SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.
Designing While Delivering
Build airplanes while flying them.
Interview with a Mystery Guest
Can you guess who she or he is?
Grab That Spoon! by Sharon L. Bowman, M.A.
A “Take-Five” game from The Ten-Minute Trainer.
After the training session.
Can you think logically?
Three Collections of Team Activities
Puzzles, playing cards, and large groups.
Obvious Facts About Training
Did you decipher last month's puzzle items?
A Crumby Day by Brian Remer
Little problems and big issues.
Check It Out
Sharon Bowman's Website ( http://www.bowperson.com )
Lots of practical advice.
Single Item Survey
Making Effective Decisions
Memorable pieces of advice.
SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
To increase and improve the use of interactive, experiential strategies to improve human performance in an effective, efficient, and enjoyable way.
Editor: Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan
Assistant Editor: Raja Thiagarajan
Associate Editor: Jean Reese
Contributing Editors: Brian Remer and Les Lauber
Editorial Advisory Board: Bill Wake, Matthew Richter, Samuel van den Bergh, and <type your name here>
The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2007 by The Thiagi Group. However, they may be freely reproduced for educational/training activities. There is no need to obtain special permission for such use as long as you do not reproduce more than 100 copies per year. Please include the following statement on all reproductions:
Reprinted from THIAGI GAMELETTER. Copyright © 2007 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.
For any other use of the content, please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) for permission.
All registered subscribers receive Thiagi GameLetter free of charge.
However, to prevent us from becoming bankrupt, we have decided to adopt a Busker Protocol. If you like what you read, if you find it useful, and if you'd like us to continue publishing the newsletter, please feel free to chip in with any financial contribution. Our estimated annual cost for this newsletter is $30,000. So we suggest an annual contribution of $30 (which is less than one-third the subscription cost of Thiagi's earlier paper-based newsletter). We would appreciate any amount that you send us, but make sure it is less than $30,000 (since we don't want to make a profit). You can mail your check to Thiagi, 4423 East Trailridge Road, Bloomington, IN 47408 or call us at (812) 332-1478 to charge the amount to a credit card. Or you can charge your credit card online, through The Thiagi Group, Inc. Please let us know if you need an invoice for financial record keeping.
Thiagi believes in practicing what he preaches. This is an interactive newsletter, so interact already! Send us your feedback, sarcastic remarks, and gratuitous advice through email to email@example.com . Thanks!
One of the items in my list of principles for faster, cheaper, and better design of training is to build airplanes while flying them.
Of course, this is an exaggerated metaphor that is mainly designed to attract your attention. A milder and more appropriate metaphor may be to lay railroad tracks while running trains on them.
Or perhaps a better explanation of the principle could be an actual example of its application. Here's something that happened in early 2000.
A client calls me and asks how long it would take to design a leadership training workshop for all employees of his high-tech corporation.
I say, “If all employees become leaders, then maybe there would be nobody left to follow them!”
The sarcasm is lost on the client. After some more conversation, I tell him that I'd run a pilot test of the new training package the next Monday. My client becomes skeptical and suspicious since it is Thursday afternoon now. But he agrees to assemble a group of participants for the pilot test on Monday.
To test his suspicion that a lot of content already exists in different places, I google leadership skills and find more than a million documents available. Next, I go to Amazon.com and find more than 75,000 books on the topic. I browse through the list and select 30 different titles (judging many of the books by their cover) and order them to be shipped overnight.
On the fateful Monday, I drag in three cartons of books and dump them in the middle of the workshop room. Without any preamble, I announce, “We are going to master powerful practical leadership principles and procedures. Here's what I want you to do: Each one of you grab a book from these piles. Choose any book you like. Later, if you don't like it, throw it back and pick a substitute. Then grab a highlighter. Sit down anywhere you want and speed-read the book. You have 20 minutes to discover six practical ideas that you can use tomorrow on your job. Highlight these six ideas. If you finish ahead of time, read some more and see if you can locate better ideas.”
