Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Go To Move #7: Balak Generated Sabha

The following Go To Move was from a fellow Sabhaologist. (If you have a Go To Move, let us know and we will post it).

Much like user generated content, I think of Balak Generated Sabhas as a way to capture the attention of balaks by having them express their thoughts/ideas/imagination through some medium about the topic being discussed (one of the reasons why I think why social sharing sites - YouTube/Facebook - are sticky).

Of course, this idea doesn't mean we tell a balak to explain to us why they think the 16 Hindu Samskaras are important or to tell us what happens when Bhaktimata was afraid of ghosts in the well at night time.

What this means is that we come up with ways in which topics stick to balaks because they get a sense of authorship while the topic is presented.

For example, during the Summer Challenge in bal 1 sabha, we went outdoors to an empty area of the parking lot.  As the balaks sat outside, we told them two stories. The first story was describing the atmosphere when Ghanshyam Maharaj was born, then all the balaks were given chalk to draw the story outside:

After they finished, the balaks were told the second story of the ghost well, Bhaktimata and Ghanshyam -- that too the balaks illustrated with chalk.  From both stories, the balaks learnt that Ghanshyam Maharaj is forever with us, and so we should never be scared of anything and always be brave.

Another example is what we did in bal 3 sabha this past weekend.  The balaks learned about the 16 Hindu Samskaras.  The analogy of a treasure hunt was used to describe the 16 Hindu rituals as described by the munis for purity and sanctity of the human life as spoken by Bhagwan.  There was a treasure map drawn on the white board with the signs and symbol representing the 16 Hindu Samskaras:

As a quick shakeup activity and to get the balaks thinking about the 16 Hindu Samskaras, balaks volunteered to come up with a story in groups and connected the various drawings representing the Samskaras.

Afterwards, we reviewed the Samskaras and what they represent in our lives and drew parallels with Ghanshyam Maharaj's prasangs.  In conclusion, we got to the 16th Samskara and realized that we're lucky to have found our treasure from the beginning in the form of Maharaj and Swami, and all that we need to do is please Pramukh Swami Maharaj to attain moksh.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Positive Life

This week we have a presentation on Positive Thinking. Depending on our Balika/Bal Mandal the little train that could maybe an example that will not resonate. They have heard it many times, they may feel like you are talking down to them, they may get restless with the repetitive nature of the story.

We can try and punch of the story through different storytelling techniques some examples:

  • Every time the engine feels like giving up, have all the kids shout words of encouragement.
  • Have the kids clap or stomp to the I-think-I-can beat
  • Change the story point of view from an omniscient narrator to maybe someone riding the train
Also parts of these seemed pertinent depending on the age of your kids

Friday, September 16, 2011

The video bane

You got your presentation two weeks ago, thought about it and synthesized a great simple message you want to share with your sabha. You listened to some katha and read some books and found some great prasangs you can tell as stories that provide concrete and credible evidence to highlight your simple message. You practiced saying these stories with feeling so it is engaging and emotional. Now it's the Friday before you have to present on Sunday you have everything you need from the Made to Stick model (SUCCES) except the dreaded U - nothing unexpected. If this Sunday you start kishori sabha by saying, "Today we will be talking about seva." or start bal 3 by saying, "The definition of punya is xxxx," then Houston we have a problem. Starting off without something unexpected will cause us to lose our audience, our sabha, before it even starts. They will start thinking about the Walkathon or what they are going to eat for dinner instead of seva and punya. So what do we do? We need an unexpected.

Unexpected Idea 
If you are in this boat, then all of us at Sabha.ology want to congratulate you and we would really want to sit in a sabha where a presenter went through all this. It is going to be great sabha. You just need the missing piece. The thing is the answer to what most people do now sometimes may not work. We found (in a very unscientific, but still pretty interesting survey of presenters) that most people in this situation will turn to the Internet to find a video. A video that is within maryada, but a video none the less. There is nothing wrong with this but a video (or sometimes erroneously called a bang presentation - a topic for another post) may not always be the answers.

If in every sabha everyone were to begin their presentation with a video, then after a few weeks this would not be very unexpected. Everyone knows that a video is coming.

Also it is idea that needs to be unexpected. Initially just the act of showing a video - since we usually do not show it - causes everyone to wake up and say, "Wow this is new." However after the novelty of the showing the video wears off, then we are just left with the idea that the is in the video. That idea has to stand on it's own legs to be unexpected.

