Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.

On The Web
Let's join them!

Tool Kit
More about Framegames
Another way of classifying framegames.

Featured Activity
Solve six problems with the help of some friends.

Guest Gamer
Interview with Patti Shank
Social interaction and online learning?

A CHUNKS puzzle with a twist.

Book Review
How To Turn Listeners Into Learners
Sharon Bowman's latest book.

Interactive Lecture
TAKE A GUESS by Sharon Bowman
An instructional investment of 3 minutes.

Interactive HANGMAN
It's Oscar time again!

Contest Results
Thank God I'm An Atheist
And other funny one-liners.

The Fourth Round
Do you have a twisted mind?

Pithy Saying
Can and Can't
Truth is funny.





To increase and improve the use of interactive, experiential strategies to improve human performance in an effective, efficient, and enjoyable way.

Editorial Roster

Editor: Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan

Assistant Editors: Raja Thiagarajan and Les Lauber

Managing Editor: Brenda Mullin

Editorial Advisory Board: Andrew Kimball, David Gouthro, Diane Dormant, Julie England, Kat Koppett, Matt Richter, Steve Sugar, and <type your name here>

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2002 by Workshops by Thiagi, Inc. 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 PLAY FOR PERFORMANCE. Copyright © 2002 by Workshops by Thiagi, Inc.

For any other use of the content, please contact us ( for permission.

Subscription Info

All registered subscribers receive PLAY FOR PERFORMANCE 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 Workshops by Thiagi, Inc. Please let us know if you need an invoice for financial record keeping.

Feedback Request

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 . Thanks!


On The Web

I have been a trainer, facilitator, teacher, and story teller all my life, ever since I was 7 years old.

This is the one important lesson that I learned during my six decades of work as a facilitator:

Learning is a social process. You need to interact with other human beings in order to learn efficiently, effectively, and enjoyably. As a trainer or a facilitator, you must require and encourage people-to-people interaction among participants.

My preferred learning environment is a face-to-face classroom. However, I have worked with mediated instructional materials of different kinds: print, audiovisual slide sets, video, and computers. With all of these media, I have incorporated people-to-people interaction. Even my “self-instructional” programmed materials were designed to be used by a team of learners rather than by individuals.

I did my first computer-based training program in 1969, using a teletype terminal and punched paper tape. The topic was a magic trick. My latest project involves designing a web-based playground to accompany technical training.

We are all migrating to the web. Even if we discount half the hype, there are many compelling reasons why managers, trainers, and participants will increasingly use online learning. Our learners from the Nintendo generation will have no problem embracing the new mode of learning. Decisionmakers are persuaded by spurious economic arguments to jump on the online learning bandwagon. As trainers and facilitators, we are caught in the middle. We cannot fight the trend.

Actually, I am excited about going online. Here are the reasons for my excitement and optimism:

Let's join the revolution and demonstrate that true interaction goes beyond moving the mouse around.

Tool Kit

More about Framegames

In last month's PFP, we explored framegames that provide templates for instant creation of training games. We also discussed seven different types of framegames classified according to the source of learning content:

Framegame Type Type of Content
Structured Sharing Participants
Read.Me Games Documents
Interactive Lectures Presentations
Webquests Web sites
Assessment-Based Learning Activities Survey instruments
Video Vitamins Videotapes
Debriefing Games Experiential activities

Two More Types of Framegames

Creativity techniques are structured sharing activities that enables participants to solve a problem or to utilize an opportunity in an innovative fashion.

The traditional BRAINSTORMING technique, for example, can enhance a training session by focusing on the application of newly acquired skills and knowledge.

Item Processing framegames are games in which the content presented as an unorganized collection of short pieces of information (such as ideas, facts, questions, complaints, suggestions, or tips). In item processing framegames, participants organize the items into meaningful categories or logical sequences.

In an item-processing framegame called IDEA FILTER, for example, different participants are given different pages of a handout, each containing 7-10 different items in random order. During the first round of the game, participants individually select two best items on their page. During the second round, participants with the same page organize themselves into a team and reach consensus on the two best items. During the third round, participants with different pages form teams and select the top three ideas across these pages.

Another Approach for Classifying Framegames

We can also classify framegames on the basis of game formats and materials used. Here are some types of framegames based on this classification system, each with an example:

Board Games. These games borrow structures and play materials from popular recreational games to create highly motivating training events. Board games typically use cards and dice to encourage individuals and teams to demonstrate their mastery of concepts, principles, skills, and problem-solving strategies.

