Little Things that Make a Big Difference: Interactive Learning Activities


Paying attention to details can help increase retention and aid the appearance of having your act together. It also can help you regain control of the group after an activity without increased frustration or loss of voice! Here are some easy-to-implement tips for you:

Before you begin an activity, demonstrate and establish a refocus signal to stop everyone quickly and easily. This will allow you to control the group without having to shout to get their attention. You might use a bell, whistle, chime, tuning fork, theme music or some physical cue like a raised hand.


Before beginning your group activities, divide, mix, and move people first and then give instructions. People will often forget or confuse the instructions during the shuffle and movement.


Group activities should have a timekeeper and a group leader. This frees the instructor to mingle without needing to worry about the time. Assigned positions allow the group to focus on the task and results and assure that someone will give a report if called on at the end of the activity.


During an activity a good presenter/trainer is not only a content expert but also an observation expert. A good presenter/ trainer will always note tension in the room, who talks to whom, the interest level of the group, how each person is feeling, and who is being left out.


Use learning games that involve every participant in some way. Avoid asking one or two people to play the game or do a role-play and expecting two to 5,000 to watch. They lose interest quickly. EVERYONE should be involved in some manner other than just watching.


Games should be participant-centered not instructor-centered learning experiences. Develop actual written instructions with rules and time frames for participants and observers. Include a scoring system in the game handout with space to compute scores, blank space for any further notes, and an area for the processing and debriefing that will go with the game.


Allow time for people to think about job application after a learning game. Provide several minutes of quiet time for participants to think about how they can use what they have learned from the game and then allow for group idea exchange before conducting a facilitator-led debrief.


Don’t forget learning activity safety. Many times the spirit of the learning can be ruined by some kind of unsafe condition. When people walk away from the learning activity feeling good that everyone won and no one lost and no one was hurt, that’s a winner activity.


Always consider the group’s visual, auditory, and physical orientations when giving instructions for group activities. Visually-oriented people prefer seeing instructions. Auditory-oriented people prefer hearing the instructions. Physically-oriented people like to get physically involved and get their hands on the activity, and they are the first to try things.


Your last interactive learning activity of the day should end so that everyone leaves feeling good and with a sense of shared experience. Set up a win/win activity, you’ll also set up for better retention!


This article first appeared in Bob Pike’s Creative Training Techniques newsletter. Doug “Waffleman” McCallum is a Bob Pike Group senior training consultant. His latest book is SCORE: Super Closers, Openers, Reviews, Energizers for Enhanced Training Results with Rich Meiss.



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