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Tips gleaned from our customers, our favorite training experts, and our staff.

Why "Doodling" enhances learning

"... I am a therapist for 30 years and personally have ADD and work with ADD adults and kids. I doodle constantly. I am always telling people when they are talking to me about something I need to be attentive to that my doodling is not distracting me but helping me focus on what they are saying. Once I was working with a group of teens in an psychiatric hospital. They came into the group room and starting sliding off the sofa, getting restless, etc. I gave each boy a clipboard, paper and markers. They immediately sat in their seat and started doodling. For the rest of the group, I had their attention. I know that ADD folks have a need to either keep tapping their toes, fingers, twirling rings on their fingers, twirling their hair....in general keep something in motion at all times. I have learned especially with children NOT to ask them to stop...it frustrates them, makes them feel misunderstood and the result will be that something else will start moving. Maybe their thoughts will start wandering...just what you don't want."
--Grace E. Katzenstein, LCSW,Clinical Supervisor, The Kinship Center,Santa Ana, CA

Halloween Icebreakers:
Three fun, Halloween-friendly icebreakers intended to be get-to-know-you and energizer activities...

On Aromas 

Easy Does It!  "It is a common misconception to think that the air must be heavy with the chosen aromas in order for them to have any effect. In fact, the opposite is true—research has shown that the learning-enhancing effects of aromas are best when the odors are barely perceptible or even imperceptible." --Joie Power, Ph.D. Dreaming Earth Botanicals

On Emotions and Learning

"People just do not learn very well when unhappy, depressed, confused, angry, sad, etc. Such negative emotions are accompanied by psychological tension that hinders learning. Teachers need to make the learning process enjoyable.  Tell them:  ‘I’ll help you learn' ,  ‘Get ready to have another nice day learning in this class.’   ‘Learning will be easy for you.
--D.H. Schuster and C.E. Gritton, Suggestive Accelerative Learning Techniques pp. 22 & 121

On Visuals  

 "Imagery helps improve the speed and durability of learning. It can take many forms such as:

  • Graphics (pictures, symbols, icons)
  • Metaphors & analogies
  • Physical objects
  • Mnemonic (memory) devices
  • Stories
  • Body language


On Games

Don’t focus on trying hard to be funny. Instead, play a game that allows funny moments to happen naturally. Play the "Imaginary Box." Have each player in turn, pull "funny things" out of your box until their "brain fries." In round 2, ask players to pull out items that are "banal, boring and unfunny." Creativity and laughter will abound. And, you’ll see that some of the funniest moments occur when no one is trying. 
--Doni Tamblyn & Sharyn Weiss, The Big Book of Humorous Training Games, p. 3-5.

Taking Breaks

"The number of minutes a student can focus is equal to the student’s age plus two. Adults are not much different from children. They cannot focus for more than 15 to 20 minutes. Ideally we should confine learning activities within those focus minutes and then allow for some movement to redirect the students’ attention so that processing can take place." 
--Marilee Sprenger, Learning & Memory, The Brain in Action p. 26

Using Magic   

If you've never used a magic trick in training before, start by practicing the magic trick without any story or explanation at all. Master the steps so that you can perform it flawlessly without thinking too hard. Even practice in front of a mirror. As you practice, start thinking about what each part of the trick might mean. The story that evolves will be just as important as the trick itself.

Brainteasers to Warm up the Brain

My favorite inertia-breaking technique is to put a brainteaser on the overhead at least five minutes before the formal start of the session. I offer a prize to the first person or group who can solve it successfully. Try this one.    
   A blind beggar had a brother who died, but the blind beggar was not the dead man’s brother. How could this be? What relationship did the blind beggar have to the man who died? 
--Dave Arch, All New Tricks for Trainers, p. 7.

Drawing Like a Pro

When presenting a complex picture (or even a simple one, for non-artists like me) I simply make a transparency of the picture and project it onto the flip chart or white board, so I can trace it with pencil (on flips) or yellow marker (on white board). I can then either draw on the fly or fill it in before class starts. Either way the students think I am the best artist around!
--Levoy Morring, Convergys

The Magic of "Fiddles"

Place a basket of "fiddle toys" in the center of the learners' tables. Don't say anything about these "aids" for an hour or two. Notice that certain people cannot keep their hands off these objects. They can't help it, they're kinesthetic learners. Playing with learning aids helps them stay focused.
--Sharon Bowman, Shake Rattle & Roll

On Music:  Feel the Beat!

The connection between music and individuals is primitive and deep, providing a level of communication that transcends language. Music, when systematically applied, accelerated learning and improves the performance of individuals.
--Lenn Millbower, Training with a Beat

On Coming Back

To get their attention and get them moving back to their seats, pick a brief, up-beat song. Every time they hear this tune, they'll know they have 30 seconds left before the session resumes.

Explaining Computer Remotes

Infrared Remotes: Require a line-of-sight from the remote to the receiver. Because the technology is less complex, infrared remotes often have more customizable buttons.
Radio Frequency Remotes: No line-of-sight is required, so you don't have to point the remote at the receiver.

Checklist for Using Flip Charts

  • Check that you have enough paper for the amount of writing you intend to do.
  • Check that it is positioned where all the group can see it.
  • Check you have pens and that they work. Use color pens if possible.
  • Write legibly, i.e., large, clear writing.
  • Use headings, and subheads as appropriate.
  • Take your time when writing.
  • Plan what you are going to write.
  • When not needed as visual support, turn to a blank sheet.
  • Watch your spelling.
  • Drawing etc. can be prepared invisibly in light (yellow) pen and filled in during presentation.
    --Carolyn B. Thompson, Training Systems, Inc.


Play the Memory Game

If you have a list of things you want your group to remember, play the memory game. Whoever receives the tossed ball must name an item on the list. Then, ask that person to toss the ball to someone else. This game offers a wonderful opportunity for kinesthetic learning.
--Carolyn Thompson, Training Systems

Game Show Buzzers are GREAT 

Game show buzzers are great for eliminating classroom fights over who gets to answer a question first. Stand-alone buzzers are used with game show software, or alone for any impromptu classroom questioning activity. Light or number monitor indicates winning team. Software-required buzzers require software for operation. Game Show software displays which team answered first.

A Surprising Icebreaker

A facilitator for New Employee Orientation reports, "to help newcomers get to know each other ASAP, I ask each person to allow me to place a name tag on their back. Each of these tags has been prepared with a fictitious name ( i.e. Superman, Elmer Fudd, George Washington, etc.) I then challenge each individual to find out what his or her name is by asking questions of others in the room."
--e-mailer, name withheld

Reward Performance

"It's not what you give them, but what they take away that counts."  If you can get them to keep their course completions certificates, it not only reminds them of what they learned but helps you to advertise your course.
--Mel Silberman