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Birds of a Feather: A High-Energy Way to Open a Training


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By Sharon Bowman. A high-energy opening activity.

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Birds of a Feather: A High-Energy Way to Open a Training

  1. 1. Birds-of-a-Feather: A Unique and High-Energy Way to Begin a Training Session By Sharon L. Bowman, MA Professional Speaker and Corporate Trainer President, Bowperson Publishing & Training, Inc. P.O. Box 564, Glenbrook, NV 89413 Phone: 775-749-5247 Fax: 775-749-1891 E-Mail: Web-Site: 3. They connect learners to what they hope to learn from the train- ing – what skills and new knowl- edge they want to walk away with when the training is over. Unfortunately, many trainers have little time to create an open- ing activity that does all three. Often trainers choose to haveThe best opening activities have trainees quickly stand and intro-three important outcomes: duce themselves (which doesn’t really connect learners to each1. They help training participants other at all).form a psychologically safe, pro-ductive learning community by Or trainers may choose an activ-getting learners connected to ity that is fun but that has noeach other before the information connection whatsoever to thepart of the training begins. topic of the training.2. They connect the training par- Or, because of time constraints,ticipants to the training topic so trainers may not even do anthat learners become aware of opening activity. Instead, theywhat they already know and the introduce themselves, tell andknowledge they bring to the joke or story, and then plungetraining. into their information delivery.Sharon L. Bowman 775-749-5247 © 2003 All rights reserved.
  2. 2. Birds-of-a-Feather: A Unique and High-Energy Way to Begin a Training Session 2This opening activity is one of Materials Needed:the best to use in a training be-cause:  One chart stand and tablet (set up in the front of the The three important out- room, visible to all – or an comes of an effective open- overhead projector and ing occur as a result of doing screen will do also) with the it; following questions printed in large bright print on one It is designed to help learners page (or on a transparency): make important connections quickly and effectively, with- What three things do you al- out taking up a large amount ready know about the train- of training time; ing topic? It can be done in as little as Why are you attending this three minutes or as long as training and what do you fifteen minutes; hope to learn? It’s flexible enough to be What is one question you used not only as an opening want answered by the end of activity, but also as a review the training? activity in the middle of a training and as a closing ac-  A Random Response Device tivity at the end of the learn- (a koosh ball or other soft ing experience; throwable object) There are a number of varia- Group Size: The larger the group tions to the activity so that the better; a dozen people is the trainer never has to do it about the minimum number the same way twice in one needed to make it work; it can training; easily accommodate over one hundred as long as there is space The processing is built into to move around. the activity itself as it is expe- rienced. Room Set-Up: Participants will need to have room enough toSuggested Time: from 3 - 15 move around, so a breakoutminutes space at the back of the room or large aisles and space in front and in back are necessary. TheSharon L. Bowman 775-749-5247 © 2003 All rights reserved.
  3. 3. Birds-of-a-Feather: A Unique and High-Energy Way to Begin a Training Session 3amount of space needed depends as theirs. Allow about 30upon the size of the group – the seconds for them to formlarger the group, the more space standing groups of 3-5 peoplerequired. Furniture can remain in with others who haveplace as long as there is room to words/phrases similar towalk around tables and chairs. theirs. If someone is left out, invite that person to join any group, or to make a group with others who don’t yet have a group. 4 Direct their attention to the chart or overhead transpar- ency. Tell them they will have about 30 seconds eachProcedure: to answer the first question. Give them about 2 minutes1 You tell the participants that total time, then signal for si- there are some people in the lence. room who are absolutely cru- cial to their learning success 5 To process the answers, use a in this training. In order to Random Response Device find these people and begin a (the koosh ball) and let them dialogue with them, the par- know that, when the koosh ticipants will need to take ball is thrown to their group, part in a “Birds-of-a-Feather” one person needs to repeat people hunt. what someone in their group said (which helps build more2 You explain that they need to psychological safety than if think of the first word or they had to repeat what they phrase that comes to their themselves said). minds when they think of the training topic. 6 That group then tosses the koosh ball to another group3 Direct them to stand and and so on until all or most walk around the room repeat- groups have had a chance to ing their word or phrase out share one response. loud to others until they find two or three other partici- 7 Tell them to say farewell (or pants who thought of the give a high-five to their new same or similar word/phrase friends) and now think of aSharon L. Bowman 775-749-5247 © 2003 All rights reserved.