INSTRUCTIONAL PARCHISI is a board game modified for training purposes. Each player has two pieces that begin at the player's home base. Three decks of question cards are also used in this game: the first deck has 1-point questions, the second deck has 2-point questions, and the last deck has 3-point questions. When it is your turn, you draw 2 cards from your choice of decks. If you answer the questions correctly, you move one of your pieces forward. If you land on a square that contains another player's piece, you knock that piece back to the start. The first player to take both pieces all the way around the board and back to the home base wins the game.

Classification Card Games. These games involve pieces of information (such as facts, concepts, technical terms, definitions, principles, examples, quotations, and questions) printed on cards. These games borrow procedures from traditional playing card games and require players to classify and sequence pieces of information from the instructional content.

SLAPJACK is a typical card game that provides an effective introduction to any classification system. Here's how this game is played with cards from Glenn Parker's “Team Players” system, which categorizes members of a team into four types: goal-directed collaborators, issue-oriented challengers, task-oriented contributors, and process-oriented communicators. Players seat themselves at a table, around a spoon. One of the players takes the top card from the deck and reads the item aloud. The first player to grab the spoon gets to announce the type of team player associated with the item. Other players check the response against the type given in the reference card. If correct, the player takes a poker chip from a bowl. If incorrect, the player returns a poker chip to the bowl. The game continues with different players taking turns to pick a card and read the item.

Computer Game Shells. These are framegames that are presented on a computer screen. The shells permit the loading of new content (usually in the form of questions) by the facilitator. The computer program creates the game and acts as a timekeeper and scorekeeper.

FIX LIST is a computer game shell that presents a list of steps (related to a procedure or process) in a random order. Using the mouse, you rearrange these steps in the correct order while a timer is counting down. If you succeed in arranging the steps in the correct sequence before you run out of time, your name gets inscribed in the computer's Hall of Fame screen.

Email Games. These games are electronic versions of interactive training games that permit participants to receive and send messages at different times. Typical e-mail games exploit the ability of the Internet to ignore geographic distances and involve participants in pooling their ideas and polling to select best ones.

101 FACTS is an email game that encourages players to collect, distribute, and review factual information related to any job-relevant topic. During the first round, players receive an email note with factoids (brief statements of facts) related to the topic, organized under different categories. The email note also identifies different sources of information about the topic and invites players to contribute up to five new factoids every day before 4 p.m. The facilitator reviews these contributions, awards 10 points for each contribution, updates a Hall of Fame list with the names of the players with the top five scores, and updates the list of factoids by adding edited items. The game continues day after day until the group comes up with a prespecified number of factoids.

Game Shows. A game show is a contest modeled after popular TV programs. The format involves a contest among a few selected participants, watched by spectators (the “studio audience”). The training version of a game show bases questions on instructional content.

JEOPARDY is a television show that is watched by 18 million people around the world every day. As Marc Prensky points out in his book, Digital Game-Based Learning, this game show is the most popular hidden corporate training tool. This game usually involves three people competing to answer questions at five levels of difficulty selected from five topical categories.

Instructional Puzzles. These puzzles challenge participants' ingenuity and incorporate training content that is to be previewed, reviewed, tested, re-taught, or enriched. Puzzles can be solved by individuals or by teams.

CROSSWORD PUZZLES are the most frequently used types of instructional puzzles. Questions from a final test can be presented as crossword puzzle clues. Participants fill the puzzle grid with the answers arranged in a crisscross pattern.

Matrix Games. These games require participants to occupy boxes in a grid by demonstrating a specific skill or knowledge. The matrixes provide a structure for matching or classifying individual items or organizing and comparing a set of items. The first participant to occupy a given number of boxes in a straight line (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally) wins the game.

MATRIX-1 games have the same set of headings for both the columns and the rows of the grid. In a game called ETHNICITY, for example, the columns are labeled with five different ethnic groups in the workplace. The same labels are also applied to the five rows. The boxes along the diagonals have the same column and row labels. To win a box along this diagonal, the two competing participants write statements that identify the most salient characteristic of the ethnic group. To win a box above the diagonal, participants write statements about the most important similarity between the two ethnic groups. Finally, to win a box below the diagonal, participants write statements about the most significant difference between the two ethnic groups.

Web-Based Games. These games are similar to computer game shells except they are played online.

