Wednesday, November 30, 2016

How to develop creativity

Isn't it one of the most common words that people are using regarding education and business development? we really want to develop it since childhood, but research shows that it decreases from the point we are finishing pre school.

some will say that we need to create an environment that enable it, but it's too difficult to create it at home, school, afternoon classes etc. all together.
we can develop creativity in different ways, and I want to introduce you to some effective tasks and games we are doing on a daily basis in my class, and also in the teams I'm working with (when we are dealing with challenges and new designs).

You can use all those elements with any group/ class, define the difficulty levels, and most important- they are easy to use, and can take between 7 minutes to an hour.

1. Riddles, logic quizzes, logic missions, challenge tasks:
The element needed is thinking and creating multiple choices of solution while coping with the understanding that mistakes and trial and error are part of learning.
you can ask logic question from age 4- example- :why do we pound a nail on the wall?

I love giving an assignment that require an imagination and coping uncertainty, for example (from my 6th grade class)-
in groups of 4-
you are a group of archaeologists. the year is 1910 (no internet, no mega information libraries on line...)
you are working on ancient site in X
you have experience in the middle east/ South America/ Africa
Suddenly you see a written language you've never seen...
what will you do?

The group have 45 minutes for raising ideas and possibilities, then 45 minutes looking for answers on line, and then a class on the topic with me (you can read on the uncertainty model here)

2. Completion stories:
 when we teach language skills we teach how to write a story (structure); I use movies, inventing stories I tell, video clips, pictures and more to start an idea and let the children continue the idea, write it and develop a conversation on it.

3. Mazes, tracks and courses- building them for children and letting children build their own courses is an practical challenge. you can use every thing you can climb on, pass trough and underneath.
* you can use a rope or wool and create "spider net" in the room; ask the children to walk around the room while avoiding the net.

4. Object what?
give children / adults a practical object and ask them all the uses you can get from it- practical and imaginary.

5. Association games:
association games are amazing for improvement of response speed, creating contexts and increasing thinking speed.
you can play free association.
you can play association chain: every word lead to another that connected to it/ opposite/ parallel.
you can play association of a single term/ word/ concept:love/ food/ happiness etc.
you can play association regarding a question or a riddle that have up to 2 words answer.

I'm here for every question and every note, Sharon.

 All the posts and materials belongs to Sharon Michaeli- Ramon ©

The model of coping with uncertainty while solving problems, challenges and high volume tasks

I've decided to create a method of uncertainty in my class after I've noticed that children (and adults) are having all kind of barriers when they need to cope a challenge- difficult article, new question, new area, thinking missions, solving a problem and more.

I've decided to develop a model to help them cope, and I'm using it mainly in language classes (you can read on it here) and in a weekly lesson of solving a challenges, that is connected to the syllabus, but it's wider and demand different way of thinking (you can read about it here)

The model is build from 5 steps:

1. Excepting the fact that I (the student) will not understand some of the reading material (or task)-         and it's ok.
2.  brain storming all the ideas related to the question/ task.
     Read & summarize as we learned- high light difficult words/ expression, high light main sentence      in a paragraph and summarize each paragraph/ idea.
3. Trying in a group to build a logic flow of the article/ story/ task/ question- out of the box thinking, giving associations and answers (we work on the concept that assumptions in this stage can't be wrong).
3a. sometimes I give access after stage 3 to use technologies and the net.
4. creating data base of all the ideas, answers and information on the board/ app/ other and making sense and order.
5. Giving the holistic order, Giving the answer/s and all the information needed.
    Dialog on the subject.

All the posts and materials belongs to Sharon Michaeli- Ramon ©

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

5 reasons why coping with difficulties is important in the class - reading comprehension

In my class, sixth grade, I'm challenging my students every day. I've entered the public system four years ago, after managing different projects as an expert in creativity and being categorized as  a "problem solver". when I entered the school I'm working in today I've noticed that the children are dealing great with reading comprehension we have in the text book, but can't understand higher articles.

