Make Training Reviews Fun in Adult Learning Sessions

Make Training Reviews Fun in Adult Learning Sessions

Make Training Reviews Fun in Adult Learning Sessions

Many trainers and adult educators struggle to find ways to gauge learning effectiveness, reinforce what has occurred in the classroom and effectively engage adult learners. If you simply design their sessions to make training reviews fun, all of these goals can be accomplished.

By thinking back on your own early childhood learning experiences, you can often gain ideas on ways to enthuse adult learners and energize your training environments. Much of what we know as adults began when we were just starting school. Teachers had us on the floor, playing with toys, games and other items that tied to the concepts they wanted to reinforce. We were laughing, sharing, engaging and enjoying the experience without even realizing that we were learning important life lessons. These techniques can also be useful to you in delivering adult learning sessions.

One fun and novel way that I use to engage my adult learners and make training reviews fun is to use a creative musical toy game called “Pass the Pickle.” After I have covered numerous key concepts, I sometimes use it as an interim review activity at some point during a session. This game is an effective and fun energizer when the information shared has been a bit tedious or complex (e.g. required orientation, regulatory or legal training). I also use it when I want to get learners moving to stimulate their brain a bit. In other sessions, I use the game at the end of a session to review and reinforce key concepts and ideas explored during the session.

I conduct the activity in the following manner, but you can modify as you desire:

  • Form small groups of 6-8 people in circles at the back of the training room and randomly select a group leader.
  • Give each group leader a Pass the Pickle toy.
  • Instruct leaders to push the button on the bottom of the toy when you say “Go.”
  • Toys are passed clockwise around each circle during the game.
  • When the music stops (it is randomly programmed to stop at different time lengths), the person holding the toy shouts out one key term or concept learned during the session. These cannot be repeated by another participant later.
  • That person then restarts the toy, passes it to their left and steps back out of the circle to observe and listen as concepts are reinforced.
  • When only one person remains in each group, stop the review activity.
  • Have everyone give a round of applause for their effort.
  • Reward group leaders with candy or a small incentive related to the session topic (e.g. a toy, prize or otherwise). Reward examples might include a smile face toy in a customer service session, a foam squeeze toy in a stress management class, or something related to money for a group of cashiers.
  • Have everyone take a seat.
  • Facilitate a group review in which participants randomly volunteer to stand and share some of the key concepts they experienced.
  • Reward volunteers who share ideas with an incentive.

By taking time to make training reviews fun you are tapping into the neuroscience of learning (also known as brain based learning). Researchers have identified numerous factors that can be used to help stimulate brain neurons and create an environment in which learning potential is enhanced. Fun, novelty, music, learner engagement. movement, and repetition are just a few of the elements that you can use in your adult learning sessions to actively involve participants in the learning process.

For more ideas on ways to make training reviews fun in adult learning sessions, and actively engage your adult learners, read other articles on this blog. Also check out The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning, Training Workshop Essentials: Designing, Developing and Delivering Learning Events that Get Results, and  Energize Your Training: Creative Techniques to Engage Learners.

Engaging Adult Learners with Icebreaker Activities Using Flip Charts

Engaging Adult Learners with Icebreaker Activities Using Flip Charts

Brain based learning research and adult learning theory  (andragogy)point to the value of actively engaging participants in activities throughout a learning event. Doing this early in a session helps them to claim ownership for the learning process, overcome potential hesitance about getting involved, and potentially get to know one another. It also allows you to identify introverts and extroverts and leaders and followers, and to encourage active participation by all learners throughout the session.

Engaging Adult Learners with Icebreaker Activities Using Flip Charts

Here are two easy icebreaker activities involving flip charts that you might use in your next session:

1.    Get participants involved in a self-discovery activity at the start of a session. I do this in a program on behavior styles. I have participants group in threes. I then ask them to write the first names of group members at the top of three columns on a flip chart page. They are given a total of five minutes for each person to think of three characteristics (adjectives) which they think describes their behavior as it relates to the session topic. For example, in a session on supervisory training or leadership, someone might offer goal-oriented, assertive and decisive as their choices. Through such an activity, people become actively involved early in the session, share information, get to know something about others, and begin discussing the program topic. Later in the session, you can conduct an additional activity in which participants explain how the characteristics they identified during the icebreaker might be applied in a given situation related to the program topic

2.   Group participants, then show a flip charted statement related to the program topic. Have participants introduce themselves within their group, then discuss and flip chart their thoughts on the statement they read. For example, in a session on customer service, you might state, “Customers today are very impulsive and in a hurry.” After a specified period of time, go over the group responses as a class. This type of activity provides a vehicle for discussion of a program relevant topic, gains active involvement, and gives people a chance to get to know one another and share how they think.

