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500 Creative Classroom Techniques for Teachers and Trainers

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Make your teaching and their learning fun, fast-paced and functional. This toolkit of 500 tips and techniques is designed for trainers at all levels of experience who enjoy experimenting, discovering and evolving. 500 Creative Classroom Techniques for Teachers and Trainers covers all the important basics. You'll also get creative ways to deal with reluctant learners, make subject matter relevant, encourage participant-learning after the course has ended, develop study habits, make take-home assignments relevant and more. Each of the book's 20 chapters contains an overview. Within the activities is a wide variety of tips, suggestions, options, cautions, FYI tidbits and recommendations. Use the brainteasers scattered throughout the book to assess the brainpower in the room, when the class needs a mental break, after lunch to get juices flowing again or whenever you have odd minutes to fill. 500 Creative Classroom Techniques for Teachers and Trainers concludes with an appendix section packed with feedback discussion questions, grammar tests, intuition quizzes, leadership quotesâ€_everything you need to bring training sessions to life and achieve maximum results.

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Chapter 1 - 25 Ways to Have Participants Introduce Themselves

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Chapter 1

25 Ways to Have Participants Introduce Themselves

Chapter Overview

The first few moments of class are fearful moments for some participants. For others, the introductions that take place at the beginning of a new program are sources of interest, of possibilities, of discoveries, of commonalities. While it’s perfectly acceptable to ask people to give their names and tell a little about themselves, the process often lacks luster. You can enhance it by structuring the way you ask for atypical information.

What NOT to do: Don’t try to be a comedian unless you are one. Henny Youngman got away with an introduction like this: “And now, the band that inspired that great saying Stop the music! ” Don’t try thinly veiled insults. They seldom work.

In this section, you will find 25 novel ways for students to share information about themselves, about their purpose for being in your classroom, and about the things they hope to learn.

1.

Use the course title.

Print the name of the course on the board or flipchart. Leave space between the letters. Then ask each person to take one letter from the word and use that letter as the first letter of a word that explains why he is taking the course or what he hopes to learn.

 

Chapter 2 - 25 Ways to Test for Understanding

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Chapter 2

25 Ways to Test for Understanding

Chapter Overview

There’s what you think participants learned. There’s what participants think they learned. And then there’s what their bosses or parents think they learned. These are not necessarily the same realities: in fact, they may not be realities at all. There are ever so many ways to assess what your participants are really learning. We detail 25 of them in this section.

1.

Prepare at least ten questions.

Thirty questions would be even better. They should be questions that are answerable by “yes” or

“no.” Throughout the day, ask your questions in order to obtain quick feedback regarding their absorption of the new information you are presenting.

Ask participants sitting on the left-hand side of the room your first set of questions. Your second set of questions should be addressed to participants seated in the middle of the room.

The final set of questions will go to people seating on the right-hand side of the room. This arrangement will help ensure that everyone has a chance to be tested for understanding.

 

Chapter 3 - 25 Ways to Add Humor

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Chapter 3

25 Ways to Add Humor

Chapter Overview

Humorist William Arthur Ward once observed, “A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.” To be sure, the microcosmic classroom has tightropes all its own. The effective instructor, though, can add balance to the classroom by injecting appropriate forms of humor. Surprise is one of those elements. So is a sense of relief. So is the sense that what we are experiencing is a common theme in the circus of life.

This chapter contains 25 ways to help steady those tightrope-learners before you.

1.

Incorporate a humorous bit of information.

Find a humorous fact. Use it to segue into your instructional point. For example, in a course on time management, you could use information about “resistentialism” to introduce the importance of setting deadlines. “Resistentialism” is a term coined by humorist Paul Jennings to describe the feeling that an inanimate object (copy machine, computer) somehow knows when you are under tremendous stress and so decides to break down at exactly that time.

 

Chapter 4 - 25 Ways to Give Feedback

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Chapter 4

25 Ways to Give Feedback

Chapter Overview

We’ve grown a lot more sophisticated in our collection and distribution of feedback, but in the early days of our country, politicians had a unique (and less-refined) way of obtaining feedback from their constituents. Since they had no telephone, television, radio, or internet, politicians did their own polling by sending their assistants to local taverns. The underlings were told to “go sip some ale.” Of course, as they did so, they were tasked with listening to the concerns of the (drinking) public. Over time, the two words “go sip” were combined into one: “gossip.” Although the word has a negative connotation today, its original meaning was a synonym for “feedback.”

In this chapter, I’ll show you 25 ways to give feedback in the most positive of ways.

Note: If you’d like to explore the role of feedback in personal growth, be sure to look at the list of discussion questions in the Appendix.

1.

Prepare critique sheets.

