discovered a new tool along the way: timeanddate.com and we eventually found a time that worked for us, thanks to our colleague in Panama who is a (very) early riser!
We started the conversation by looking over the shared sample lesson plans and finally decided to revise the unit of one of our colleagues on Migration as he was going to teach it to his school’s grade 9 students  We agreed that it would give us all an authentic experience. Besides, I was personally interested in the topic as I used to collaborate with grade 7 Social Studies teachers on a  unit on the same topic, facilitating the research component in my Teacher-Librarian role.

Here is the Updated Migration Unit Plan that was produced

This type of task still remains a challenge for me, as writing unit plans is not my area of expertise: I usually collaborate with classroom teachers, and the content I deliver is incorporated in their lesson plans. The standards for what I teach independently, like Academic Honesty, are regularly revised but do not require the same type of process.

Obviously, the unit on Migration already included content standards, and our colleague updated them to reflect the newer version. Then we decided together which ISTE standards would be most meaningful, and which activities could be offered in order to improve student collaboration, with the relevant technology tools.

Here are the selected ISTE Standards:

  • 6.c. Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using various digital objects such as visualizations, models, or simulations.
  • 7.b. Students use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts, or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints.

For the technology tools, there were some constraints linked to what the students had already been exposed to: for example, one of our first ideas was for students to create infographics in groups [as it was part of one of our recent COETAIL course content], but that was dismissed as already included in the previous assignment.
After looking at different options, the chosen tool for the final activity is Parlay Ideas, a comprehensive discussion platform that allows students to interact with each other and their teacher, both virtually and in person. I didn’t know this tool before, but it seemed promising, and fitting the ISTE Standards we were aiming for, and to the unit that will be taught.

One issue though: the teachers of the Anglo-American School of Moscow had not used the live version yet.  The two tech-savvy members of our group spontaneously offered to run a PD session for them, going beyond our own course requirements and extending the collaboration spirit. Although I wasn’t able to join the training session, I received its recording and I would now be able to suggest this tool to my own colleagues.

This process was enlightening both from a personal and professional point of view as it showed the richness of our interactions and the power of collaboration.  As international educators, with diverse backgrounds and skills, it reminded us that sharing our experiences can only broaden our perspectives and knowledge, especially at a time when we all have to face a pandemic and the consequences that it brought to our teaching jobs.

Finally, I am hopeful that the updates made to the Migration lesson thanks to our collaboration were helpful and will bring added values for the students and their teachers.

 

Learning Together

 “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”

This African proverb can perfectly applies to the learning process, as shown on the learning pyramid developed by the National Training Laboratory, whose studies suggest that most students remember 10% of what they read from textbooks, but retain nearly 90% of what they learn through teaching others!

In Collaborative Learning, from Cornell University, we have the confirmation that students working in pairs or small groups to discuss concepts or find solutions to problems will lead to deeper learning, and to higher-level thinking, better oral communication, self-management, and leadership skills.
Promoting this kind of learning in the classroom, and encouraging the active interaction, and not only between students, but also between students and the teacher, who then becomes facilitator, collaborator and co-learner, is absolutely necessary. The old-fashioned ex-cathedra professor model needs to fly through the window. And fast.

<span>Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@johnschno?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">John Schnobrich</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/learning-together?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText"
Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Project Zero from Harvard University is a research center founded in 1967 that explores topics in education such as deep thinking, understanding, intelligence, creativity, and ethics. They designed Thinking Routines that have the great advantage to be practical and easy to remember. These routines will also support collaborative thinking.

Facilitating a structured learning activity

I decided to work with a grade 7 class, the youngest of our Middle Schoolers, as these students are either new to the school or to this building, as a nice way for me to start working with this group. Their science’s current unit is about the Scientific Method, and I was able to work with one of the teachers to develop an activity linked to their course content.

SCIENCE Grade 7 – How to reinforce the thought process and vocabulary of the experimental design 

As students had already been exposed to the concepts of Independent Variables (IV), Dependent Variables (DV), and Constants, the objective was for them to think on how the experiment presented to them on paper would develop, and after identifying the IV, DV, and Constants, how to write precisely the hypothesis and the experiment title.
Working in groups, the goal was to brainstorm and test solutions together, in order to obtain the most precise result, using specific vocabulary.


After being introduced to the activity, and its topic, students were divided into four groups, spreading outside the classroom to be able to work together while social distancing.

   

In each group, one student was identified as the recorder **. The science teacher and I went from group to group, listening to the conversations, asking a question to help them be more specific, if needed.

** Looking at the picture, something strikes me now: on the 3rd picture, the recorder should have turned his desk. It is so obvious, but it didn’t click then. A lesson to be learned for me, for sure.

The last step of this activity was to look together at the four different results, and discuss them; for example, one group had a unique and creative answer for the constants (pesticides). When everyone agreed, the final document was completed.
The students will be exposed to a few more similar scenarios during the next ten days, in preparation for a unit test. Being able to process together the thinking sequence and helping each other to find the most appropriate words definitely help them.