INTERACTIVE HANGMAN is an example of a web-based game. See “Interactive Hangman later in this issue for more on Interactive Hangman.

Back To Basics

We explored two approaches to classifying framegames, one based on content source and the other on game format. These approaches are not mutually exclusive. For example, you may use a board game to enhance learning from any of the seven different content sources: participants, documents, lectures, web pages, assessment instruments, videos, and experiential activities.

It is not important to master different classification systems. What really matters is the fact that we can use any type of framegame to rapidly design a training activity to suit your needs, objectives, resources, and constraints.

Featured Activity


You can improve any solution by objectively reviewing its strengths and weaknesses and making suitable adjustments. In this creativity framegame, you improve the solutions to several problems. To maintain objective detachment, you deal with a different problem during each of six rounds and assume different roles (problem owner, consultant, basher, booster, enhancer, and evaluator) during each round. At the conclusion of the activity, each player ends up with two solutions to her problem.


To identify problems, to generate solutions, and to improve the solutions.

Learning Outcomes


Six or more. Ten to 15 players produce the best results.


30 minutes to 2 hours. (Six rounds, each lasting about 5 - 20 minutes, depending on the complexity of the problem)


Brief players. Explain that the game will consist of six rounds and announce time allocation for each round. Indicate that players will specify a problem in the first round and let go of it during the subsequent rounds while they are busy with other problems and solutions.

Ask for problems. Select a topical area (example: cross-cultural communication) and ask players to come up with a real or fictional problem in that area that they would like to solve. Ask each player to describe the problem by briefly answering the following questions:

Announce a time limit for completing this task.

Let me illustrate the steps of this activity by reproducing one of the problem statements from a recent play of the game: “My name is Russ Powell, and I am the Director of Customer Service at a Financial Services organization. Sam, one of the four team leaders who work for me, presents a performance problem. When we recently collected feedback data using a 360° questionnaire, six out of ten members of Sam's team rated his communication style as unacceptable. All these six employees are women. (The four male members of the team rated Sam's communication style as acceptable.) I have also heard complaints about Sam's rude behavior from women employees in other teams. My performance goal for Sam is that all members of his team, irrespective of the member's sex, rate his communication style as acceptable.”

Ask for solutions. At the end of the time limit, ask each player to give her problem description to the next player. (The last player gives her problem statement to the first player to complete this sequence.) Tell players that they will play the role of a creativity consultant during this round. Explain the task by asking players to review the problem description (generated by the previous player) and write a suitable solution. Encourage players to keep the suggested solution brief and specific. Discourage them from using such delaying tactics as asking for additional data or suggesting further analysis of the problem. Announce a time limit for completing this task.

Here's the solution suggested by the next player: “Send Sam to a training workshop on cross-gender communications that focuses on skills related to communicating with women. Also ask Sam to read popular books on gender differences.”

Ask for critiques. At the end of the time limit, ask each player to rotate her solution and the problem description to the next player as before. Tell players that they will play the role of a cynical basher during this round. As the basher, each player reviews the problem and the suggested solution. She identifies the weaknesses, limitations, and negative consequences of the solution and records them in a short critique. Encourage players to ignore all positive aspects of the solution, accentuate the negative, and avoid suggesting specific changes to the solution. Announce a time limit for completing this task.

This is the critique from the next player: “The suggested solution assumes that Sam has a skill/knowledge problem. It is more likely that his problem is primarily attitudinal, arising out of a need to maintain a macho image. Sam will perceive the training workshop as a punishment and a challenge. In Sam's perception, he probably wants to treat all employees the same, irrespective of their gender. So he may treat the suggestion as an example of politically-correct management behavior. Anyhow, most workshops on this topic merely increase players' awareness levels and don't provide any useful skills. These workshops are of a generic nature and examples used in them are likely to be irrelevant to the specific needs of Sam's organization. Combining the workshop with reading assignments is likely to add to Sam's frustration and irritation. Most pop-psychology books in this field are written by charlatans without any empirical basis. Principles and procedures presented in these books are likely to contradict each other and contradict what is taught in the training workshop.”

Ask for testimonials. At the end of the time limit, ask each player to rotate the packet of three items (problem, solution, and critique) to the next player as before. Tell players that they will play the role of a booster during this round. As a booster, each player reviews the problem, the solution, and the critique. She identifies the strengths, virtues, and positive consequences of the suggestion and records them in the form of a short testimonial. The booster is asked to overlook all negative aspects of the solution and to avoid suggesting any specific changes. Announce a time limit for completing the task.

