Need a warm-up activity or an icebreaker that elevates the energy level and the comfort level for a group of adult learners?
In this article, I’ll share my easy, go-to strategy that can be used for workshops, retreats or any type of face to face learning event. It’s simple, adaptable for any topic – plus it’s a highly effective way to set the stage for the purpose of the event. Best of all, it works for groups of 4 to 400!
As I’ve said, this activity is simple for you to plan and execute, but don’t let that fool you about the power that this little strategy packs. It accomplishes the four goals I try to achieve for any warm up I use. [Hyperlink to article] Even the most basic form of this strategy meets those four goals. I encourage you to try this activity in its most basic form first, so you can witness the power of it.
After you’ve used the rawest version of this all-purpose warm-up, then branch out and create your own unique versions. This warm up is like the Mr. Potato Head of warm ups. Once you know the basics of this activity, you can “dress it up” by adding in unique elements and design creative spin-offs of your own.
(Call out box)
Terminology Tip: I prefer the term “warm-up” instead of the term “icebreaker.” So here it is . . . .The Versatile 10 Minute Warm-up for any Training Event.
I’ll write how the activity flows in the order that it happens:
1. Provide Instructions: Give all instructions to the group before starting the activity. The instructions can be given verbally or the instructions can be displayed in large text on a slide or printed on a tent card placed on tables – if people are seated around tables. Best Practice Tip: Provide verbal instructions and provide instructions on a slide, especially for a large group. Here’s an example of what you might say, “For our warm-up today, you’re going to have a short conversation with another person in the room to answer just two questions. I’ll give all of the instructions first and then I’ll cue you to start. Our training today is about _________, so your discussions will be about that topic. In a few minutes, when I tell you to start, you will stand up and find another person who is sitting on the other side of the room from you. First introduce yourself to each other and then take turns sharing with your partner your answer to these two questions. (Show slide with questions.) One: what is one thing you already know about ________ and two, what is one thing you hope you will learn today about _________?” We’ll allow three minutes from start to finish to find your partner and have your discussions. After you’ve shared your answers, tell your partner “thank you” and go ahead and return to your seat. You don’t have to wait for my signal. But if you’re still talking when you hear the timer ring, finish up your conversation quickly and return to your set. Before we start, are there any questions? (Answer questions)
2. Say “Start”, Time and Monitor: After you’ve answered any questions. Tell the group you are starting the timer for three minutes and cue them to begin. Continue to show the slide during the activity. If someone forgets the questions, that person can easily find the questions on the slide. (If you don’t have access to slides, write the questions on a whiteboard or flip chart for the learners to reference.) When the timer rings, most people in the room will finish their conversations and return to their seats. Allow one minute (or more for large groups) for this transition for people to return to their seats. Knowledge Tip: This type of partner discussion activity is also known by the term “Pair Share.”
3. Large Group Sharing: After the group sits down after the “pair share,” you’ll facilitate a short large group discussion in which a few people share with the entire group. Here’s one example of how to start this discussion. “So now, let’s take a few minutes to get a sampling of your conversations. Let’s start with the first question. What do some of your already know about this topic? Remember, you’re going to share with the whole group the same thing you just shared with your partner for the first question on the slide. Please stand when you share. (Allow 2-3 minutes for some of the people to share the answer. This might be only 3 people, or it could be up to 6 people depending on the complexity of the training topic.) “Now, let’s hear what you hope to learn in this event about _________.” (Again, allow 2-3 minutes for some people to share answers.)
4. Closing Statement: Make a closing statement to transition from this warm-up activity in to the next section of the agenda. It might sound like this. “So now we have a good sense of where our group is on knowledge about the topic and where you all want to go in your learning for this topic. Let’s get started on the learning now.”
So that’s the versatile warm-up for adult learners. Of course, you the trainer, instructor or facilitator will fill in those blanks with the specific topic that is the focus for the learning event. Trainers, instructors, facilitators, team leaders and retreat leaders, I invite you to try this simple, yet engaging warm-up soon so you can witness the power of the energy level and sense of focus that this warm-up provides.
Want Extra Learning about Using this Warm-Up?
If you’d like to push yourself a little and further your learning, choose one – or more – of the following learning opportunities for yourself:
3 Ways to Learn More about Using “The Versatile 10 Minute Warm-Up for Any Training Event”
4. Written Reflection: Once you’ve tried this warm up, I also invite you to come back to this article (Tip: bookmark it on Pinterest) and share in the comment section what you noticed or what your learned from using this warm-up. Writing up your own reflections about trying this activity will help you learn more about what worked and didn’t work well when you first tried this activity. Also your comments can help others and spark more learning.
5. Watch the Video Version: If you would like to hear me explain this activity and watch me as I talk about it, click below to watch the video on my youtube channel.
6. Download Extra Tips and Expansions: I’ve created a downloadable “eGuide to the Versatile 10 Minute Warm-Up for Any Training Event.” You’ll get suggestions for success with this activity as well as examples of how to add more elements to this warm-up activity. Adding more elements allows you to use the same activity again, but with new and novel additions.