Word the sheets so that they engender astute observations in the gentlest of ways. Include a few yes/no questions; a few 1–5 ratings (low-to-high); and a few fill-in-the-blank questions. Use them following individual or group assignments. Mix your own feedback in with the other responses and collect the sheets. Hand them to the individuals and groups that have made presentations.

 

Chapter 5 - 25 Ways to Use Questions

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Chapter 5

25 Ways to Use Questions

Chapter Overview

Ask the typical adult, “How do you get to heaven?” and the answers will sound strikingly similar: “You do good deeds.” “You lead a virtuous life.” “You live by the Ten Commandments.” Ask the typical child, though, and you’ll receive answers that diverge: “You have to take the God elevator,” or “You go to Hell and take a left,” or “When all the bad has been spanked out of you, then you’re ready for heaven.”

Had the question been framed differently, would the adult answers have been more creative? I believe so. Unfortunately, we teachers and trainers tend to ask questions quickly and want responses just as quickly. Consequently, we often fail to frame questions in ways that elicit thoughtful, creative, rich responses.

To help you elicit those rich responses, try the techniques in this chapter. They’re designed to improve both the “how” of your questions and, consequently, the “what” of your answers.

1.

Use questions for discussion.

No doubt you are already doing this, but here’s a variation on a familiar theme: Have your questions about a given module ready in advance—10–20 of them. Distribute the list and use it in any number of ways:

 

Chapter 6 - 25 Ways to Use Quotations

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Chapter 6

25 Ways to Use Quotations

Chapter Overview

There is nothing quite like a quotation to lend credence to your opinion, to suggest you are a well-read person, to show off your memory, and to help sway others to your point of view. To illustrate, if you are arguing for simplicity in a process, who could argue against Einstein’s assertion that we “make everything simple but not simpler than it has to be”?

Quotations in the classroom provide vitality, verve, and verbal magic. Here are 25 ways you can use them to bring life and light (and sometimes even laughter) to your classroom lessons.

1.

Post the quotations around the room.

During breaks, encourage participants to view and discuss them. If you don’t have the wall space or can’t put anything up, compile a list of relevant quotations. Distribute copies of the sheet to participants. Have them circle their favorite and then form a group with others who circled the same quote. Allow some time for them to discuss their selection.

Options: Periodically during the training day, call on someone to share her favorite quote and to tell why it resonated with her. You can also pair participants off and have them explain their selections. If you have selected complex quotes, ask for volunteers to share their interpretations of the quotes.

 

Chapter 7 - 25 Ways to Have Groups Report

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Chapter 7

25 Ways to Have Groups Report

Chapter Overview

There are few things duller than listening to someone read a speech. On a less-grand scale, there are few classroom things duller than listening to a group spokesperson read his report. And yet, if you don’t call on groups to share reports about the work they have done, they are likely to feel slighted or feel that they did “all that work for nothing.”

Don’t despair. There are ever so many ways to get the reports from the groups without causing educational ennui in the others as they listen. Here are 25 of those ways.

1.

Challenge them to condense.

Condensing lengthy reports will certainly make them more digestible. Encourage a one-sentence summary. Call on the first group to report. Members of the other groups can ask questions of the reporting group after they have given their condensed report to make sure that nothing important has been overlooked. Continue in this fashion until all groups have had a chance to give their reports.

Brainteaser: Professor Donald Gorham of Baylor University found in his research studies that personality can be identified by the choices people make when given an array of interpretations for proverbs. Those who consistently chose specific interpretations were found to be either practical, scatterbrained, or deeply moral. Try this example and see what it reveals.

 

Chapter 8 - 25 Ways to Get Through Printed Material

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Chapter 8

25 Ways to Get Through Printed Material

Chapter Overview

It’s a persistent pedagogical problem: how to review pages of important information in a textbook or curriculum without inviting the sleep-gods to visit. You can solve the problem with the techniques on the following pages—a total of 25 novel ways to keep participants awake and involved as they interactively respond and react to the material before them.

1.

Tell them key words to underline.

I try to avoid asking the whole room to read several pages while I wait for them to finish; the slower readers will feel some pressure to catch up (and thus are not likely to ingest as much as they should), and the faster readers always wind up waiting for the slower ones (and thus become bored).

A good option is to work together as a reading orchestra, with you as the conductor. Tell them which words/sentences/passages are most important, and have them underline or highlight those. As you proceed, raise questions. (You could assign for homework answers to questions you’ve raised; point out correlations to other material already covered; make projections as to what they will encounter in the next section, and so on.)

 

Chapter 9 - 25 Ways to Choose Group Leaders

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Chapter 9

25 Ways to Choose Group Leaders

Chapter Overview

The common childhood fear of being the last person chosen to play on a baseball team can cloud an otherwise sunny schoolyard. The fearful and embarrassing memory, unfortunately, comes back whenever teams need to choose leaders. To prevent the most popular personality from being the automatic choice, you can choose among 25 different techniques presented here. They will help you find group leaders without anyone losing face.