I've decided to use a method of uncertainty in the class, which build from 3 steps:

1. Excepting the fact that I (the student) will not understand some of the reading material (or task)-         and it's ok.
2. Read & summarize as we learned- high light difficult words/ expression, high light main sentence       in a paragraph and summarize each paragraph/ idea.
3. Trying in a group to build a logic flow of the article/ story/ other.

when the children started they were upset, confused and even angry. we worked step by step solving the articles I've brought to class (I can't share them with you, because they are in Hebrew; but the criterion to choose them are: suitable from 9th grade, have current affairs link to the students life and have a pedagogical context).

After a month I can say that I have 5 great reasons to continue with this method, once a week, a two hours lesson:

1. The level of expectations raised and the students understand the benefits and the wide range of      
    topics that are added to the class.
2. Higher use of reading strategies in all the language fields (history, geography, etc)
3. The level of the conversations changed and become broadly contexted to different areas, and I love
    connect areas of knowledge to subjects.
    Some students started to be herd in class.
4. While coping with higher language the understanding, the vocabulary and the expression and  
5. I'm revealing difficulties that I couldn't see in a class of 36 students before, for example- the  
    difficulty of explaining a term with no examples- and working on it.

I'm here for any question, Sharon.

                         All the posts and materials belongs to Sharon Michaeli- Ramon ©


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Four Activities for Starting a Relaxed Morning in the Class and Lowering Level of Stress and Pressure

Some classes need to go into a "silent learning zone", a kind of silence and tranquility that allows concentration, listening, work, collaboration and patience.
Schools are full of stress factors – social, educational, emotional baggage each child carries with him/her, thoughts, fears etc. The latest security issues are also not easy and add more stress to the kids, and even serve as a deflection on a daily basis.

The educational-organizational-personal discourses make a lot of use in tools such as Meditation, Mind-folds, Guided Imaginations and others in order to succeed in being "here and now" in our overloaded world, and kids very much enjoy playing or being concentrated in various activities that allow them to drift away on one side from all the stress, and immediately concentrate afterwards on the other hand.

Here are four simple activities that can be done with your class. There is no need to be anxious or worried if during the first few times there will be some jiggles and some embarrassment:

1. While sitting on chairs or lying on the floor on their backs – slow breaths with eyes shut, inhaling air and ballooning the belly, exhaling the air for 3-4 seconds. In each exhale the body sinks more and more to the chair/floor; there is no stress in the shoulder, pelvis, hands, neck and head. After 507 minutes the kids can open their eyes and open the day.

2. Every child sits in front of an A4 empty page, while pleasant music is played in the background (classical, acoustic guitars, melody, world music) and the kids draw the music (Take a look in the "seeing music" post). When the music ends the children place the page in their backpacks and continue to the next assignment.
*You can have a conversation of the drawings, how the music made them feel, thoughts etc.

3. Stand in a circle, and throw a ball while saying words that express fear/stress/anxiety/anger etc. Once each child has spoken, ask the children to say a trait or a personal ability to cope with different issues while throwing the ball to a friend. The friend in turn must remember what were the traits named before the ball was thrown to him/her, and after a sequence of 5-6 traits you start over.
The goal is to create a positive chain that shows the power the class and the kids have.
You can also play this game with naming good traits or behaviors in the class, such as listening, helping each other etc.

4. There are games in which the power of the group is of great importance, when after the game has ended you can discuss and analyze the subject projecting on any relevant issue, such as to our family, or to any specific personal or educational coping mechanism.

You can turn the method elected to a daily routine for a certain amount of time, thus entering the kids to a better zone of learning and listening for the rest of the day.   