Now, if you see a video with an unexpected idea that you can put to great use in a presentation, then by all means use that idea. However, how you present the idea (a video or drawing on an iPad or saying a story) really depends on your situation and can help make an idea even more unexpected. It is still the idea that is important. In fact you can find these unexpected ideas everywhere - books, talking to people, etc. Starting with a bang or starting with something unexpected involves starting with an idea that nobody is expecting. So with the Kishori./Kishore presentation on seva for this week, starting with a prasang of Bapa cleaning the bathroom after the Gurujayanti samaiyo would not be very unexpected. The MC has introduced that you are going to talk about seva (maybe seva and Shastriji Maharaj), so everyone is expecting something about seva, related to the Mandir. The key is to find an idea, any idea that will support you simple message regarding seva (iK) or punya (B3).

Lies my Teacher Told Me
Lies my teacher told me.jpgHow did Newton discover gravity? (Apple fell on his head, and he had an epiphany.)

What did Washington do after chopping down the cherry tree? (Told his parents he could not lie)

What are the primary colors? (Red, Yellow, Blue)

Each of the three questions above are things that people believe since most people say they were taught this either in school or by parents. It turns out that all three of these things are not true.

Newton was never hit by an apple, nor did a falling apple lead to him "discovering" gravity.

Washington never chopped down a cherry tree. After his death his biographer made up this story to exemplify his honesty.

And finally the subtractive primary colors are red, blue, and green (look at a video projector) and the additive primary colors are magenta, cyan, and yellow.

The idea: each of these things are something we believe without question, but upon further analysis we realize that we may not know this exactly.

Applied to Kishori/Kishore Shastriji Maharaj's Seva Presentation
The topic starts out by defining seva and looking at why we do seva and how to do it perfectly. In the same way that we think we knew the "facts" above about Newton, Washington, and colors, we may feel we know the facts about seva. Start with an unexpected. Ask these questions and have audience members stand up if they think it is false. Or make up multiple choice questions and have audience stand up for each answer. Drop the shoe by saying that each of those were false and that we believe we know certain things that maybe we do not. In the same way we believe that cleaning bathrooms is seva and anybody can do it. (or even add that as one of the questions) it turns out that this is not the case. Cleaning the bathrooms is only seva if we do it for the right reasons. Also not everyone gets the opportunity to clean the Mandir bathrooms - look at how many people drive by our Mandirs and never even go in. Now you are on your way. The sabha is awake and listening to your talk on seva.

Applied to Balika/Bal -3 Punya Presentation
Same idea and same process as above. This time add the question what is Karma? Now we can explain that sometimes we are confident we know some facts, but we can always add to our knowledge. In fact Newton  was never hit with an apple, Washington never chopped down a cherry tree,  magenta, cyan, and yellow are the primary colors, and there are really three types of Karma.

Or you can show a video

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Seven Speaking Tips That Beat “Pretend Your Audience Is Naked"

While reading Psychology Today, one of our fellow Sabhaologists passed us this article, and just while we had said before that the three S's resurface again and again in all these articles, we also gain a better understanding of speaking mechanics.

This article notes seven principles that we've explored below.
People love stories. Children plea for them at night, and adults crave them, too. Stories make us wonder; we want to know what happens next, which keeps us engaged, even enthralled. 
fiveYep: simple/shakeup/stories, and from last week's post, we know this principle all too well.
People don't want to be impressed.  They want to be respected.  Rookie speakers feel tempted to impress an audience, assuming that this will make their ideas sound impressive, too. But if your words or actions suggest "I am better than you," people won't care what you say...
Don't try to impress them. Try to touch them.

Speaking is all about humbling ourselves to the audience.
People care if. If you truly want to help your listeners--by informing or motivating them, or improving their lives--they will care and listen. But they will care only if you do. 
This recalls a favorite tip: "If you really care, notify your face."
When we feel connected with our concepts, our sentiments show through. Thus, we need to take the time to design our stories/shakeup/stories.
Your eyes mean everything. We mistrust people who won't look us in the eyes--even if our eyes are among over 200 sets in a room. We regard peoples' eyes as windows to their souls, and it's from our eyes that people assess us. 
If you look each person in the eye for a few seconds, you make each person feel important--a feeling that every person craves.  It also makes each audience member feel involved; it makes your presentation feel like a conversation rather than a recitation. 
For this reason, minimize visual aids.  They break eye contact and make it appear that you are talking to the screen and not to your listeners.
Wow, minimizing visual aids strikes at the power of Powerpoint, but sometimes, a well delivered presentation doesn't need a Powerpoint. Think supercharged storytelling.
Preparation matters.  But not for the reason you suspect. Preparation does more than make a presentation appear polished--and a too-polished presentation actually can feel inauthentic, even souless. If you've spent hours learning about the people to whom you are speaking, you will communicate the most compelling message you can deliver to a person: You are important to me. 
This principle goes without saying - again be humble.
If it's worth saying, it bears repeating. The old rule--"Tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them"--reflects the limitations of our memories. Plus researchers have shown repeatedly that people are more apt to believe something they hear more than once--even if they hear it from the same person, and even if they question that person's credibility.
We call this the simple statement, the core of our presentation that we hope to impart to our audience.
People love music. An outstanding speech is musical; it ebbs and flows, hits a variety of notes, and makes beautiful use of pauses and silence. Just as in humor, speaking's key ingredient is timing. 
Allow some gaps between your notes.
Going back to stories, remember to own the story. When we experienced the world for the first time as toddlers, we couldn't stop talking about how green the grass was or how fast the ants moved. Infuse that energy in your presentations to make an impact.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Balika/Bal Mandal Go To Move #6: The Lawn Mower