To prevent the most vocal or dominant member from selecting himself for leadership, consider establishing guidelines for leader-selection. To escape the inevitable appointment of a woman because hers is the only handwriting that is legible, use one of these techniques to structure the selection.

1.

Ask about longevity.

Ask participants to figure out who has been with the organization for the longest period of time.

That person becomes the group recorder or team leader. If you teach in a school, have students determine whose family has lived in the area for the longest period of time. That person becomes the group leader. Such determinations also help in the participant-bonding process.

 

Chapter 10 - 25 Ways to Fill “Odd” Moments

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Chapter 10

25 Ways to Fill “Odd” Moments

Chapter Overview

They used to be called “sponge” activities: those fillers that can be used when you have a few minutes left before lunch, before breaks, or before dismissal, as well as after a large chunk of material has been covered, after a break when you need to transition back to the subject mater, or after a video has been shown. You can also use them when some of the students have finished working and others are sitting there waiting for them to finish. Call the faster workers together and do a sponge activity with them.

The word “sponge” is most appropriate, by the way, because the majority of these exercises can be expanded or contracted, depending on the amount of time you wish to allocate to them.

1.

Do an assessment.

This assessment will test participants’ knowledge of the subject matter at any point during the course: Following the presentation of a discrete concept or learning module, distribute small scraps of paper. Ask each participant to write one word on the paper that reflects their comprehension of the concept presented: “Little”; “Half”; or “Total.” Have someone tally the results. If the results show that the majority understood only a little or a half of the material, assign one “Total” teacher to small groups of “Little” and “Half” participants. Have those who wrote “Total” teach the concept to one or two others.

 

Chapter 11 - 25 Ways to Deal with Reluctant Learners

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Chapter 11

25 Ways to Deal with Reluctant Learners

Chapter Overview

If you haven’t met a reluctant learner yet in your career, you will before you retire. He’s the person who really doesn’t want to be sitting before you, for any number of possible reasons. There are people who are bored by learning. There are people who would rather be at their jobs than be in a classroom. There are people who have problems with authority figures such as yourself. There are people who have personality problems in general. There are people who are having “bad hair days.” The list could go on ad nauseam, but we’ll stop here.

It’s time for you to learn some new ways of dealing with such people.

1.

Take him aside.

You don’t want to antagonize or embarrass him, but you do want to make it clear what you will and will not tolerate. This private conversation should emphasize that you hope he will be involved in the class in a positive way. Explain that everyone benefits when participants are learning-receptive.

Brainteaser: So you think teachers are among the rare few who are good spellers? It ain’t necessarily so! A test of 60 common words was given to 800 people with college degrees.

 

Chapter 12 - 25 Ways to Make the Subject Matter Relevant

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Chapter 12

25 Ways to Make the Subject Matter Relevant

Chapter Overview

You know the relevance of your subject matter to the real world. Chances are, participants don’t. To optimize the learning experience—i.e., to help ensure that they will actually use what they have learned—it’s your job to show how the subject matter can be applied.

There are any number of ways you can do this. Twenty-five of them are listed in this chapter. The more reinforcement you can provide, via these relevancies, the greater the likelihood that students will fully participate in the exchange of ideas.

1.

Find newspaper articles.

Grammar is not an especially popular subject, yet I’d rather teach it than any of the other

33 topics listed on my course-description list. To make it relevant, I’ve collected a number of newspaper articles that show what can happen as a result of grammatical errors, such as these examples:

One U.S. insurance company had to pay $7 million because of a typo.

A couple received a refund check from the IRS that was 100 times greater than it should have been— and they got to keep it!

 

Chapter 13 - 25 Ways to Review

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Chapter 13

25 Ways to Review

Chapter Overview

To use a culinary analogy, if you don’t stop to sip water while you are dining, you might choke on your meal. The water helps the food go down, but it also makes it easier to digest.

Similarly, reviewing material throughout the course helps break the information down into digestible chunks. Review prevents learners from being overwhelmed. In this section, you’ll learn some new and clever ways to help students consume their food-for-thought without choking.

1.

Have them determine MSF’s (most significant facts).

Give participants a few minutes to make note of the two most significant facts they have learned so far. Then ask them to find a partner and tell him what they’ve written.

The next step requires the partners to find two other people who have written four facts, at least three of which must differ from what the original partners wrote. Once the four have formed their own team, give them some time to discuss what they wrote and why.

Brainteaser: If you’re somewhat of a grammatical guru, you should be able to deal with the five choices here. Which is the grammatically correct sentence?

