July’s Summer Success Summit at Shady Oak included the subtitle “formula for a happy, motivated child.” I have frequently taught high school students a similar program on the secrets of achievement, but this year I thought, “Why make kids wait until high school to learn principles they would need all through life?” So this summer I brought the training to late-elementary and middle-school students.
I also wanted to incorporate a hands-on project to instill the principles through practical application, while providing an opportunity for fun learning. Since the love of stories knows no minimum age—and kids this age are highly vulnerable to “everyone knows more than I do” anxieties—I decided to have them create a book as a group project, a book that would give them the opportunity to share their knowledge with others.
The students loved the idea. We started with two questions:
- What do successful people think?
- What do successful people do?
I wrote down every answer the kids gave. Each day thereafter, I taught a new concept and had everyone share more ideas to incorporate into the book. The students quickly took charge and came up with fifteen success strategies:
- Practice, practice, practice to achieve your dreams
- Be open-minded and think outside the box
- Believe in your own ideas
- Be patient, stay focused, and use your time wisely
- Stay healthy
- Surround yourself with positive people
- Set clear goals and make clear plans for moving toward them
- Let your mind wander and appreciate where it takes you
- Take risks—that’s the only way you’ll find opportunities
- What you think about, you bring about
- Know your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses
- Ask for help when you need it
- Remember, enthusiasm and passion are the keys to success
- Work smarter, not harder. Whatever you do well, do lots of it
- Help others get what they want, which is also the best way to ensure you get what you need. Always be a team player
With the outline complete, students divided into four teams based on individual strengths: Writers, illustrators, layout editors, and final editors / publishers.
Meanwhile, I researched professional self-publishing services to find one that would meet our needs. Lulu.com got the job after the CEO sent a personal response to my LinkedIn inquiry. From the beginning, Lulu was 100 percent behind the project and always ready to support us.
Back at Success Summit, our writers put each concept into an 18 to 36-word summary. One example:
Be enthusiastic and passionate, they are the keys to success. Focus on your goal. You have to want it more than anything because success doesn’t just happen.
After that stage was finished, the whole group reviewed the content and brainstormed illustration ideas for each concept. The illustration team then planned and sketched pictures for each concept and the title page. The resulting pages were distributed among the entire group for coloring.
The completed illustrations and text for the pages were passed to the layout-editing team, who created mock-ups for the final pages by sizing and arranging pictures and wording. They ordered the pages and prepared a collection of contributor bios that were entered into a computer along with the page images.
Lastly, the final editors reviewed the manuscript and wrote up a publishing plan including desired book size, paper type, and cover designs; and uploaded it to our “end publishers” at Lulu.
All the kids who completed Success Summit are convinced they are great writers and are ready to continue authoring books. Who knows how many of their names will appear on bookstore shelves over the next twenty years?
What books could your students write as they develop new ideas from your curriculum?
About the Author
Debbie Elder co-authored the 2013 best seller Against the Grain. She followed this in 2014 with the bestselling Share Your Message with the World. Over the course of her career she has developed courses for teaching behavior management techniques for classrooms and corporate employees as well as courses to teach life skills students need for success. Upon urging from her student’s parents she opened a school for 6th to 12th graders which eventually lead to the opening of 15 additional schools nationwide. Debbie recently returned to her passion and is now working with elementary students at her school Shady Oak Primary, located in Richmond, Texas. For more information about her after school program, see Set Them Up for Success – The Homework Hangout.
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