All the posts and materials belongs to Sharon Michaeli- Ramon ©

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Game of Flags - A Social Mirror and a Social and Personal Working Tool

I believe in the power of a group to create a change, and in the power of the game. This year I am educating 5th graders for the first time, and I have met the pupils for the first time on September. In order to reach different goals I have placed for us, I am using various strategies, and currently I would like to present the Game of Flags, which is a strategic-physical-social game, from which you can learn a lot on the class/group, and work on various issues with them.

Game of Flags is an intensive game in which two groups play against each other in order to obtain the opponent's group flag. 

You divide a court to two parts, one for each group, and place 2 different flags in each of its sides. Every team gathers and decides what will be her strategy, how to get to the opponents' flag, who is in defense and who is in offence, who will protect the flag, who will rescue team-mates etc.
The middle of the playground is marked, and you can captive any of the other group members that enter your side. The "prisoner" must wait where he was caught until he is rescued by someone from his group by a "high-five".
The game is a field for many interactions, and I, as the educator, stands on the side and observe. This is one game in which I only observe the teams, and I don't take an active part in it. Some of the things I take notes of are:

1/ the coherence of the group/class
2/ the way each group plans strategically
3/ the personal character of each pupil

4/ the way the pupils plan, their courage, patience etc. For example: pupil who try to save "captives" even at the risk of being caught themselves; pupils who will always be careful and stay at their group's territory, ambushing an opponent member when they enter this territory; a pupil who was caught but cheats and runs back into the court (and the reaction of their friends)  etc.

5/It is supposed to be a fun time of the group/class. Are they having fun? Are there any frictions? Does anyone prefer not to participate?

Through the game I wish to develop : A class's coherence and cooperation; girls and boys cooperation; patience; a joint strategic planning and not just the emergence of the natural "sporty leaders"; personal abilities such as patience, thinking and planning etc.; a reflection ability and feedback – both personal and in the group; elevating class value.

Work Stages:
You go out with the class to play the game a few times, when I keep changing the group composition, in order to balance the boys/girls numbers, balance athletic  kids with non-athletic ones etc, and also in order to gently break pre-existing sub-groups.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Seeing rhythm and music

As part of the work I'm doing with my class I try to stimulate all the senses, and to interweave different kinds of experiences and study methods - Both from the notion that every child has a different way of learning, and from knowing that different experiences (thinking, moving, imagining etc.) contribute to the cognitive-physical-emotional development.
The different experiences are part of the study material, all intended and contributing to my main goal and labor as a teacher - building and reinforcing the children's self-esteem.

Every other week or two we hold a rhythm session in class - drumming, playing by a certain rhythm, playing, dancing etc. 
Here, for example, is a sequence of four sessions we did in class:
Session no. 1
We opened with this amazing video I found on 
After watching the video in which you see how music presents itself in different materials we discussed various ways to draw music. Is it possible? I asked the children how would  they draw different kinds of music. 
I played a rather melodic and calm song, and the children drew the music, The diversity was immense: musical notes, letters, pictures, colors, textures, thoughts and shapes.
We came to the conclusion that music can be drawn in many different ways and that it involves not only listening, but feeling, movement, thought, criticism etc.

Session no. 2
I divided the class to several groups of three, and each threesome was guided to show me some sort of rhythm.
The originality blew me away! 
Some took a paper, placed it on a table, then drummed on the table causing the paper to bounce according to the rhythm. Others used sticks to play. Another group waved their sweatshirts in the air, creating sound and air-movement.

Session no. 3
I opened with this video
And then we worked with play dough and hand-colors. Each child received a big paper, and they created whatever they felt like according to what the music stimulated in them. 
Later on, each child presented his or her creation to the class with movement, sound, or

Session no. 4-
A mother arrived to the class and gave a lecture on Kandinsky and "music in the arts".

Working with music and combining it with unconventional demands encourages thinking, criticism, openness, curiosity, interest and lots of fun.
The children enjoy creating, playing, thinking, and collaborating. The challenges increase the experience and enhance it. Additional subjects also arise, such as musical instruments, different kinds of art, physics, science, creativity etc. 