After 20 minutes, I blow a whistle and ask everyone to find a partner. When everybody is paired up, here are the instructions I give:
“Take turns sharing your leadership ideas to each other. Share one idea at a time. When you are listening, practice all of your active listening skills. Lean forward, maintain eye contact, make enthusiastic noise, and take notes. You have another 20 minutes. If you finish sharing all 12 ideas before time's up, talk to your partner about how you plan to apply these ideas tomorrow.”
After 20 more minutes, I ask each pair of participants to join another pair. In each group of four, participants take turns to share ideas presented by their partners during the previous round. So in another 20 minutes each participant listens to 12 new ideas—in addition to the original 12 they shared during the previous round.
A few participants complain that some of the ideas are exactly the same. I say, “That's wonderful! This reinforces the validity of the ideas.”
Other participants complain that some ideas contradict each other. I say, “That's wonderful! You have discovered the concept of situational leadership. These ideas work effectively in some contexts and fail miserably in others.”
Twenty minutes later, I announce the final round: I ask each group of four to select the most practical idea and send a representative to the front of the room to explain it to everyone else.
Later I have participants discuss similarities and differences among these ideas. I conduct five other activities, all related to practical leadership principles that can be applied to authentic job-related situations.
For the participants, this event was a legitimate (although nontraditional) training session. They mastered a set of leadership principles that would work in their workplace context. They compared different principles, evaluated their usability, and selected the most useful ones. In explaining the principles to the others, they became more fluent with their potential applications.
For me, it was all a part of a training design process. Later that evening I went through the activities that I improvised, made some improvements, and wrote them up. A week later, I replaced the books that the participants took with them and conducted the workshop with a new group of participants. I improvised a little but tried to stick to the previous sequence as much as possible. Still later, I replicated the training a total of four times until I felt that things were getting predictable and the learning outcomes were consistent. Then I prepared a facilitator guide and trained a group of local facilitators to deliver the workshop.
This is just one example of building an airplane while flying it. This approach to concurrent training design works best under these circumstances:
There are other concurrent training design approaches that can be used in other situations (for example, when you don't have suitable books). We will explore them in future issues of TGL.
This column features interviews with outstanding designers and users of interactive experiential activities. This month's interview will be conducted a bit differently from others in the past. Our guest gamer will share some practical information that you can use in your own training. You will get some hints as to the identity of the person whom we are interviewing. Your challenge is to answer this question: Who is our mystery guest in this interview?
TGL: Let's begin with the end in mind: What will our newsletter readers take away from this interview with you?
Mystery Guest: First, here's a question for the TGL readers: Do you have time in a typical training session to include games that last anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes?
If you are like most trainers, your answer is probably “no.” However much you might want to include a fun review game, chances are you really don't have the time to do it. So you often settle for no game at all. Or you save the game for training that lasts longer than an hour or two.
During this interview, I will give samples of 60-second game ideas that the readers can use immediately in their own training.
TGL: Give us an example of a 60-second game.
Mystery Guest: Imagine that you are a training participant and you walk into the training room before the session begins. Instead of a title slide on the screen in front of the class, the slide reads: “Quick Start: Get ready to stand and ask as many people as you can what they already know about the topic. The person who has collected the most facts in one minute wins.” As soon as the majority of participants are in the room, remind them to read the slide and announce that the minute has begun. At the end of one minute, call time (use a noisemaker to get the participants' attention), and ask participants to raise their hands if they collected from 1-5 facts, 6-10 facts, or more than 10 facts. The participant with the most facts wins a round of applause or a training souvenir (toy or prize related to the training topic). Then ask participants to state some of the topic-related facts they heard. If time allows, you can repeat the Quick Start. You can also use this 60-second game as a one-minute review after a break, or as a closing activity.
TGL: So an important clue about your identity is that you create games that are about one minute in length?
Mystery Guest: Exactly. Although we know that games help learners move information into long-term memory—besides being just plain fun—we often have major time constraints that prohibit us from using games in training. But most of us can spare a minute or two to play a game. And most of us can insert a 60-second game here and there without deviating much from our training plan.
In the popular book The Ten-Minute Trainer, written by a very famous author, there are 140 one-minute strategies, as well as ten 5- to 10-minute games, with lots of variations, depending upon the time available. The sample one-minute games in this interview come from this book.
