Three Ways to Get Adult Learners Back from Breaks on Time

Three Ways to Get Adult Learners Back from Breaks on Time

Getting adult learners to return from breaks and meals on time can sometimes be a challenge. This can be frustrating for you and the others who have returned as scheduled. However, it does not have to be that way. If you take some lessons learned by brain researchers on how the brain works best in a learning environment and adult learning theory, you can increase the opportunity to better engage your learners. Build in a bit of fun and novelty to your program design. Doing this can enhance the potential to better attract, engage, and hold learner attention through the session.

Three Ways to Get Adult Learners Back from Breaks on Time by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas

Here are three simple techniques that I share in my train-the-trainer programs to help facilitators encourage trainees to return on time from breaks:Three Ways to Get Adult Learners Back from Breaks on Time

  1. Use what newscasters have been doing for decades. Employ a teaser like, “Following our break, I am going to provide those of you who are back with one  dynamic technique that will allow you to increase your production/effectiveness by 10% in the area of ….” Use this strategy exactly at the scheduled restart time and do not repeat it for those who show up late. In doing this, you provide an intangible incentive to be back on time.
  2. Prepare a fun activity (e.g. crossword or trivia puzzle) that you announce will be on their chairs when they return. The first person getting the most correct answers within five minutes of the restart time, get s a prize.
  3. Do something special after each break. For example, tell a humorous story, joke, or share a work-related trip or perform a magic trick that ties to session content. Those not present, miss out on the information.

For more creative ideas on how to tap into brain-based learning research to create a more stimulating and effective adult learning environment, get copies of The Creative Training Idea Books Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning, Energize Your Training: Creative Techniques to Engage Learners, and Creative Learning: Activities and Games That Really Engage People.

One Minute of Praise – Training Feedback Activity

One Minute of Praise - Training Feedback Activity

One Minute of Praise – Training Feedback Activity

PURPOSE: To provide each member in a day-long training session or meeting with positive feedback on their performance at the end of the program. It can also be used to encourage participation during training or meeting.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: At the end of this activity, participants will:

  • Feel good about their performance during the training session or meeting.
  • Be able to practice their feedback skills with their peers.

One Minute of Praise – Training Feedback Activity by The Creative Trainer 


  • Prior to participant arrival, create a flip chart page with each participant’s name at the top in large colorful letters.
  • Post the pages on the wall with painters or masking tape in the back of the room. To prevent bleed through onto the walls, make sure to use water-based flip chart markers and put an extra sheet of paper under each of the pages.
  • Point out that everyone has a sheet with their name at the top for use during breaks and at the end of the session. Explain that they are encouraged to provide feedback on something they liked about each person’s performance.  For example, “I appreciated the fact that you arrived on time and returned punctually from breaks,” or “I liked the way you didn’t back down when _____________ said . . .”
  • At the beginning of the session/meeting, stress that each person’s input is crucial during the day. Explain that to encourage participation in the session, each person will receive feedback on their pages throughout the day.
  • Throughout the day, before breaks and lunch, remind everyone to go to the easel and comment on each sheet.
  • At the end of the day, give sheets with comments to each person.

NOTE:      To ensure that everyone gets at least one positive “stroke,” the facilitator should also write comments on the pages throughout the day.


TIME REQUIRED: No extra time needed since comments are added during breaks and lunch.


  • Actively engages learners.
  • Engages visual and kinesthetic learning modalities.
  • It causes a review of the day’s events.

For more creative ideas, strategies, and activities get a copy of The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning. For ways to energize learning events Check out Energize Your Training: Creative Techniques to Engage Learners and for additional activities using flip charts, get The Big Book of Flip Charts: A Comprehensive Guide for Presenters, Trainers, and Team Facilitators.

Energizer Training Activity – Take a Stand

Energizer Training Activity – Take a Stand

Getting training participants and students actively involved in the learning process ties directly into the tenets of adult learning (andragogy) and what brain-based research has shown can aid learning.

Energizer Training Activity – Take a Stand by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Adult Learning & Training Author

This activity is a simple way to engage learners and solicit their thoughts and opinions during a learning event. It can be used as indicated or modified to be an icebreaker, review activity, or another tool for engaging learners throughout a session.

