Top TEN Training Tools

I’ve been working hard on a few great contracts! It’s been feeding my creative side as I love, love, love, thinking about how people learn complex topics.

I went out and bought some puzzles to add to my training toolkit (which is literally a big box of stuff–from blocks, to rubber bands, to Solo cups, and play money!). When I made my purchase, I realized that part of the fun I have with training is getting people to think through problems or challenges in a new way and to see a situation in a new light.

So, to help you guide learners through some experiential learning, I present to you…

My Top Ten List of Training Tools

aka: what is in my toolbox!

Number 10: A Timer!

I got myself this gem and love it! I love that it is as big as it is, that the timer rings loudly for everyone to hear, but not obnoxiously so. It is a great tool for keeping folks on task and on target without nagging about the elapsing time; plus I can fully immerse myself in the processing of each group and not have to focus on timekeeping. Its size is also really helpful as it can be seen throughout a training room. I use this to time presentations, group work, and even breaks.

Number 9: Mini White Boards!

These mini whiteboards, complete with marker and eraser, are a fun way of increasing participant engagement. I’ve used them as an evaluation tool by asking questions about the training or content and having participants give me one word answers. For example, I could for participants to give me a one-word description about how they are feeling at the end of a training day. They write for a moment and then all reveal the whiteboards at the same time. Similarly, they can be used as a means of quizzing the participants. The uses are endless.

Number 8: Tiddlywinks! 

I got these several years ago and have used them dozens of times! I love them for helping groups to vote or make fast decisions. For example, let’s say that you want to decide on a day for a group to meet. Make a flipchart with each of the options written on it. Lay the flipchart on a flat surface. Participants can get a few tiddlywinks to put on top of their votes. In seconds, you can get a sense of when people are available. You can use them to build a bar graph or to evaluate understanding of topics.

Number 7: Playing Cards

I love creating really interactive trainings. There can be the tendency for people to team up and only work with people who they are friends with already; we all like to stay in our comfort zone, of course. So, to combat that inclination and to ensure that groups are always a mix of different people, I hand out playing cards to determine working groups. Of course, you’ll need to count out cards ahead of time to orchestrate your groups accordingly. Once they are passed out, you can have people with even numbers group together, 4s group together, Aces group together, and so on.

Another great use is to hand out cards to keep track of who has participated. You can reward those with the most cards at the end of a training. Way back in the day, when I was teaching in Mozambique, I realized that my Titanic-themed playing cards were suddenly missing the cards featuring Leonardo DiCaprio. Apparently having a picture of the heart-throb to hang in their dorm room was more important to my students than getting participation points!

Number 6: Talking Stick

I don’t often use a talking stick, but they can be really helpful is discussing hot-button issues or in a debate. The idea is simple, only the person holding the talking stick can talk. Period. As a facilitator, ensure that the talking stick is passed around fairly and everyone has a chance to share.  The benefits of using the talking stick are many–I particularly like that there is almost always a shift to people practicing active and deep listening since no one is trying to cut in or interject. There are often challenges that come with working with introverts as well as extroverts–the talking stick helps to balance the needs of both type of learners.

Number 5: Name Plates

For the same reason that I like using playing cards to mix groups up, I like making name plates for participants, too. I often arrange my training room by moving the name plates around which signals to participants that they, too, need to move around. I have used them to separate folks who engage in side conversations, to bring less engaged people to the front, and, sometimes, more engaged people to the back. If a training has lots of opportunity for pair/shares, I will especially use and mix up the name plates so that these intimate conversations can happen between lots of different pairings.

Number 4: Post-it notes

Are post-it notes the greatest project management tool ever? Maybe. I love them for trainings. You can use them for brainstorming and for connecting ideas. Have you ever facilitated a mind mapping type of brainstorming? Post-its make it come alive! I often ask a question for brainstorming and allow folks to generate ideas on post-its. They will almost automatically start grouping their post-its and, upon prompting, will organize them into stages, processes, and steps. Mind mapping with post-its is a great brainstorming tool for teams with folks who like a moment to quietly think before jumping in.