TGL: Can you give us another example of a 60-second game?
Mystery Guest: This review game is called Pop-Ups and the entire class is competing against the clock. A pop-up happens when a participant “pops up” out of his/her chair and shouts out a word or phrase related to the topic—something she has learned during the training.
One person is assigned to call the starting and ending time (60 seconds). Another is assigned to count the number of “pop-ups” in the group. The trainer states the number of pop-ups needed in order to “beat the clock” (usually around 25 or so is an appropriate number for 60 seconds). The basic rules are:
If the group beats the clock, a round of applause (or an extra few minutes earned for lunch or a break) is in order. If the group doesn't beat the clock, the trainer announces that a remedial pop-ups class will be offered after the training is over—just kidding!
TGL: If readers want to discover more variations to Pop-Ups, or other one-minute games, where would they go to get the information?
Mystery Guest: Besides my book The Ten-Minute Trainer and Thiagi's books and website, they can also log onto my website at http://www.bowperson.com, and download the free article titled 60-Second Pop-Ups. There are over three dozen free articles on the website, many with short, quick training games and activities.
TGL: Ah, you have given readers some hints as to who you are. It shouldn't be difficult for them to guess now. How about one more 60-second game?
Mystery Guest: I believe Thiagi calls this Rapid Response and I call it a Shout Out. It's cooperative rather than competitive, with the entire class having to come up with a certain number of facts about the topic. The trainer asks for a number from the group (between 1-10; between 10-20; and the like). Then the trainer says, “We need to shout out seven facts we already know about the topic” or “We need to state 15 facts we have learned so far about the topic” or “Give me 12 facts you know now that you didn't know before.” Various volunteers state the facts until the number is reached. If the participants can't reach the number specified, the trainer adds the other facts to the ones stated. Or the trainer adds additional facts that weren't mentioned. The Shout Out usually lasts about a minute or less.
TGL: Any final thoughts on playing 60-second games?
Mystery Guest: Yes, two thoughts. First, keep the emphasis on the learning and let the minute flow into two or three minutes, if the game is going well and everyone is involved in the learning. Second, cooperative games (in which everyone takes part and in which more than one person or group can “win”) usually create more long-term learning for all learners, rather than competitive games, which often create learning for just a few highly-competitive souls. With 60-second games, everyone gets a chance to play, and to win!
Well now, there you have it—three samples of 60-second games you can use in your own training programs, some hints about our mystery guest. Here are a few more facts about our guest:
What is the name of our mystery guest?
Did you guess the correct name? If so, bravo for you!
Want a 5-minute game that takes no preparation beforehand? Want a game that engages learners in a fun yet memorable way, without a lot of time wasted in setting it up? Want a game that helps learners review information they heard, that increases retention, and that can be played a number of different ways?
Enter Grab that Spoon! It's a quick, five-minute game with a dash of friendly competition. It's a game in which everyone participates regardless of the size of the group (5 or 500, it still works!). It's a game that allows the learners to generate the review information, to participate in it, and to discuss their own understanding of the material learned. In other words, it's a game in which the participants learn a lot in a little time!
Here are the instructions for the game followed by a number of variations. Feel free to experiment with the game until it works easily for you and your learners.
Learners sit in groups of 4 to 6 people, either at tables or clustered together in chairs.
1. Each learner writes a review question and answer on a 3x5" index card. She also writes a point value for the question on the card (points between 1-5; 1 = easy question; 5 = difficult question).
2. One spoon is placed where each learner in the group can reach it (in the middle of the table, in the middle of the group on someone's knee, binder, or on the floor, etc.)
3. One person volunteers to be the first reader. The reader may not grab the spoon.
4. The reader reads aloud her question. The first group member to grab the spoon answers the question. If correct, the answerer gets those points. If incorrect, the answerer loses those points or stays at zero points.
5. Group members take turns being the reader and reading their question cards.
6. All groups play the game for 5 minutes (or longer, if time permits). At the end of the time limit, each person adds up her points. The person with the most points wins applause and high-fives from the group. Or there can be small token prizes.