For additional ideas on creative ways to create, use, transport, and store flip charts, get a copy of The Big Book of Flip Charts: A Comprehensive Guide for Presenters, Trainers, and Team Facilitators. For additional creative games and activities to energize your learning events, check out Creative Learning: Activities and Games That Really Engage People.

Those Who Made A Difference – A Coaching and Mentoring Energizer Activity

Those Who Made A Difference – A Coaching and Mentoring Energizer Activity

Adult learning theory and brain-based learning research both suggest that by getting your trainees actively engaged in the learning process, you can increase enthusiasm for the material and potentially improve the chances that what was covered will be retained and used later. Further, by integrating energizer activities into your program design, you also help learners assume responsibility and ownership for learning outcomes since they were part of content development.

Those Who Made A Difference – A Coaching and Mentoring Energizer Activity by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Author

The following activity can be used in supervisory, management, or volunteer training sessions where you want learners to reflect on the power of coaching, mentoring or helping others.

Those Who Made A Difference – A Coaching and Mentoring Energizer Activity

Purpose: To help prompt thinking about characteristics that make people successful in a given environment or situation.

Objectives: By reflecting on past personal experiences and identifying characteristics of people they have known, participants will be able to:

  • Pinpoint specific traits for successful people that they can emulate.
  • Recognize what they value as successful.


  • Tell participants they have five minutes to take out a sheet of paper and write the name of someone they think was successful in a given environment or situation (i.e., managing others, giving feedback, listening, organizing their time, dealing with change).
  • Next, have them take another five minutes to list 2-3 traits or characteristic behavior that these people exhibited that made them successful.
  • After five minutes, go around the room and have each person share the traits they wrote and why they think these are important. List the traits on a flip chart page.
  • Once all participants have shared their traits, look for commonalities and discuss as a group.
  • Suggest that they may want to think about how they too can use these traits for their own improvement.

Materials Needed:

  • Flip chart pad with easel.
  • Assorted colored markers.
  • Paper and pencils for participants.

Time Required: Approximately 20-30 minutes, depending on group size.

Those Who Made A Difference – A Coaching and Mentoring Energizer ActivitySource: Lucas, R. W., The Big Book of Flip Charts: A Comprehensive Guide for Presenters, Trainers and Team Facilitators.

Energizer Training Activity – What Do I Wear?

Energizer Training Activity – What Do I Wear?

Making learning fun while accomplishing your stated learning objectives is a good way to stimulate learning and tie into brain-based learning research on how participants learn best.

Energizer Training Activity - What Do I Wear?

By actively engaging your adult learners, you are tapping into basic tenets of adult learning (andragogy) and encouraging learners to become active participants in the information exchange process.

This activity is an easy way to encourage learner participation providing a forum for future information exchange.

Energizer Training Activity – What Do I Wear? by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Brain-Based Adult Training Author

Time:  30-45 Minutes (depending on group size)

Group Size:    24-30

Purpose:  To provide an opportunity for learners who work in the same organization to get to know one another a bit better. This activity also allows them to have a bit of fun while doing getting to know one another in sessions dealing with diversity, non-communication, team building, customer service, or other topics where relationships and understanding others is an important desired outcome.

Objectives:     Through the use of this activity, learners will be able to:

  • Get to know one another better on a more personal level.
  • Recognize that predispositions about others may create challenges in relationships.


  • At the beginning of a session, have participants form small, equal-sized groups (5-8 people) at round tables.
  • Explain that participants have been invited to a costume party.
  • They have two minutes to decide what costume they would wear.
  • Have everyone write their costume choice and nothing else on a strip of paper that you provide.
  • After everyone has written their answer, they should fold it and put it in the center of their table.
  • Instruct all participants to retrieve one strip of paper from the center of the table and one by one open it.
  • After all, participants have opened their paper and read what is written, have them introduce themselves one-by-one (e.g. who they are, where they are from, where they work, why they are attending the session, or whatever you prefer to have them disclose).
  • Following the introductions, have each person turn their paper over and write down the name of the person that they believe wrote the costume name on the other side.
  • Once everyone has done this, have them one at a timeshare who they believe the owner to be and why. 


  • Ask for a show of hands of how many people guessed correctly.
  • Ask those who guessed incorrectly, why they believe they might have done so.
  • Ask those who were correct what led them to believe the person they chose wrote their paper.
  • Hold a general discussion related to how we sometimes make assumptions about others and that can create challenges in relationships.

Materials Needed: Three-inch strips of paper.