  4. 4. Birds-of-a-Feather: A Unique and High-Energy Way to Begin a Training Session 4 sport that could represent the 10 In their final standing group, topic. Direct them to find they share their answers to new standing partners who the third question. thought of the same or simi- lar sport. 11 At this point, you can either process the questions in the Example: In a communica- same fashion by tossing the tion skills training, the sports Random Response Device, or mentioned might be team you can ask them to come up sports like football, baseball, with a group question – like a etc. Or the sport may be a composite of the questions metaphor for the topic, i.e., they shared – and say it aloud raquetball for an accounting while you write it on a chart training because you have to paper. Or they can write it on know all the angles). They a 3x5 card or scratch paper quickly introduce themselves and hand it to you. to their new group partners. 12 When done, invite them to8 Direct them to answer the give high-fives once again to second question. Give them their new friends and then sit about two minutes, then down. process with the Random Re- sponse Device in the same way that you did the first time. You might also ask them to name the sport and why they thought of it as a representation of the training topic.9 For the final question, they say farewell to their group. They think of a word that de- You now have a group of train- scribes how they are feeling ing participants who: about being at the training, and they find two or three * Feel psychologically safer with others with the same/similar each other because they have words. connected with a number of oth- ers in the room;Sharon L. Bowman 775-749-5247 © 2003 All rights reserved.
  5. 5. Birds-of-a-Feather: A Unique and High-Energy Way to Begin a Training Session 5* Have begun the process of What are the three most im-forming a productive learning portant things you learnedcommunity; during this training?* Have focused on the prior What do you plan to do withknowledge they have and will what you learned?later connect it to the new infor-mation they will learn; How will this information change your behavior?* Have also become aware oftheir own learning goals and Who are three people youquestions they want asked, in ef- can share this informationfect, their own “Why?” for being with?there. 2. Besides having participantsDepending upon the size of your form standing “Birds-of-a-whole group, the time you Feather” groups with similarchoose to spend doing the activ- words/phrases or metaphorsity, the amount of processing you like sports, they can alsochoose to do (not all groups have form groups according to theto answer if time is an issue), and following:the richness of the dialogue, theactivity can be a short one (3–5 Find 2-3 other people who …minutes) or a longer one (5–15minutes). like the same junk food that you do;Variations: like the same genre of movie1. You can tailor the questions or book that you do; to be more specific to the topic, or phrase them as re- like the same hobby; view questions if you choose to do the activity after you like the same fantasy vaca- have presented new infor- tion; mation. Or the questions can summarize the learning for a are wearing the same colored closing activity, for exam- shoes; ple: are wearing the same jewelry item;Sharon L. Bowman 775-749-5247 © 2003 All rights reserved.
  6. 6. Birds-of-a-Feather: A Unique and High-Energy Way to Begin a Training Session 6 were born in the same sea- From: Training and Performance2001 son; Publisher: McGraw-Hill Editors: M. Silberman and P. Phillips Contribution by: Sharon Bowman have the same first or last Reprinted with contributor’s permission name initial; Author and traveling teacher Sharon Bowman helps educators and business have the same kind of pet; people “teach it quick and make it stick,” - fine-tuning their information- hate the same sport; delivery skills and turning their passive listeners into active learners. enjoy the same free-time ac- Sharon is the author of seven popular tivity; teaching, training, and motivation books. She is a professional member of were born in the same state; the National Speakers Association (NSA) and the American Society of have visited the same histori- Training and Development (ASTD). cal site; For more information about Sharon Bowman and her books and training, The list can go on and is only log onto, or limited by your imagination. email her at For book orders, go to2. Besides the metaphor of a, sport to represent the topic,, or call Bowperson you can ask the participants Publishing at 775-749-5247. to think of an animal that rep- _______________________________ resents the topic, or some- thing in nature, a kitchen item, a color, a food, a fa- mous person, a TV show or movie, etc.___________________________Sharon L. Bowman 775-749-5247 © 2003 All rights reserved.