1. Play the game using an object related to the training—something easy to grab that also has to do with the training topic or theme. Examples: Grab That Mouse for a computer class, Grab That Ear (with plastic ears) for a communication course, Grab That Key for keys to customer service, Grab That Number with dice for financial training, and Grab That Whistle for safety training. You can use items found in your home or office. You can also purchase small, inexpensive, training-related items from Kipp Brothers http://www.kippbro.com/ or Oriental Trading Company http://www.orientaltrading.com/. Get their free catalogs and spend a few minutes looking for possible game items and token prizes.
2. Give each learner 2 to 4 index cards. At different times during the training, have them write on each card a new question and answer pertaining to what they just learned. Then, as an overall review, allow about 10 minutes near the end of the training to play the game.
3. Play one round (one question asked and answered) at a time and spaced throughout the training to make the game a short, high-energy, ongoing break from the lecture.
4. Instead of points, learners can play for chips or other small tokens. Each group gets a small pile of chips or tokens to use for the game. Or they can play for a card from a card deck and the person with the best poker hand at the end of the game wins.
5. If you, as the trainer, want to do the work, you can make up the questions and print them out, one set per group. Then each group plays the game with your questions and answers.
6. If you have time and choose to debrief the game afterwards, you can ask open-ended questions like:
Final Thoughts: A game is only as useful as its purpose and its content. As an activity that reviews crucial information in a quick, relevant, high-energy way that involves all learners, Grab that Spoon! fits the bowl, uh, bill. Use it and enjoy watching your learners take an active part in their own learning.
Grab that Spoon! is excerpted from Sharon Bowman's newest book The Ten-Minute Trainer! 150 Ways to Teach it Quick and Make It Stick, published by Pfeiffer Co., a division of John Wiley & Sons, and reprinted with permission.
Sharon L. Bowman M.A., helps educators and business people “teach it quick and make it stick,”—fine-tuning their information-delivery skills and turning their passive listeners into active learners. Sharon is also the president of Bowperson Publishing & Training, Inc., professional member of The National Speakers Association (NSA), and member of The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD). Over 60,000 copies of her popular training books are already in print. Look for her newest book The Ten-Minute Trainer, published by Pfeiffer Co., a division of John Wiley & Sons, on Amazon.com.
Here's an adaptation of the Best Answers framegame to provide a useful and memorable closing activity.
To review key ideas from a training session.
Maximum: Any number
Best: 10 to 30
15 to 30 minutes, depending on the number of participants
Pause for summaries. Distribute blank index cards to each participant. Ask participants to write down a piece of advice related to the training topic in a phrase or a short sentence. Instruct participants to make the statement clear and memorable by creating a slogan, a jingle, a humorous one-liner, or an oxymoron. Announce a suitable time limit. At the end of this time, ask participants to stop writing. Ask them to write a four-digit identification number on the other side of the card. Participants should remember this number so they can identify their card later.
Form teams. Organize participants in teams of three to seven members each. Seat each team around a table. Ask someone at each team to collect the advice cards from team members and shuffle the packet of cards.
Exchange and evaluate. Give the packet of advice cards from the first team to second one, from the second team to the third one, and so on, giving the cards from the last team to the first one. Ask members of each team to collaboratively review the pieces of advice and select the top two memorable ones. Announce a suitable time limit.
Conclude the evaluation activity. At the end of the allotted time, ask each team to read the two pieces of advice that were rated as the most memorable. After all teams read the two cards, ask each time to read the identification numbers on the back of the card. Ask these participants to stand up and lead a round of applause.
Conduct a recall test. Now ask participants to quickly write down as many of these memorable pieces of advice as they can on a piece of paper. Identify and congratulate the participant who recalled the most items.
Follow up. Collect all the advice cards. Post the top items on a website or prepare posters for use with future groups.
At the end of a recent workshop on decisionmaking, these pieces of advice were selected as the most memorable:
Do you have a better piece of decisionmaking advice? Send it to me as part of this issue's single-item survey.