This is the testimonial from the next player: “I like the double-barreled approach: a training workshop and popular books. There are many effective performance-based workshops that can increase Sam's level of awareness about the impact of his communication style on women. Such a workshop will also provide useful knowledge about differences in communication styles between men and women. Most importantly, the workshop will provide skills practice though low-risk role-playing. There are many popular books that are both research-based and practical. Some of these books have been on best-seller lists, suggesting high perceived value.”

Ask for improved solutions. At the end of the time limit, each player rotates the packet of four items (problem, solution, critique, and testimonial) to the next player as before. Tell each player that she will play the role of an enhancer. In this role, she will review the problem, solution, critique, and testimonial and suggest an improved solution to the original problem. Announce a time limit for completing this task.

Here's the improved solution from the next player: “Have a coaching conversation with Sam, presenting a business case and a personal case for reducing complaints from women employees. Establish a mutual and measurable goal related to cross-gender communication skills. Let Sam work out details of how he will reach the goal and demonstrate his achievement. Offer a menu of several appropriate strategies including training workshops, books, counseling from the Employee Assistance Program, and discussion with his team members. Assure Sam of your support but explain negative consequences of continued complaints from women employees.”

Ask for comparative scores. At the end of the time limit, instruct each player to rotate these three items to the next player: problem, original suggestion, and improved solution. (Withold the critique and testimonial.) The two solutions should be shuffled a few times before being handed over to the next player so that there is no indication which one is the original and which one is the enhanced version. Tell each player that she will play the role of an evaluator. In this role, she will compare the two solutions and distribute 99 points between them to reflect their relative effectiveness. Announce a time limit for completing this task.

The next player awarded a score of 60 points for the original solution (training workshop plus books) and 140 points for enhanced solution (coaching and other support).

Conclude the activity. Tabulate the scores from different players, by recording the scores for the original solution and the enhanced solution. Give each pair of solutions to the player who wrote the original problem description associated with them. Invite players to review the two solutions to their problem and use them as the basis for arriving at their own solution. Also ask players to reflect on the six different roles (problem owner, consultant, basher, booster, enhancer, and evaluator) they played during the game and think about what they learned in each role. Suggest that they should be able to objectively play all six roles the next time they solve their own problem.


Lots of players? If you have 12 or more players, organize them into six teams of 2 to 5 members. Use the same procedure as described above, except require members of each team to work together to create a single problem, solution, critique, testimonial, improved solution, and comparative scores.

Not enough time? Skip the first step. Instead of asking players to describe a problem, give each player (or each team) a ready-made problem that you had created earlier. Also skip the last step that requires evaluating and awarding score points.

Not enough time for a single session? Spread the activity over six different sessions. Exchange the information packets during each session, give instructions for the next step, and let participants complete their task at their own time.

Guest Gamer

This column features interviews with outstanding designers and users of interactive experiential activities.

At the TRAINING 2002 Conference a week ago, one of the busiest, most knowledgeable, and most charming people I met was Patti Shank. In addition to making several featured presentations, Patti (along with Dawn Adams) kicked off and coordinated the Online Learning 101 track.

Patti Shank is the managing partner of Learning Peaks, LLC, an instructional technology consulting group that helps corporations, government agencies, organizations, and higher ed institutions optimize Web-based distance education initiatives through analysis, design, and planning. She is known for her independent and systems-oriented approaches to training, performance, and learning technologies and is listed in Who's Who In Instructional Technology. She's an often-requested speaker at training and instructional technology conferences, is quoted frequently in training publications, and has contributed numerous chapters to training and instructional technology books. With a Master's in Educational Technology Leadership from George Washington University, Patti is working on her Ph.D. at the University of Colorado, Denver. She teaches graduate instructional technology courses for University of Colorado, Denver and is an award winning contributing editor for Bill Communication's Online Learning Magazine.

Interview with Patti Shank

Thiagi: You are very famous in the field of online learning. Is that your specialty area?

Patti: Actually, I'd say that my specialty area is instructional strategies for online learning, especially strategies that involve social interaction.

Thiagi: How did you get interested in designing and using games?

Patti: It became obvious to me that deep learning happens as a result of being fully engaged in meaningful activities with other people. The use of games, simulations, activities and the like became critical teaching strategies once I realized this.

Thiagi: How long have you been designing and using games?