I have also used post-it notes as a way to categorize ideas. For example, in a leadership training I designed, I have participants describe a leader they know and admire. As they are talking, another participant writes the characteristics on post-it notes; one characteristic per post-it. Once everyone has shared their ideas, I ask them to group the characteristics according to the Integrated Practices for High Performing Health Systems developed by USAID and WHO. Once the characteristics are sorted, participants can easily see what is valued by them as individuals and collectively.

Number 3: Balls

I have an arsenal  of activities that use balls to teach lessons. But, my favorite way to use balls in training is to help get a sense of what people know and to quickly get everyone on the same page before the training starts. Using a giant beach ball, use post-its (see how versatile they are!?) to write a series of questions and stick the post-its on the ball….one question per post-it. Once you have a number of questions, you are ready to play! Assemble your group. Ask them to toss the ball to each other. When someone catches the ball, they pluck off a post-it and answer the question that is written on it.  The participants get to show what they know, it is quick, it is fun, and helps to set a training off at the right level and pace. Easy peasy.

Number 2: Flipcharts

Flipcharts are underrated in this digital age of ours. They are hugely beneficial for helping to demonstrate where the training is going. I like to make all of the flipcharts for a training before we even begin and post them throughout the room. In doing so, participants, subconsciously, will start to make connections between the topic of discussion and a future or past topic. All on their own.

Number 1: Candy! 

That’s right. Candy. Who doesn’t love having a little snack during a training? Who wouldn’t be motivated to try to answer a question if a Snickers was up for grabs? In all seriousness. People love candy. And they will love you if you give it to them.

What are YOUR favorite training tools?

As always, I am open to new contracts and to working together. Please let me know how I can help you to build effective, exciting, and practice-based trainings.

The Story of Us

Since the 2016 Presidential elections, I’ve been reading more and more of the work of Marshall Ganz (and wish that I had an earlier introduction to his body of work!).

Ganz worked for United Farm Workers for sixteen years before becoming a trainer and organizer for political campaigns, unions, and nonprofits. He is largely credited for the success of the Obama grassroots campaign. 

Why am I writing about him now? 

Well, let me draw your attention to this article: Leading Change: Leadership, Organization, and Social-Movements and in particular, the section on telling stories. I try to help health care workers see themselves as agents of change. In trainings, I aim to include elements that work to build motivation and build a sense of unity between health care workers and their community and patients.

Whenever I am working to develop a curriculum or health care worker training, I like to ask three simple questions:

  • What should the participants know?
  • What should the participants be able to do?
  • How should the participants to feel about whatever they are doing/learning?

This is, of course, a re-visioning of the standard “know-do-understand” model of curriculum development. There are times when we need to ensure that health care workers are not perpetuating stereotypes or messaging treatment options in ways that may be alienating to patients.  By helping to frame the story of health care, we can also help to ensure that patients receive the best possible care.

How do you incorporate storytelling into your work?

OPTIMIZE project

I am thrilled to announce that training materials for health care workers on the introduction of DTG for the treatment of HIV are now online!

The OPTIMIZE project is a global consortium dedicated to rapidly improving treatment outcomes for people living with HIV by optimizing ARV drugs and formulations and accelerating their introduction in low- and middle-income countries.  I was proud to contribute to the impressive work of the consortium by writing the training materials for health care workers.

In recent years, there has been a powerful movement to test folks for HIV and immediately treat all who have a positive test. This is a shift from pervious recommendations of treating those who have low CD4 counts or who are pregnant, for example.  This is huge! It is a huge move towards equity and justice in health care.

Of course, there are challenges to a shift like this. One of the challenges that OPTIMIZE is addressing is around complicated treatment guidelines that include several different drug formulation for multiple populations. The introduction of DTG helps to simplify the treatments overall, harmonize treatment across populations, simplify the supply chain, and save money.

There have been several pivotal moments in the fight against AIDS and this one, an effort to get 90% of those living with HIV on treatment, is one of them! And DTG is a tool that will help achieve the goal.

As always, I am open to new contracts and to working together. Please let me know how I can help you to build effective, exciting, and practice-based trainings.