A logic puzzle presents a story and gives you a set of clues. The story identifies three or more factors (such as a list of names, list of job titles, and salaries)—without matching the factors with each other. For example, you don't know which name goes with which job title and receives which salary. Your task is to match the factors. To help you in the task, you are given a set of clues. You have to extract all possible information from these clues, make logical inferences, and solve the problem. Although the list of clues in a logic puzzle may appear to be insufficient, it contains all the necessary information to provide a unique solution.
Andy, Bob, Cathy, Diane, and Esther are the five members of the conference committee. They met yesterday to review their progress. Committee members took turns to give a progress report on the task assigned to each of them (hotel arrangements, conference program, refreshment breaks, publicity, and registration). Using the information given below, find out who made the report on which task. Also find out the sequence in which these reports were made. Use the following table to present the solution:
Take some time to solve the puzzle before continuing to read. The clues provide all of the information you need.
The important requirement for solving logic puzzles is common sense and attention to detail. Different people solve logic puzzles different ways. My friend Fran (who introduced me to logic puzzles), seems to take one look at the clues and come up with the answer. My associate Raja, a computer programmer, mutters about the satisfiability problem, writes down brackets with one-letter symbols for each of the factors, mumbles to himself, moves the brackets around, and ends up with the solution. Another friend, Barbara Blakeslee, describes her method:
I made three lists on a single page…one with the names, one with the tasks, and one (numbered 1-5) where I filled in the relevant facts that were given (i.e., who went first, which task came third, etc.). In the margin, I wrote the other known facts that couldn't be put next to a number just yet (i.e., who went directly after whom), and a couple of if-then connections that were immediately apparent. With this in front of me, it only took about 2 minutes to fill out the whole thing by the process of elimination. Then I double-checked my work by testing my list against the 7 clues you provided.
The key to solving logic puzzle is to extract as much useful information as possible from each clue and to systematically deduce more information through logical deduction.
Most solvers use a crosshatch grid to help them in the logical process. I have a created a crosshatch grid below. (You may want to print out the PDF version [16,185 bytes] for your use.)
As you can see there are three areas in the grid that match all three variables (sequence, presenter, and task) with each other.
Let me walk you through the first couple of steps in the solution process to demonstrate how to use the grid:
Carefully review each clue and enter the information in this grid, using “N” to indicate a definite “no” and “Y” to indicate a definite “yes”.
The first clue says, “Andy did not make the fifth report.”
I enter this information by placing an “N” at the intersection of Andy and Fifth.
The second clue says, “The fifth report is about registration.”
So I place a “Y” at the intersection of Fifth and Registration.
This is how I enter my deductions in the area that relates tasks with the sequence: Because each presentation involves a single task, I place Ns for all other tasks for the fifth presentation and Ns for all other sequence numbers (first, second, and so on) for the task of registration.
The general principle is that whenever you place a Y anywhere in an area, place Ns in all other boxes in the same vertical line and horizontal line within that area.
You are on your own now. Here are some reminders and additional suggestions:
One of my clients complains that there are too many training workshops about creative thinking and too few about logical thinking. And she is right. You can use logic puzzles in a training session on logical thinking which is the basis of any type of data analysis. For example, I use a logic puzzle involving five different customers with five different complaints about five different products in a workshop on customer satisfaction. The major learning point from this exercise is that it is not the quantity of data that you collect but the quality of analysis that contributes to the effective use of data.
Here are some other situations where I use logic puzzles:
To emphasize individual differences. Participants discover that different people solve these puzzles in different ways and there is no single best way to solve them.
To explore teamwork. Because of individual differences, it is difficult for a team to agree on a standard procedure to solve logic puzzles. However, once a team invests time and effort to get itself organized, it can solve the puzzle faster and more accurately because different team members notice different things and use different approaches.
To emphasize the importance of communication. After solving the logic puzzle, I ask participants to explain their solution to the others. Everyone soon discovers that there is a big difference between knowing the answer and communicating it to others. Effective communication requires you to focus not only on the task but also on the needs and preferences of other people.
To introduce the concept of job aids. I train participants to use the solution grid and let them experience its effectiveness in keeping track of details and presenting information in a graphic form. We then design worksheets and decision tables to help us in job-related activities.