PURPOSE:  This light-hearted technique allows a facilitator to quickly assess how participants view an issue. Also, to provide a visual record of their opinions.

OBJECTIVES:   This activity allows participants to:

  • State their opinion or knowledge level in an active manner.
  • Move around the room, thus energizing and stimulating brain neurons with enhanced blood/oxygen flow.


  • Prepare a tally flip chart with the words Strongly Agree; Agree; Somewhat Agree; Somewhat Disagree; Strongly Disagree in columns.
  • Post flip chart pages around the room at different points with statements that indicate opinion preferences (e.g. Strongly Agree, Agree, Somewhat Agree, Somewhat Disagree, and Strongly Disagree).
  • Read a statement or question related to a meeting or session topic (e.g. “In order to maximize learning, participants should be actively engaged during training”).
  • Ask participants to go to the area where the flip chart best describes their view on the issue and stand in front of the flip chart page.
  • Do a quick count and write the totals on the tally sheet in appropriate columns.
  • Present the next question or statement and have participants move again.
  • Continue the process until all issues or statements have been read.
  • Thank participants and ask them to have a seat.
  • Debrief the activity by reviewing total scores and discussing implications related to the session topic.


TIME REQUIRED:   Approximately 10 minutes.

Energizer Training Activity -- Take a Stand SOURCE: The Big Book of Flip Charts: A Comprehensive Guide for Presenters, Trainers and Team Facilitators by Robert W. Lucas.

For additional activities and hundreds of creative ideas for designing, developing, using, storing and transporting flip charts get a copy of the book.

Grouping Learners Using Props

Grouping Learners Using Props

There are many reasons for creatively finding ways to group your participants in a learning environment. Many of them relate to the concepts of brain-based learning which emphasizes factors such as novelty, fun, and movement to stimulate brain neurons in order to enhance learning.

To make your life easier and save time when trying to come up with creative ways to effectively organize participants into small groups, try using small toys or props. Simply decide some item related to your session theme and gather an equal number of various colors or types of the toy or prop to use in identifying team members.

Grouping Learners Using Props by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Adult Learning & Training Author

To use any type of item for identifying group members, count the total number of people in the room, divide equally based on the number of groups you desire for an activity or discussion, and then select an equal number of different colored or shaped toys or props. Randomly place one item at each learner’s seat location before they arrive. When ready to group them, just announce where they should gather for a group based on the type or color item they were given. For example, if you were doing a train-the-trainer program focused on brain-based learning, you might use a small colored rubber brain-shaped pencil erasers. People with yellow brains would go to one corner, blue, another, and so on.

Here are some suggestions that may help get you started.

  • Different denominations of play currency or coins are effective for a bank teller or cashier training;
  • Brain erasers of different colors can be used in train-the-trainer or creativity sessions;
  • Various colored smile faced items can be used for customer service programs or virtually any other topic. For example, stuffed animals, hacky sacks, or foam balls;
  • Colored fish exemplify successful programs/projects when things are “swimming along”;
  • Foam stress toys in shapes related to your session topic (e.g. cell phone for telephone skills training or smile face balls for customer service training);
  • Assorted zoo animals can add fun to virtually any subject or when discussing stress or a high energy topic when things are hectic (e.g. It’s a zoo around here);
  • Assorted insects or bugs help in activities when discussing pet peeves or things that “bug” participants either in customer interactions, or the workplace;
  • Colored spinning tops made of plastic can emphasize high sales or improvement levels (on top of the world);
  • Back scratchers made of wood or plastic can be related to ways of “reaching or attaining a goal”;
  • Sheriff’s/Law enforcement badges can be tied into concepts of taking charge, authority or ownership of an issue;
  • Rubber ducks made of rubber or plastic might be used to remind people that sometimes things are not always what they are “quacked up” to be (when discussing problems or how things can go wrong in a specific situation);
  • Handheld novelty shaped pencil sharpeners can stress the need to point out the need to ask direct questions or “get to the point” when doing customer service or interpersonal communication program;
  • Footballs, baseballs, sponge balls, or similar small items may help emphasize teamwork or “getting on the ball.”

These simple, yet fun approaches to group formation can get people laughing and be a novel way to save time rather than the traditional “count off” method that many trainers and educators often use.