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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: SBowperson@gmail.com Web-Site: www.Bowperson.com




                                             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 have
The best opening activities have             trainees quickly stand and intro-
three important outcomes:                    duce themselves (which doesn’t
                                             really connect learners to each
1. 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 no
each other before the information            connection whatsoever to the
part 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 an
that learners become aware of                opening activity. Instead, they
what they already know and the               introduce themselves, tell and
knowledge they bring to the                  joke or story, and then plunge
training.                                    into their information delivery.




Sharon L. Bowman   www.Bowperson.com    775-749-5247   © 2003 All rights reserved.
Birds-of-a-Feather: A Unique and High-Energy Way to Begin a Training Session             2




This 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 to
Suggested Time: from 3 - 15                      move around, so a breakout
minutes                                          space at the back of the room or
                                                 large aisles and space in front
                                                 and in back are necessary. The

Sharon L. Bowman     www.Bowperson.com      775-749-5247   © 2003 All rights reserved.
Birds-of-a-Feather: A Unique and High-Energy Way to Begin a Training Session             3




amount of space needed depends                        as theirs. Allow about 30
upon the size of the group – the                      seconds for them to form
larger the group, the more space                      standing groups of 3-5 people
required. Furniture can remain in                     with others who have
place as long as there is room to                     words/phrases similar to
walk 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 each
Procedure:                                         to answer the first question.
                                                   Give them about 2 minutes
1 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 more
2 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 group
3 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 a

Sharon L. Bowman     www.Bowperson.com      775-749-5247   © 2003 All rights reserved.
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 to
8 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     www.Bowperson.com      775-749-5247   © 2003 All rights reserved.
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 learned
community;                                            during this training?

* Have focused on the prior                           What do you plan to do with
knowledge 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 of
their own learning goals and                          Who are three people you
questions they want asked, in ef-                     can share this information
fect, their own “Why?” for being                      with?
there.
                                                 2. Besides having participants
Depending upon the size of your                     form standing “Birds-of-a-
whole group, the time you                           Feather” groups with similar
choose to spend doing the activ-                    words/phrases or metaphors
ity, the amount of processing you                   like sports, they can also
choose to do (not all groups have                   form groups according to the
to answer if time is an issue), and                 following:
the richness of the dialogue, the
activity can be a short one (3–5                      Find 2-3 other people who …
minutes) or a longer one (5–15
minutes).                                             like the same junk food that
                                                      you do;
Variations:
                                                      like the same genre of movie
1. 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     www.Bowperson.com      775-749-5247   © 2003 All rights reserved.
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 www.Bowperson.com, or
    limited by your imagination.                 email her at SBowperson@gmail.com.

                                                 For book orders, go to
2. Besides the metaphor of a
                                                 www.trainerswarehouse.com,
   sport to represent the topic,                 www.amazon.com, 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     www.Bowperson.com      775-749-5247   © 2003 All rights reserved.

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

  • 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: SBowperson@gmail.com Web-Site: www.Bowperson.com 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 have The best opening activities have trainees quickly stand and intro- three important outcomes: duce themselves (which doesn’t really connect learners to each 1. 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 no each other before the information connection whatsoever to the part 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 an that learners become aware of opening activity. Instead, they what they already know and the introduce themselves, tell and knowledge they bring to the joke or story, and then plunge training. into their information delivery. Sharon L. Bowman www.Bowperson.com 775-749-5247 © 2003 All rights reserved.
  • 2. Birds-of-a-Feather: A Unique and High-Energy Way to Begin a Training Session 2 This 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 to Suggested Time: from 3 - 15 move around, so a breakout minutes space at the back of the room or large aisles and space in front and in back are necessary. The Sharon L. Bowman www.Bowperson.com 775-749-5247 © 2003 All rights reserved.
  • 3. Birds-of-a-Feather: A Unique and High-Energy Way to Begin a Training Session 3 amount of space needed depends as theirs. Allow about 30 upon the size of the group – the seconds for them to form larger the group, the more space standing groups of 3-5 people required. Furniture can remain in with others who have place as long as there is room to words/phrases similar to walk 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 each Procedure: to answer the first question. Give them about 2 minutes 1 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 more 2 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 group 3 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 a Sharon L. Bowman www.Bowperson.com 775-749-5247 © 2003 All rights reserved.
  • 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 to 8 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 www.Bowperson.com 775-749-5247 © 2003 All rights reserved.
  • 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 learned community; during this training? * Have focused on the prior What do you plan to do with knowledge 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 of their own learning goals and Who are three people you questions they want asked, in ef- can share this information fect, their own “Why?” for being with? there. 2. Besides having participants Depending upon the size of your form standing “Birds-of-a- whole group, the time you Feather” groups with similar choose to spend doing the activ- words/phrases or metaphors ity, the amount of processing you like sports, they can also choose to do (not all groups have form groups according to the to answer if time is an issue), and following: the richness of the dialogue, the activity can be a short one (3–5 Find 2-3 other people who … minutes) or a longer one (5–15 minutes). like the same junk food that you do; Variations: like the same genre of movie 1. 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 www.Bowperson.com 775-749-5247 © 2003 All rights reserved.
  • 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 www.Bowperson.com, or limited by your imagination. email her at SBowperson@gmail.com. For book orders, go to 2. Besides the metaphor of a www.trainerswarehouse.com, sport to represent the topic, www.amazon.com, 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 www.Bowperson.com 775-749-5247 © 2003 All rights reserved.