Tag: adolescent health

Newsletter for May 2009 From Trunks to Bats: Refine your ideas to hit moon shots

September 8th, 2009

A major league baseball bat begins as a chunk of wood. Imagine if the players used this unrefined piece of wood as a bat. Not only would it be cumbersome, it would be ineffective. Instead, the chunk of wood is cut down to a blank then placed on a lathe where a craftsman shaves and smoothes the wood into the shape of a bat. Now it’s smooth, agile and ready for action.

You can nail down your curricula by applying a similar refinement process. Cut, shave and sand away all the unnecessary elements. Create more space for teens to process and own the information–and ultimately connect with their educators in a meaningful way.

Consider the following thought experiment: Imagine you forgot all your materials for a presentation (not that this has ever happened to you), and class starts in five minutes. How will you determine what to cover with students? Statistics and other minor details would not rush to the forefront of your mind. Your brain would go through a rapid process to recall the three-to-five main points of the curriculum. These would become your focus for the day.

Now imagine applying this whittling process to your entire curricula. Look at the outline, then the main headings. These are the elements the author considers most important to the fidelity of the curricula. You may even wish to create your own outline of those points you consider most important. With your main points at hand, consider accepting this challenge:

Present only on the major headings of your curriculum. Students will provide most of the details. Feel free to lend a hand, but only after students have exhausted their ideas.

Instead of telling students what you think they should know, ask questions. You will discover that students will contribute the remaining curriculum content.

If you muster the courage to accept this challenge, let me know. I’d love to hear about it!   Also, write me if you’d like further suggestions. Just remember to trust the process.

It’s great to be working with you to promote positive change in the lives of young people.



    Newsletter for March 2009 LESS IS MORE: Classroom lessons from MacGyver

    September 8th, 2009

    Do you remember the show, MacGyver? Yes, that ultra cheesy, but kind of cool ’80s adventure show starring Richard Dean Anderson. If you’re younger than 30, you may not. Stay tuned. Instead of equipping himself with dozens of hidden tools to solve seemingly intractable problems (think James Bond), MacGyver utilized to great effect the most potent resource he possessed–his intellect. I never thought I’d say this, but let’s use MacGyver as a teaching model.

    When we work with youth it is tempting to swing into a classroom Bond-style, outfitted with more information–in the form of videos, slides, books, demonstrations, and activities–than a single student could possibly process in a day, let alone a 50-minute session. Though we may derive comfort from doing so much, by mindfully doing less we:

    1. Create room for students to effectively link what we introduce to what they already know, so they can truly own the information

    2. Encourage students to engage

    3. Free up more time for connection, a defining element of program effectiveness

    The strength of this approach is corroborated by K.L. Ruhl’s1 study comparing participants’ responses to two distinct learning experiences: one based on information dissemination, and the other incorporating process. As we would expect, the group that processed the information in the form of discussion and dialogue learned more. In other words, through refining the content of the presentation, we can accomplish more by doing less. Consider the following “do less” techniques:

    1. Imagine each section of your curriculum in the form of an outline instead of paragraphs.

    2. Go through your curricula and determine which points are pillars, and therefore indispensable to the structure and coherence of your presentation.

    3. Organize the topics from most to least important using the Roman Numeral system (I. A. a. 1) a))

    Try to limit yourself to five or fewer major points (i.e., the upper case points) per 50-minute session. If you attempt any more students will disengage. If they want more from you they’ll ask.

    Doing less is a good first step toward shifting the impact of your program. Once you’re positioned to do less you can strengthen the delivery of your message. That will be the subject of our next message.

    It’s great to be working with you to create a positive change in the lives of young people.



    1Ruhl, K.L, Hughes, C.A., & Schloss, P.J. (1987). Using the pause procedure to enhance lecture recall. Teacher Education and Special Education, 10, 14-18.