Patti: [grinning] Since Thiagi taught me about their power in a workshop I attended in the 80s.

Thiagi: Where exactly do you use games in your work?

Patti: Whenever a learning situation calls for learners to apply, evaluate, and synthesize information, get and give feedback from and to others, and be engaged in authentic activities. For most types of learning, this is critical, so I use games and other activities often. For instance, in teaching a basic course in instructional web development, students collaboratively develop an evaluation checklist and then use it to evaluate each other's sites. That's just like what'd happen in a real life design team. So, the activity mirrors life and that's a good thing. That's what most teaching activities should do.

Thiagi: How do your clients respond to your use of games and activities?

Patti: Some people want to just put information online and call it instruction. I try hard to convince them that “instruction” has a higher standard. Getting folks involved in deep thinking requires activity. Sometimes we end up on the same page and sometimes not.

Thiagi: How do your participants respond to the use of games and activities?

Patti: In general, they enjoy it. Sometimes I have to convince them that it's worthwhile. Some participants don't want to be engaged with others and it's a struggle for them.

Thiagi: What was the most horrible or embarrassing moment you had in conducting games?

Patti: [grinning] Like I want to share this with the whole world. Okay, the worst experience is when the technology doesn't work as expected and the students get annoyed, frustrated, and angry. But, that's a good experience for them because they want to develop instructional webs and this stuff will happen to them, too. So, in a way, it's another authentic learning activity and I just debrief them … Good save, huh?

Thiagi: What advice do you have to newcomers about designing and using training activities?

Patti: Don't call them games because many adults think games are for children (wrong … but perception is important). Call them learning activities and use them in an authentic manner to simulate real-life situations that people might find themselves in. So, for instance, if you're teaching business ethics in an online course, an authentic activity might be building consensus around what should be done in a certain situation.

Thiagi: What do you think is the most important characteristic of a facilitator, an effective instructional game, and a receptive participant?

Patti: The facilitator needs to be very well prepared, keep on top of what is happening with the participants, help participants bring the activity to a meaningful conclusion, and debrief the activity. Participants need to be willing to participate, share knowledge, and help the group achieve a desired result. (We are not well trained to do this, are we?). Good training games require time for planning and designing. It's usually a good idea to pilot them on a small scale so you can adjust them to work better.

Thiagi: What types of games do you use most frequently?

Patti: I especially like processing games, in which learners share information and help each other reach conclusions that augment the learning. Development of ah-ha moments is a great outcome. When I'm stuck for a good way to process, I use your framegame books to jumpstart my creative juices.

Thiagi: Do you have any book recommendations?

Patti: For instructional activities for online learning, I adore Bill Horton's Designing Web Based Training book and corresponding website: . I'll eventually put my own ideas down so I can share them with others, too.

Thiagi: What is your prediction about the future of games?

Patti: If we can help instructional designers and developers to realize the necessity for social interaction in online learning, they will naturally want to know what to do with that social interaction! Games will be a big part of it.


Since March 21, 1999, I have been designing a training activity every day (including weekends and holidays). I throw some of them away, sell others to my clients, and publish others in books. I decided to publish my 1,147th activity (designed on February 22, 2002) here.



To encourage participants to think outside of the box—and to continue thinking along new paths.

Brief participants. Give them a handout with this content:

Imagine these three-letter combinations are printed on six different tiles:







Visualize the tiles. Move them around in your mind's eye.

Challenge: Can you rearrange these six tiles to spell three English words that can be found in any unabridged dictionary? Each of the words should be six letters long.

Do you remember how to solve the puzzle? The solution was published in the July 2001 issue of PFP.

Prompt the participants. After a suitable pause, drop some hints (like, “Try standing on your head. Look at the world upside down.”) until participants work out the solution. Debrief to discover the point of the activity: Begin thinking outside the box.

Distribute the next puzzle. Give them another handout with this content:

Imagine these three-letter combinations are printed on six different tiles:







Visualize the tiles. Move them around in your mind's eye.

Challenge: Can you rearrange these six tiles to spell three English words that can be found in an unabridged dictionary?

If you want to cheat and look at the answer, click here.

Prompt the participants. After a suitable pause, drop some hints (like, “Read the instructions again. What's the difference between these instructions and the previous ones? That's the long and short of it.”) until participants work out the solution. Debrief to discover the point of the activity: Don't box yourself in a new location. Keep trying out more innovative ideas.