Sabha is about to start. The kids have quieted down. You are ready with the Jay Naad and Stuti. But wait! The kids are not sitting in rows. What do you do?

Think back and ask yourself what you have done in the past. When we did this we remembered that many times this is the where we started to go down hill in sabha. In the sense that an over reaction (yell or harangue the kids to sit in a straight line, "I have been telling you guys for the last 3 weeks and you still cannot sit in a straight line") can lead to sabha starting off on a bad footing and we then have to work extra hard to get it back to being a calm and positive experience. If we under react (ignore it) then this can lead to a gradual degradation over time as kids jostle each other. Our default position was to just sit there quietly until the kids figured it out themselves. This took some time and the kids were the ones snapping at each other - to us it really seemed like more of a push than a score. So we are introducing a "Go To" move to get the kids in rows (and columns) or whatever pattern you want. The Lawn Mower.

The simple idea is that you tell the kids that you are a lawn mower and they have to make sure they do not get clipped by the lawn mower. So they have to move while you walk up and down and left and right in rows. They have to keep their hands folded (otherwise it might get clipped by the lawn mower).

This can be extended to almost anything. One day lawn mower, the next week train, if you live up north you could be the zamboni (ask a Canadian if you don't know), or maybe a float in a parade. You can use props - take a broom with you and sweep a path or take a nerf ball and roll it down the columns and across the rows.

This can even extend into sabha. Try to tie what you are using to clear the path with a prasang or idea in sabha. For example an easy one from the list above would be to take the broom and sweeping a row and tie it to Sagram Vagri and his wife cleaning a path for Maharaj. Take this week in Bal/Balika 1 we have the story of Eklavya - you can either pretend to be a dog barking up and down the rows, or have one of the kids be a dog that barks up and down the rows, or grab a toy dog and move him up and down the rows - then relate this back to the story of how Eklavya also encountered a dog who he made stop barking without harming him. A perfect teaser to get everyone ready for the sabha ahead.

This idea comes from a clever Sabha.ologist and former Bal mandal karyakar who will in six years be PhinisheD. Thanks. We have not tried this before, but we will try it this week. If you try it as always let us kow how it turned out.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Animation Fun

We are not really sure how to categorize this, some ideas are here. It will put a smile on your face.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Circle of Life

This week in Bal/Balika Group 2  Sabha the presentation is based on the ten avatars of Vishnu and introduces the idea of the circle of life (creation, sustenance, and destruction). We are thinking of using geometry to shake things up - yes geometry. We thought that a good way to grab attention and talk about the circle of life would be to introduce some calculus for kids - the very simple notion that a circle is made up of an infinite number of sides. It may seem like this is really complex for Bal/Balika 2, but we have found kids do not really know what is and is not too complex for them and really get into neat ideas when presented in a form of a great story.

Here we go.

The simple idea is that if you start with a triangle (the most basic polygon) and keep adding sides you get different shapes. Now if you add lots and lots of sides you get something that looks really close to a circle. However only when you add an infinite number of sides, you get a circle.

This can be a game or interactive. Use the picture above, start with the triangle and ask what shape it is and what happens if you add just one more side. When you get to the decagon, ask what happens if we keep doing this?
Use the pictures above to drive home the point that you have to keep adding sides forever to get a circle. Now it is easy to link this to Brahm, Vishnu, and Mahesh. Three corners of a triangle that keep on creating, sustaining, and destroying - forever - to create the circle of life. This can lead to the idea that Maharaj actually is above the circle of life overseeing the whole process. 

Let us know what you think and if you wind up using this let us know how the kids take to it.