The authors (who are all experienced facilitators) explain how puzzle-based team activities provide opportunities for problem solving, decision making, consensus building, goal setting, working with limited resources, handling diversity, inclusion, giving directions, following guidelines and rules, dealing with change, clear communication, and many other skills and principles that are valuable in all types of teamwork. Most of the 100 puzzles in this book require no special supplies or only simple items such as paper and pencil, matchsticks, or rope. A few of the puzzles require some equipment. Instructions for conducting each activity highlight the teachable moments.
Sample practical suggestion from the book: Require everyone in the team (rather than an individual member) to demonstrate the solution to the puzzle.
Note: You can order a copy of this book from this web page. (We do not get a commission on this book.)
To order a book from Amazon, click its cover art below. We receive a small commission if you do this.
Michelle Cummings comes from the adventure-based learning approach. This book, however, contains a collection of games that can be played with a regular deck of playing cards. As Michelle explains, the games engage players in classifying, ordering, reasoning, deducing, and problem solving. The games included in the book deal with such topics as diversity, problem solving, trust, and processing. Each game is clearly explained and tagged with one or more of the seven multiple intelligences.
Sample practical suggestion from the book: In giving directions for activities, use the phrase, “In a minute but not yet….” This lets groups know that they have to listen carefully to the next set of instructions.
I believe that large groups are more effective than smaller ones when it comes to learning from experiential activities. The authors of this book share this belief. As they say, “The sound of 10 players laughing, when increased to 100 players laughing, creates a level of enjoyment and connection that engages people's attention and emotions in a compelling way.” In addition to detailed directions for conducting 100 large group activities, the book contains several practical sections dealing with strategies for facilitating large groups. Bernie Dekoven calls this book “a surprisingly complete guide to managing mayhem”. I agree.
Sample practical tip from the book: If you have a large group, divide it into smaller groups. Set up different play stations, each featuring a specific game. Send each group to a different station and have them play until the bell rings. Then have groups rotate to the next station.
Bob's report was about the hotel arrangements.
This is how we came to this conclusion: Bob gave the first report (clue 6) and it was not about publicity (clue 7). Bob's report was not about registration because that was the topic of the fifth report (clue 2). Bob's report was not about refreshment breaks because Esther gave this report (clue 4). Bob's report was not about the conference program because that was the topic of the third report (clue 5).
We withheld the solution to the September Cryptic Cluster puzzle that required you to decipher 10 obvious facts related to training.
Here's the solution:
Here are the four readers who were the earliest ones to email us the solution:
Brian Remer is Creative Learning Director at The Firefly Group ( firstname.lastname@example.org ). In addition to writing 99 powerful words every month for this column, Brian invents games and interactive strategies to expand learning and deepen insights.
A casual, “Hello,” to Carol got me an earful! The day was still new but she was already out of sorts. “I hope it gets better because it's lousy so far!” She explained that her husband had left crumbs all over the stove simply because they were left from a mess he hadn't made. “I don't need another irresponsible child in the house,” she declared.
How sad to let a few crumbs spoil your whole day! But that happens when we don't realize that a little problem is really a metaphor for a much bigger issue.
Did you enjoy this month's Guest Gamer Interview? Did you enjoy the game, Grab that Spoon? If you did, you will enjoy Sharon Bowman's content-filled website.
To me, the most useful section of the website is Sharon's Awesome Articles. This treasure trove of articles is full of practical tips. I counted 33 different articles. Here are the titles of some of the articles:
Another useful section in Sharon's website is Try This! This section contains practical responses to several common questions from trainers and teachers.
A few months ago, we introduced the concept of single item surveys. Read more about this approach in the February 2007 issue of TGL.
Can you come up with a piece of advice for making effective decisions? Keep it brief: a phrase or a short sentence. Make your advice memorable by creating a slogan, a jingle, a humorous one-liner, or an oxymoron.
Here's the single item survey question for this month:
What is a good piece of advice for making effective decisions?
Here are a few responses generated by participants at the end of a training workshop on decisionmaking:
To contribute your response to this question, visit this survey page (opens in a new window) and type your short answer.
Along with your contribution, you may include your name or keep your response anonymous.