Personally, I enjoy getting to know the kids in unconventional ways, not just by strictly teaching the formal materials, thus, enabling each and every one of them to express different and new parts of themselves.

All the posts and materials belongs to Sharon Michaeli- Ramon ©


Friday, November 6, 2015

What we learned in Haiti about psycho- social disaster assistance


I arrived to Haiti a week after a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in 2010. I was part of an Israeli aid group, FIRST & Israaid, specialized in medical and psycho-social support, and later continued to work with the local NGO PRODEV, while collaborating in one camp with JPHERO.

As we started work in the first two camps in Port-au Prince, we immediately noticed that information given to children and adults was not received in a holistic way, for example, the use of the terminology "earthquake” referring to a geological phenomenon was problematic. The people of Haiti were processing the event in the context of their cultural and religious perceptions. Thus, we felt that they needed  to hear the information we were presenting in their own language and with their own terminologies. Accordingly, we adjusted our response.

Our team designed a questionnaire based on proven psychological tools and anthropological fieldwork methodology. The overall aim of the questionnaire was to help us better understand the Haitian people’s perception of the disaster. I assumed that, if we understood the cultural perception of the people and their perceived needs, we would be able to provide them with information they could understand, which in turn would reduce their stress and  feelings of uncertainty. For instance, we found that the people called the earthquake "gulu gulu", so we started using that word in addition to “earthquake” in our psycho-education sessions. We found that using local words and phrases helped us communicate better and build trust. Adding that we spoke about the universal phenomenon by giving examples that earth quake happen all over the world to all religions.

Key findings of our January 2010 survey
Over a two-day period in January 2010, we carried out a random survey based on the questionnaire we had designed of 100 volunteer participants in Petion Vile Club camp,consisting of a diverse camp population in terms of different age group, sex and socio-economic background. This resulted in the return of 73 completed questionnaires and the completion of six interviews. Among others, we found that 80% of the population believed that God had caused the earthquack and were surprised to learn that around 60% believed that another disaster would strike soon.
We also found that 95% of the survey participants had a wide range of physical symptoms, ranging from increased heart rates, to sleeping problems, nervousness and fear of noise (Figure 1).

Figure 1           Survey results: Types of physical symptoms experiences

Our cultural-based model for psycho-social disaster assistance
We integrated the findings of the survey into a modification of our program to better reflect the Haitian culture and belief system. We understood that if we wanted the community’s cooperation we needed to accept their basic perception of the world, their religion (both Christianity and voodoo, and triggers for reward or punishment). This new psycho-social approach respected the beliefs and knowledge of the community and, at the same time, facilitated the processing of universal and natural information, and also supported more appropriately self-coping and family-coping tools. The resulting model comprised of  three-stage intervention model (Figure 2) that allowed us to reach different community groups. This structure also enabled us to "fade into" the rehabilitation phase, particularly in the education sector facilitating the rebuilding of communities around shared institutions.

 Figure 2           Three-stage psycho-social intervention model

The three-stage psycho-social intervention model comprised of activities that were designed to be built on top of each other, starting with activities for children, followed by work with parents and adults, and finally joint community activities.

First circle of intervention: Children
1.      Social games that emphasize cooperation, positive experience, a sense of success, group encouragement and building trust between group members;
2.      Games that incorporate local songs and dances and emphasize creating common ground, mutual creativity, and incorporating group members as leaders and participants;
3.      Drawing and providing a psycho-social explanation for earthquakes, common reactions to trauma and tips for further treatment;
4.      Intervention for younger children focusing on drawing scary/ happy images;
5.      Older children (from second grade onward) drawing with a wider set of instructions.

Second circle of intervention: Group psycho-education for adults and parents
1.      What is an earthquake? Universality and objective geological explanations, using cultural objectivity;
2.      Explanations on common reactions to trauma and stress;
3.      The parental role and its derivative complexity after disaster;
4.      Ways to deal with stress and uncertainty.
Third circle of intervention : Mass community activities
1.      Restoring hope, mainly for children but including the whole community;
2.      Mass sport, drama and music activities, which also involve parents in order to create activeness and joy within the community [restore hope].
We witnessed that this activity was becoming more popular every day. More and more members of the community took part as dancers, assistances and watchers.