Start the third round. Give them a new handout with this content:

Imagine these three-letter combinations are printed on six different tiles:







Visualize the tiles. Move them around in your mind's eye.

Challenge: Can you rearrange these six tiles to spell three words that can be found in an unabridged dictionary? Each word should be a six-letter word.

Click here for the solution.

Prompt the participants. After a suitable pause, drop some hints (like, “Think globally. Parlez vous français?”) until participants work out the solution. Debrief to discover the point of the activity: There is always another alternative.

Jolt Solution 2

Solution 2

The three words are ATTRITION, END, and RETIRE. The instructions did not specify that the words were the same length!

Back to Jolt Puzzle 2

Book Review

How To Turn Listeners Into Learners

Sharon Bowman is a wonderful game designer, author, and facilitator. She is on a mission to transform sages on stages into guides by the sides. Her latest book is a collection of practical ideas on how to make lectures more interactive.

One of Sharon's interesting insights is that participants are used to having information spoon-fed to them in 8 minute chunks on television. Sharon uses this approach to proclaim her 10-minute principle: Every 10 minutes, you stop for a minute or two and involve your learners in a quick review of the information you just presented.

The book contains 20 terrific tips (with several bonus tips) on how to make any lecture hands-on, interactive, and learner centered. (For a sample tip, see TAKE A GUESS below.) In the process of changing your training method, you don't have to change your computer slides, your presentation script, or your lecture content. All you have to do is to include one or two tips from this book with what you already do well.

Sharon defines her terms clearly in the first section of the book:

Hands-on means that listeners are doing something, as opposed to just sitting and listening.

Interactive means that listeners are talking to each other, participating in activities with each other, and learning from each other.

Learner-centered means that the focus is off the trainer and is on your listeners. It means that your lecture includes time for your listeners to say and do something with the information—which will help them remember and use what they have just heard.

Each of the activities (“tips”) take a mere 30 seconds to 5 minutes, a small sacrifice compared to the big impact! The activities are divided into three logical categories: beginning, middle, and closing.

Sharon is the author of several earlier books with practical ideas. For information on these books (and for more tips) visit her web site, .

Details. Preventing Death by Lecture: Terrific Tips for Turning Listeners into Learners. Glenbrook, NV: Bowperson Publishing Company. (ISBN: 0-9656851-5-2). Copyright © 2001. 96 pages. $15.95. Phone: 775-749-5247 Web Site: .

Jolt Solution 3

Solution 3

The three words are PAYSAN, MAISON, and GAMINE. These are the French words for “peasant”, “home”, and “young girl”. The challenge did not specify that the three six-letter words had to be in English!

Back to Jolt Puzzle 3

Interactive Lecture

by Sharon Bowman

Activity time: 3 minutes

At the beginning of your lecture, tell your learners to pair up (triads are okay too, so that no one is left out) and, with their partners, create a list of 3-6 important facts about the topic that they think you will cover in your presentation. While you talk, they circle any items on their list that you mention. They can also add facts to their lists as directed by you.

When you finish your presentation, and if you have the time, you can ask for a few volunteers to tell the whole group what they feel is the most important fact on their lists.

Again, you're keeping your learners alert, interested, and motivated to listen.

You've focused their minds on what they know and on what you want them to know.

Bonus Tip: Guess Again

After you finish speaking, instruct your learners to refer to their lists once again to see if there are any facts they wrote down that you didn't talk about. They can take a guess as to why you didn't include this information. They can ask you about these items. Or you can tell that this information will be covered in part two of your talk.


Interactive HANGMAN

Do you know how to play HANGMAN?

HANGMAN is a popular universal paper and pencil game for two people. In this game, you think of a word or a phrase and indicate the number of letters by drawing short blanks for each letter on a piece of paper. The other player tries to guess the word by calling out one letter at a time. If that letter appears in your word, you place it in the appropriate blank. (If it appears more than once, you place it in all appropriate blanks.)

The other player continues calling out new letters and you continue placing each letter in the correct blank. When the player guesses your word completely, she wins.

What if the other player calls out a letter that does not appear in your word? Then you start drawing lines to progressively to build a gallows and hang a stick figure from it.

The game ends when the other player wins (by correctly guessing your word) or loses (by calling out several incorrect letters and getting “hanged”).

HANGMAN is the basis of the popular TV game show WHEEL OF FORTUNE. It is also the basis of many interactive web-based games including the 7-DOWN puzzles on our website (

Hangman And Concept Learning

HANGMAN is an effective tool for helping people master concepts.

