“Life is entirely too time-consuming.” Irene Peter
“You will never ‘find’ time for anything. If you want time you must make it.” Charles Buxton
There are excellent reasons to incorporate participatory activities that engage an audience, even when time for a presentation is very limited. Luckily, there are also many quick and simple learning activities that are very participant-centered.
First of all, why should trainers and presenters incorporate participatory learning activities into their presentations? If the intent of the lecture is to educate rather than simply entertain, then some level of learning is clearly desired. Lecture alone will not provide any feedback about whether or not the audience has “bought into” the ideas presented or learned anything. The audience will need to do something to at least indicate that they have understood the message.
Second, what participant-centered learning activities are quick and simple to incorporate into presentations? Let’s consider four different categories of activities that engage learners and enable them to demonstrate their learning in one to ten minutes: written, verbal, visual and physical.
1. Written Activities:
a. Questionnaire– This can be used to organize the presentation by including statements or questions that cover the major points. A questionnaire can be an easy way to convert a lecture into an interactive learning activity.
b. Crossword Puzzle or Word Search– There are free internet sites that enable trainers to create these puzzles. Crossword puzzles are particularly good for checking learner comprehension.
c. Worksheets- Fill-in-the-blanks worksheets enable learners to post key points as they learn them. Match up worksheets check learner comprehension.
2. Verbal Activities:
a. Shout Outs– Learners shout out answers to questions posed by the trainer.
b. Question and Answer Session– Learners and presenter can interact, with the nature of the questions providing direct feedback to the presenter regarding the audience’s level of understanding.
c. Paired Conversations– Asking participants to turn to someone next to them to discuss a point or share information about a topic requires them to articulate their thoughts and enriches their learning experience.
d. Debate– Participant volunteers take two sides of an argument and debate them in front of the entire group, which is split in half to provide verbal assistance to their designated representative. A debate clearly reveals the learners’ awareness of both sides of an issue.
e. Competitive Brainstorming– Table groups compete against each other to list the greatest number of responses to a question posed by the trainer. The winning group gets a small prize. The competitive nature of this activity adds interest and energy, while checking for learner comprehension.
3. Visual Activities:
a. Video Simulation– Trainers can show pictures that simulate on-site situations on Power Point slides and ask the learners to analyze what they see and report out.
b. Demonstration– With live demonstrations, either the trainer or participant volunteers can show the steps in a process. Demonstrations can also be on video, giving the learners an opportunity to see what to do or not do in given situations.
4. Physical Activities:
a. Pop Ups– The trainer poses a question and learners who have an answer stand up to respond. Pop ups get learners out of their seats and let them articulate what they have learned.
b. Relay Race– The trainer divides the group into teams of a manageable size (8-10 people). The teams race against each other to list content items or fill in the blanks on flip charts. Relay races take very little time to set up and facilitate, and they invigorate the learners.
c. Signaling– Learners indicate by a show of hands or thumbs up or down whether they agree or disagree with a statement. Learners indicate by the fingers of one hand their degree of satisfaction with the training content. Signaling adds a physical aspect to the learning experience.
d. Koosh Toss– The Koosh ball (or some other soft object) indicates which learner has the floor to speak on a topic or report out key learning. It helps to have the learners stand and then, after they have received the Koosh ball, spoken and tossed it to someone else, they sit down. The Koosh Toss gets participants out of their chairs.
These are just a few of the many quick and easy ways to incorporate participatory activities into lectures or presentations. The important point to keep in mind is that both trainers and learners benefit from participatory activities. Trainers benefit because they get real-time feedback about what the participants learned. Learners benefit because they are more engaged and, therefore, more likely to learn and retain what they learned.
May your learning be sweet.