For more ideas on engaging learners see Lucas, Robert W., Creative Learning: Activities and Games That REALLY Engage People, Jossey Bass/Pfeiffer, San Francisco, CA.

Brain-Based Learning Strategies

brain based learning strategies
Robert (Bob) W. Lucas, Author, Facilitator, and Performance consultant

Brain-Based Learning Strategies

In 2013 in June, Robert (Bob) W. Lucas hosted two events for the Metro DC ASTD Chapter in Washington, DC (Tapping the Brain for Learning and Brain-Based Learning Strategies).

The sessions focused on how the brain learns and some of the research that has been done related to applying color, sound, motion, novelty, learner engagement and other strategies to enhance learning environments and potentially increase opportunities for learners to gain, retain, recall and use what they learn.

On the 26th, he provided insights at the chapter’s dinner meeting in a session titled: Tapping the Brain for Learning.  This session explored many ideas, brain-based concepts, and techniques that can be used to enhance virtually any training program or presentation topic.

At the end of the session, and when applying concepts learned, participants were able to:

a.  Facilitate creative training programs and presentations that can help induce behavior change and are FUN.

b.  Identify, make, or obtain inexpensive materials that add spark to training programs and presentations.

c.  Increase interaction with participants.

d.  Review program concepts throughout your sessions in order to get an interim check of learning before the program ends.

e.  Create memorable techniques for adding excitement and sizzle to programs so that participants keep coming back.

Brain-Based Learning Strategies Training – Past Success by Robert W. Lucas

On June 27th, Bob facilitated a one-day workshop titled: Strategies to Make Your Learning Events Sizzle. In this event, participants experienced dozens of creative training techniques based on brain research related to how the brain best learns and retains information. These strategies presented that day were meant to be immediately applied in their own learning events. They covered many training workshop essentials for typing in research to learning.

Bob went on to expand upon some of the ideas addressed in the previous night’s program. Therefore, the additional information through a variety of experiential opportunities in which participants hear about a concept, see it demonstrated and then have an opportunity to try or discuss it. They did also discuss how they might use the strategies to strengthen their own learning events.

At the end of the program, participants were able to:

  • Create training environments that stimulate learning.
  • Incorporate the latest learning brain research into their training design and delivery.
  • Design learning events that result in higher levels of attention and retention.
  • Use techniques and strategies experienced in their own learning events.
  • Add pizzazz and novelty to their learning events.
  • Immediately apply what they learned.

Get Learners Moving with Energizer Training Activities

Get Learners Moving with Energizer Training Activities

By getting your learners up and moving, you increase the blood flow carrying oxygen to their brains and help stimulate the brain neurons while helping make them more alert. That increases their opportunity to learn and retain what they experience through their senses.

Get Learners Moving with Energizer Training Activities by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Adult Learning & Training Author

Here are some creative energizer training activities to engage you, learners.

Play a Clever Catch Icebreaker

Clever Catch Ice Breaker Ball
Clever Catch Ball Training activity

-This is an easy and effective movement-based activity that introduces participants and prompts them to give interesting information about themselves at the beginning of a session. For this exercise, you’ll need a Clever Catch Ball–a 24-inch inflatable ball that you can find on the Internet or at school supply stores. The balls are available already printed with questions for an array of topics, but you can also use a writeable one.

-Before the session, use wet-erase markers to write questions or other content-related information all over the ball. For example, to open an orientation, communication, or team-building session, you might write, “What makes you decide that something is important in your life?” or “If you knew that you could not fail, what would you do?”

-At the start of training, ask your learners to form a circle and then toss the ball to someone.

-The person who catches the ball gives his or her name and then answers the question that appears under his or her right thumb.

-After answering, the catcher tosses the ball across the circle to another person.

-Play continues until everyone has caught the ball and answered a question once.

Take a Pop-Up Survey

If you want to do a quick survey to determine your learners’ experience or other characteristics, ask learners to “pop up” (stand and then sit) when you ask something pertinent to them. For example, if you ask, “Who has delivered a training program to others?” anyone who has done so stands up, then sits down.

This type of training activity prompts quick physical movement while it gives you (and the other participants) information about the people in the class.

Make Some Noise

Get Learners Moving with Energizer Training Activities

Give each learner some sort of party-type noisemaker–a whistle, a clapper or clacker, a spinner, a cowbell, or whatever you wish.

When you shout out a term or phrase related to a key session topic, everyone who knows the definition jumps up and sounds their noisemakers.

You pick one of them to offer the definition or explain the concept, and everyone else
sits down. Give a small prize or candy for a correct answer.

Repeat the process until all terms have been defined.

Play Verbal Volleyball

To add sound, laughter, movement, and fun to any session, have learners review key concepts through a game of verbal volleyball.

