Friday, May 30, 2008

An Age Old Problem

Get learners involved in teaching themselves.

Purpose of exercise: To encourage participants to improvise and learn to communicate in different ways and to show how frustrated we get when we aren’t understood, despite our best efforts.

Exercise: Tell everyone that until the exercise is over they are now no longer allowed to talk (This is important and you must enforce this as the trainer).

The exercise itself is really simple. Tell participants from the moment you say 'Go' they will have 5 minutes to organize themselves into a straight line, with the oldest on the right and the youngest on the left! They can not use pen or paper or speak.Remember you MUST enforce the "no talking" strictly or it completely spoils the exercise.

Alter the time depending on how many people you have, but for up to 30, we find that 5 mins is normally long enough to prove the point.When the line is formed, start at the right of the line and get participants to say their birthdays, and see how many mistakes there are.

This task normally sounds really easy at first, but when they have to start getting down to communicating differences in months and days between birthdays, tempers normally start to fray slightly. You will often see “angry” leaders emerge who start pushing other people around.

Debrief: have participants sit back down and talk about why they failed (or succeeded – either works to make the learning points). Bring up things like:

· Did a leader emerge or were there several leaders?
· Did leadership help or hinder?
· Did everyone use the same “system” once their regular tools were thwarted?
· What worked and what didn’t?
· Did people start getting frustrated? Why?
· If they were to do it again what would they do differently?

Then, (and this is key) – bridge the learning points clearly to the lesson you are about to teach and then reference the activity and examples from it as you make the lesson points.

I have used this exercise frequently, its one of the “pocket activities” I keep in mind for all kinds of sessions and I am always amazed at some of the ways people come up with to communicate – I have seen all different types of hand signals, foot stomping, some use eye blinking and once time I had a participant stare really hard at another hoping they could read her mind.

Have fun using this exercise to enhance learning retention.

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