The theory behind the model
Children after disasters need interventions that support the functional continuity of life (Klingman, 1992). The impact phase creates high emotional insecurity and may cause anxiety and physical changes. In recent years, interventions are implemented within the community settings, and for children, schools are the primary institute that can provide help (Leo and Rato Bario, 2010).
The usage of physical education is fundamental. Physical activities include many elements that can improve the lives of those affected at the physical and mental level, but also enable improvements in other aspects, such as: body image, social skills, self-confidence, persistence and more. Physical activity is a combined factor inside a group that can create inclusion and equality between the participants (Ley and Rato Barrrio, 2010).
Siedentop (1994) has suggested sport education as a method of developing social skills and managing skills. Hellison (2003) has developed a focused model aimed at teaching responsibility through physical education. His model uses five levels, built of different levels of responsibility- from understanding to performing, in different circles - me,  and others  and transit it to real life. Eldar (2006) applied a wider model, using physical activity as "support context" for teaching and obtaining learning habits, social habits and emotional abilities.
Thus, physical education creates a "safe zone" for children and adults, while creating opportunities to determine a shared status and common goals . After playing together it is easier to raise common worries and needs.
The psycho-social education component was based on giving information and creating a safe space for raising questions, observations and developing solutions. It was a mechanism, through which we were able to identify needs and refer people to other organizations for specific assistance.

We wanted to implement a psycho-social interventions with a a different approach, that could offer an easy transition to rehabilitation:
§  We used local language phrases, because we believed that language is crucial for trust, understanding and perception of situations, feelings and action.
§  We built the intervention upon community characteristics.
§  We hired local educational staff members that implemented the program together with us from the fifth day, and continued on to lead the activities by themselves with us present 50% of the time after 15 days. We made arrangements so that they could continue for at least three months after our departure. Training the trainers was a main component of our program, so that local staff members would become proficient.
§  After a month, we opened schools in two camps as a focal institution and safe place for the children and the community. It was important to us that the program would have continuity for at least three months to help the community and identify children/ and adults, who needed more focused help.
§  We did substantial work through physical activities - an empowering intervention that matched the Haitian culture and the people’s perceptions and experiences they shared with us. The majority of those we interacted with said they were "feeling it in the body"- the fear, the stress, the memories from the quake. [Therefore, also working on improving physical well-being became a natural priority.?]
§  Consequently, using physical activity was a frame for the psycho-social program, and not a tool by itself. Although we knew that physical activity is an effective way to cope with stress, we knew that it could be much more useful in combination with other techniques.
Implementation into the psycho-social program
-          For the psycho-social program, we identified two areas – (1) religious beliefs and (2) physical stress - as the main important targets. We re-organized our psycho-social meetings accordingly:
1. The explanation of earthquakes was rebuilt as an international phenomenon that occur everywhere and in all religions.
2. We drew a map of the earth and provided scientific explanations for the occurrence of  earthquakes.
3. We used balls to explain the aftershocks.
4. We collaborated with the physicians to offer a detailed explanation of the physical symptoms they experienced, as individuals and as parents.
5. We explained how the stress may influence the children and the family.
6. We empowered the family and the community as the primary responders by talking on the situation and reflect that the community shares same "basket" of problems, and teaching stress coping mechanisms on several subjects:
- Sleeping problems.
- Physical calming by breathing, easy physical activities.
- Children in stress and how we can help them as family.
   and more.