To play it, have learners form pairs and line up facing one another.

When you shout, “Go!” pairs take turns shouting key ideas, concepts, or terms that they’ve learned in the session.

One person in a pair shouts an idea; then her or his partner does the same—or, if nothing comes immediately to mind, shouts “Pass!”

Partners continue this way until neither one can think of another concept.

Learning does not have to be boring. By adding elements such as a bit of novelty, fun, easy magic tricks, movement, and sound, you can enhance the learning environment while engaging learner brains and potentially increasing the opportunity for comprehension and application.

Five Phases of Adult Learning

Five Phases of Adult Learning

Five Phases of Adult Learning

For learning to truly occur in an adult learning environment, a phased process is often helpful. The process that follows moves through five stages or phases. In a brain-based learning environment, participants are alerted to the learning experience in which they are about to take part. They are then led along a pre-planned path for transferring knowledge, skills, or attitudes back to the workplace or other venue.

Five Phases of Adult Learning by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Adult Learning & Training Author

Using elements of the adult learning theory popular since that phrase was coined by Malcolm Knowles decades ago, you can develop sound approaches for engaging learners and helping them better gain, retain, recall and use what they experience.

Phase 1 – Preparing Participants for Learning

In the first phase of the learning process, you must condition participants for learning. This is typically done through icebreakers or creative training activities tied to the behavioral learning objectives or session outcomes and the actual training program content. In this introductory phase you grab attention and provide a foundation of information and help focus learner’s brains onto the topic to be addressed. By doing so, you increase the likelihood that they will quickly recognize, absorb, and process new information or stimuli and assimilate it into what they already know. Further, by providing a verbal, visual, and kinesthetic push, then identifying how the new information connects to what they already know, you can assist in bridging with memories they possess.

Phase 2 – Create a Stimulating Learning Environment

The second phase of the learning process incorporates handouts, job aids, or other visual material to supplement verbal messages. Such materials allow participants to better access information based on their own learning style (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic). To support learning content and aid comprehension, you can use associated visual aids to make key points, reinforce concepts, or provide alternative methods of information delivery. For example, colorful posters, transparencies or computer-generated slides, or flip charted information helps paint a mental image of the content.

Phase 3 – Reinforcing Learning 

Once the information has been delivered to the brain via one or more of the elements in Phase 2, connections are started. As a facilitator, you can enhance these bonds by conducting interim reviews throughout a session. During such reinforcements, you help mold and stabilize the learning through repetition and by helping learners see relationships. Such activities aid in increasing the depth of learner understanding while helping prepare them for Phase 4.

Phase 4 – Content Memorization

It is during this fourth phase that neural connections are made in the brain to help ensure that a learner can subsequently access or recall information and concepts learned. You can increase the effectiveness of this phase by teaching and using a variety of mnemonic or memory techniques. These strategies help learners to later access the information acquired.

Phase 5 – Implementation of Learning

In the final phase of learning, knowledge, or skills gathered are recalled and put into practice. If a learner is not able to successfully perform tasks or regurgitate information learned, there was likely a breakdown in the learning process and further review may be required.

To test the success of this phase, have participants demonstrate knowledge or skills through tests, practical application, or by teaching others.

For ideas on how to effectively design and deliver training that aids learning and embraces adult and brain-based learning concepts, get a copy a Training Workshop Essentials: Designing, Developing, and Delivering Learning Events That Get Results.

Engaging Adult Learners in the Classroom

Engaging Adult Learners in the Classroom

For learning to occur, engaging adult learners in the classroom is an important aspect of enhancing learning. By getting participants involved in the learning process, you increase the possibility that they assimilate knowledge and use what they learn.

Engagement must start as soon as learners enter the classroom, or before if possible so that they become active participants rather than passive bystanders. This is one of the basic elements of adult learning – people must be involved in the learning process in order to gain, retain, recall, and use what they experience.

Engaging Adult Learners

Unlike children, who often have little intrinsic motivation to be in the classroom and little previous knowledge or experience from which they can extract meaning and assimilate new information, adults typically want to be present and learn. They often seek new knowledge and skills that they can immediately apply on the job or in their life. This difference in learning style has been addressed by Malcolm Knowles and others who have focused on adult learning theory or andragogy and ways to involve adult learners.

Research indicates that long-term memories are formed when multiple senses capture sensory data and the brain assimilates the new information or matches it with existing knowledge. To help accomplish this when you are training adults look for ways to tap into various sensory channels through the use of environmental elements such as color, sound, images, motion, smells, novelty, movement, and physical activity.