 

Chapter 14 - 25 Ways to Encourage Participant-LearningAfter the Course Has Ended

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Chapter 14

25 Ways to Encourage Participant-Learning

After the Course Has Ended

Chapter Overview

It occurred to me one day, as I was cleaning the room and pulling flipcharts off the wall, how wrong it was for knowledge that is created in a classroom to subsequently die in the classroom. I had an educational epiphany then and realized that it doesn’t have to die. There were so many things I could do to make sure the learning lived on long after the course had ended. I’ve collected those ideas for you here in this section.

1.

Write a letter.

Depending on who your “customers” are, you can write a letter to help others help the participants make the learning continuous. The participants are the ones who receive the benefit of your services, of course, but they are in front of you because of the efforts and cooperation of others. So, the letter can be sent to parents if you teach in a school. It can also be sent to the principal. To the school board. To the teacher who is likely to have this group of students next year.

 

Chapter 15 - 25 Ways to Encourage Managers, Principals, andParents to Continue the Learning

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Chapter 15

25 Ways to Encourage Managers, Principals, and

Parents to Continue the Learning

Chapter Overview

It will not surprise you to hear that learning and retention are two separate things. Unfortunately, what separates them is the intrusion of daily living upon the acquired knowledge. As a result, the knowledge fades and in time is forgotten. Unless, that is, deliberate efforts are undertaken to keep the learning alive.

If there is no follow-up on the part of the participant, the organization, or the community in which he lives or works, the knowledge disappears. In fact, a study by the Xerox Corporation found that 87 percent of the information acquired from training sessions is lost unless subsequent attention is paid to it.

This section provides you with 25 ways to help participants choose to use what they’ve learned via gentle pressure exerted by those who matter in their lives.

1.

Extend an invitation to the most senior person in the

organization.

Retired three-star general Vito Morgano of the New Jersey National Guard always stopped by at the beginning of the sessions I presented for his employees. He talked to the participants about the importance of what they were about to learn, and pointed out that it was his decision for them to be in that room, learning that material (teambuilding and facilitation skills, in this case).

 

Chapter 16 - 25 Ways to Develop Study Habits

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Chapter 16

25 Ways to Develop Study Habits

Chapter Overview

It’s not just students who seek efficiencies for storing and recalling information. It’s everyone who needs to retain information for short-term or long-term purposes. There’s an inescapable deluge of information that threatens to drown all of us unless we can cling to mental life jackets that will help us tread water and keep our heads above it.

In this section, you’ll find techniques for helping your students take the data they need and store them for easier retrieval when needed. And, if you’ll forgive a metaphor mix, you’ll all discover techniques to improve listening, concentrating, attending, and remembering—all peas in the same cognitive pod of data-retrieval.

Note: This entire book is addressed to you. Written in the second person, it speaks to your instructional persona. This section, however is really addressed to the student (although it’s still written in the second person). It consists of tips that show her how to optimize her time in learning and committing to memory the knowledge she’ll need for a variety of purposes. I’ve addressed the students directly so you can easily replicate the pages.

 

Chapter 17 - 25 Ways to Conduct Non-Threatening Competition

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Chapter 17

25 Ways to Conduct Non-Threatening Competition

Chapter Overview

From the outset of our lives, we learn that sometimes we get what we want and sometimes we don’t. In infancy, we learn that if we cry loudly enough and long enough, we can usually get someone to attend to our needs. But once we have passed the infancy stage, we learn all too quickly about success and failure. We stumble as we learn to walk, but we learn to get up again. And, once we learn to use words, we learn the power of the word “no” and its ability to nullify our wishes.

Even though we’ve become quite familiar with the concepts of winning and losing before we even enter school, some people are still uncomfortable with competition. Personally, I think it adds a dynamic quality to classroom interactions—but only if the competition is non-threatening. Here are 25 ways to make it so.

1.

Ask groups to decide if they want to engage in competition.

You can pass out scraps of paper and have individuals vote, or have the group leader ask group members for their preference, or you could ask for a show of hands.

 

Chapter 18 - 25 Ways to Make Take-Home Assignments Relevant

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Chapter 18

25 Ways to Make Take-Home Assignments Relevant

Chapter Overview

To paraphrase Colin Powell: “Relevance is a learning-multiplier.” The more evidence participants have that what they are learning will actually help them in some way, the easier your job will be.

Relevancy comes in many shapes and sizes. In the following pages, you’ll find 25 special ways to create deeper connections between homework learning, classroom learning, and the real world.

1.

Have them watch television and draw a parallel to class.

Virtually any course you teach can be applied to something that is happening on television on any given night. Admittedly, though, this assignment works best for courses that deal with communication, conflict, interpersonal skills, and so on. Ask participants to find in some program an example of a concept they learned during the day.

Note: Preparing some questions in advance will facilitate the participant’s ability to make correlations. To illustrate: For a course dealing with decision-making. they could watch a sit com, the biography channel, the history channel, a drama, or even a reality show. Ask:

 

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