We aimed at transferring "control" back to the people through information and education, and away from rumors. We did not argue with the perception of the "act of God", but we provided information and taught skills to help them gain active behavior for their own well-being.
The next steps were to train local community members to lead the psycho-social intervention and rebuild schools as core institutions for the children that would provide a safe place and give parents time for themselves to cope, work and start rebuilding their lives.
Concretely, we started looking for community members to replace us. We aimed at young educators or persons with therapeutic or community experience who knew English and were open [to learn?], so we could apply a two-directional learning process and would be able to give feedback to each other. We identified three community members and trained them, learned from them local games and songs and, after ten days, the mobilized groups took over and carried out the interventions with our guidance. 
After three weeks, we decided to open a school in our main IDP camp (Petion Ville- club). At the time, we were collaborating with the  local NGO, PRODEV, and the camp manager NGO- JP HERO, and agreed to open a school, which would also serve as  a first community rehabilitation point.
The school program was design together by an Haitian education expert and myself. We integrated the basic core subjects of the Haitian education system and our psycho-social program, art, music and sports. We developed a teacher’s training program and an administrative component.  We gradually enlarged the school, added classes and opened a community center. Between February and April 2010, PRODEV opened 12 schools and 8 kindergartens in different camps and neighborhoods. All staff members were Haitian, to whom we provided intensive training and guidance, as the main leaders and resilience builders of the school.

Based on our experience in Haiti, I suggest a time line of psycho-social intervention post-disaster that includes four main components:
1. Fast intervention to reduce post trauma and stress symptoms.
2. Reliance on local community members.
3. Adaptive program to local needs and culture.
4. Fast progression to the rehabilitation stage.

Suggested timelines:
Day 1-5 after the disaster- entering the field: starting working with the community, mainly the children on "first aid" small interventions.
Day 3-10: cultural assessment and adjusting of programs accordingly.
Day 10-20: program implementation, connecting to local organization/NGO and the start of training local community members
Day 25-30: the opening or delivery of knowledge to the education system and to professional therapeutic organizations.

The Haiti model taught us much about  the implementation of psycho-social interventions based on a cultural understanding of the affected local community, that we believe re transferable to other disasters. I believe that the perception of the local community is the key factor in rebuilding community resilience. I found that building trust in the community by working with different age groups, relying on community members, advising the community and having a sound exit strategy were key elements in effective coping and the overall successes of the program. In Haiti, the main intent was to shift the weight from outside forces to internal individual forces, but in other cultures the main focus might be different. Integrating psycho-social interventions in the educational system offers the parents a safe place for their children, gives the community a new local center, and is the catalyst for building community resilience. The strength of this approach was the building of the intervention "language" while understanding the real needs of the community by working with them daily, and transferring the leading to them.


Eldar, E. 2006. Educating through the physical- Procedures and implementation.
            International Journal of Behavioral and Consulting Therapy2(3): 399-415.

Hellison, D. 2004.  Teaching Responsibility through Physical Education. Human

Klingman, A. 1992. The contribution of mental health services to community- wide
emergency reorganization and management during the 1991 Gulf War. Social Psychology International, 13: 195-206.

Ley, C., & Rato Barrio, M. 2010. Movement, Games and Sport in Psychosocial
intervention: a Critical Discussion of it Potential and Limitations within Cooperation for Development. Intervention8(2): 106-120.

Siedentop, D. 1994.  Sport Education; Quality PE trough Positive Sport Experience.
            Human Kinetics.

Wolmer, l., Hamiel, S., & Laor, N. 2011. Preventing Children's Posttraumatic Stress
After Disasters with Teacher- Based Interventions: A Controlled Study. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry50(4): 340-348.

 About the Author (me):
B.A. in special Education
M.A. in Geography of Disaster Areas
M.A. in Anthropology
Project manager of education in emergencies, community emergency preparedness and response, and psycho- social intervention.
Haiti- January- October 2010 with FIRST & Israaid and PRODEV- project manager- psycho- social intervention and camp schools project.

Published in Sharon's Hebrew Blog- Flexibleducation 

All the posts and materials belongs to Sharon Michaeli- Ramon ©