For example, if I tell you that I am thinking of a typical de-motivating factor in the workplace, I am challenging you to recall several possible examples from this concept category. (Right now, your brain is probably thinking of such unpleasant things as boring assignments, bureaucracy, delays, excessive paperwork, lack of feedback, and lack of recognition.) As a trainer, I can use a HANGMAN as a preliminary activity to encourage participants to think of the concept category before explaining how to improve workplace motivation. Alternatively, I can use HANGMAN as a review activity to encourage you to recall main points from my lecture.

Web-Based Benefits

Brandon Carson, Raja, and other friends at QBInternational have helped me create a brand new online version of HANGMAN. Here are advantages of playing HANGMAN online instead of playing it with a friend:

The computer does not make mistakes. You don't have to yell at your friend for placing the letter in the wrong blank or forgetting that the word has three Es.

You can add time pressure. The computer can display a countdown timer and increase your anxiety level.

You can replay the game. The computer can choose a number of items from a pool of alternatives and present them to you in a random order.

You can adjust the level of difficulty. The computer can present the player with randomly selected “free” letters to simplify the task.

You can keep track of the score. The computer can reliably count the number of mistakes you make.

Have Fun

Since there is a lot of buzz about the Oscars as I am writing this piece, we have created three HANGMAN games. (Note that you must have Macromedia Flash installed in order to play these games.)

You can play these HANGMAN games right now by clicking above. Remember to replay each game several times and see if you can improve your score.

Contest Results

Thank God I'm An Atheist

Our January contest invited readers to apply this formula for creating funny one-liners: (A statement in the first half of the sentence) + (A contradictory statement in the second half).

Some of the contributors focused on cultural diversity:

Joanne Mikkelsen wonders about people who craft such classified ads as this:

WANTED: A good Christian woman for secretarial position. We are an equal opportunity employer.

Here are four similar contributions from David Piltz:

Come visit our conservative white small town. You'll love the diversity!

It's ok to lead by example. As long as you do what I say.

It's ok to be gay, as long as you're straight. (A Man Show statement)

You should respect and accept everyone; unless you don't like someone.

On a more general vein, Margaret Hoek sent in this fundamental axiom:

The first commandment is “There shall be no commandments.”

Colin Wilson came up with this sophisticated piece of self-awareness:

I used to be indecisive, but now I'm not so sure.

Lee Steinberg sent in two self-contradictory statements:

Thank you for calling XYZ Inc. where you are our #1 priority. We are sorry but all service representatives are busy with other customers.

I will never embarrass any participant in a class by putting them on the spot. Is there anyone who doesn't understand this?

Our panel of experts chose the preceding piece from Lee as the winning entry. Congratulations, Lee!

Here's an actual error message that appeared on my monitor recently:

Your keyboard is not connected. Press F1 to continue.

Here's a funny line attributed to George Carlin:

What if there were no hypothetical questions?

Here's one from my mentor, Bernie DeKoven, who has this statement printed on his T-shirt:

I am less competitive than you—and I can PROVE it too!


The Fourth Round

In the activity, SIX CHUNKS, THREE WORDS, we took a simple concept (rearrange six tiles, each with three letters, to form three words) and twisted it three different ways to encourage creative thinking.

Challenge: Come up with a fourth round to this activity. You will need to create another twist to this activity that resembles the earlier rounds and requires innovative thinking to come up with a new type of solution.

You may have to read the description of the activity again before generating your brilliant alternative twists.

Once you have come up with another twist to the activity, send it to us. If we judge your idea to be the best one, you win a $50 gift certificate.

The Rules

Pithy Saying

Can and Can't

Those who can, do.

Those who can't, teach.

Those who can't teach, conduct experiential activities.

One of my participants shared this one-liner at a recent session in which I facilitated a simulation game.

“Of course,” she hastened to add, “this obviously does not apply to you.”

Later, a friend of mine explained that this funny line is actually a variation of a Woody Allen joke about physical education teachers.

Regardless of its origin, there is an element of truth in the funny statement about those who conduct experiential activities. Some people indiscriminately use them to fill time and to force their participants to have fun. Others people use them to hide their incompetence in teaching methods and ignorance of the subject area.

Make sure that you have a legitimate reason for using experiential activities when you teach. Master other teaching methods. Be an expert in your subject area.