Additionally, you can encourage the retention of key concepts and information through the use of repetition. For example, consider building in some form of review activity every 15-20 minutes to hold attention and reinforce what has been shared. By using these interim reviews rather than waiting until the end of a session, you enhance the possibility that your learners will walk away with more useful knowledge and skills.

Engaging Adult Learners in the Classroom by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Adult Learning & Training Author

Some easy interim review formats include the following:

• Create strips of paper with different key ideas or concepts covered in the session up to that point on each one. Next, place one strip inside small plastic eggs of various colors (the type used in children’s Easter baskets). When you are ready to review, pass around a basket or box with these in it and have volunteers take one egg. Once all eggs are distributed, ask for volunteers to stand, open their egg, and read what is on their strip of paper.

Ask for anyone else in the room to define or explain the idea or concept. Reward the volunteer who answers correctly, then repeat the process until all eggs have been opened. A variation of this is to use various colored balloons placed on the wall before the session and have them retrieved and popped by volunteers for the review. This type of activity involves brain-based learning concepts of fun, novelty, repetition (review), color, sound (if using balloons) movement, and learner engagement.

• When ready to review, have learners turn to another participant and share one key concept learned thus far and how they plan to use it.

Engaging Adult Learners

• Depending on the session topic, use a What if? activity in which, at some point, you have each person take out a piece of paper and write “What If?” at the top of the page. Next have finished the statement with some key ideas or concepts learned in the session that they could immediately apply to their job or life.

• Use a Share the Knowledge review in which you have a volunteer team leader start a piece of paper around their table by first writing one key idea or concept learned up until that point in the session, then passing the paper to their left. Subsequent learners repeat the process until everyone has contributed something. Let them know before starting that it is okay to cheat and look at their notes if they cannot think of something to add.

After everyone has written something have the leader lead a discussion on which item the group believes to me most significant and discuss why they believe this to be true. Allow 5 minutes for this process, then have each team leader share the item their team selected with the rest of the groups. Reward team leaders with a small prize or piece of candy.

Training does not have to be boring or tedious. Think of ways to make your learning events come alive and engage your learners while reinforcing ideas and concepts.

To contact Bob visit his website at or his blog

Tying Adult Learning Theory to Brain Based Learning Research

Tying Adult Learning Theory to Brain-Based Learning Research

Since the first part of this year, I have been conducting a lot of workshops and presentations on creative training techniques and brain-based learning for adults. Frequently attendees ask questions related to adult learning and what strategies or techniques work best to help their participants better gain, retain, recall, and use what they experience. Invariably, the answer comes back to how the type of learning environment you set for your participants.

Tapping the Brain for LearningTying Adult Learning Theory to Brain-Based Learning Research by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Adult Learning & Training Author

For decades, neuroscientists, psychologists, and cognitive scientists have explored the intricacies of the human brain in an attempt to learn what happens when various stimuli are introduced into a learner’s environment. Since many elements can impact brain functioning and stimulate brain neurons it is sometimes easier to look at some things that researchers have found related to adult learners.

Here are four things to know about adult learners that might assist you when you are designing and delivering content for your participants:

#1 Adults want to know how what they learn will help them personally and/or in the workplace.

Presenting theory will not work with today’s adult learners. Because information is so readily available in today’s world and training time is often limited, adult learners want to quickly understand what they will gain from attendance at your session and how they will be able to apply it. If you cannot explain or demonstrate how they will immediately be able to use information, strategies, and techniques, you are likely to lose their interest.

#2 Adults tend to self-sufficient.

Typically, you will encounter participants who come to the learning event with a wide array of experience, knowledge, and competencies. As a result, they do not want to be told what, when, and how they will learn. Instead, they want information shared and have an opportunity to be actively engaged in the process and experience the learning on individual levels.

#3 Adults want to feel ownership of the learning process.

To accomplish this, it is good to build in opportunities where they can mold the approach to learning in their own way. As you design your sessions, address the needs or learning modalities of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners by adding activities in which learners experience “ah-ha” moments about content as they jointly explore the who, what, when, how, and why of information they are receiving.

#4 Adults want to have an enjoyable learning experience.

Life is stressful enough without having to sit through some painful learning experience in which rote memory or tedious activities are involved. During the learning process, you have to build in interesting, interactive, and sensory-oriented strategies and techniques (e.g. music, magic, games, puzzles, and other FUN elements). These help your learners’ brains release dopamine, which stimulates the pre-frontal cortex to aid attention and long-term memory, and endorphins, which come from laughter and pleasurable experiences and help participants feel good about their learning.

Ultimately, your goal should be to treat adult learners as partners in the learning process and allow them ample opportunity to become fully engaged throughout the event.