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.

Laughter makes us better workers!

Did you catch this great news? Laughter is not only the best medicine, but it makes us better workers, too!  Great news for those of you who (normally) enjoy the water cooler banter with colleagues and organizing the office parties–all of your efforts are justified!

I love tips about increasing productivity, but this one is extra special. Now, how does this news relate, say, to training efforts?

Well, I’ve facilitated lots of training of trainers (TOTs) and I’ve written lots of curricula that other people deliver. One of my great challenges is in convincing novice facilitators that the fun activities are written into the training to, yes, be fun breaks and to allow opportunities for team building, practical application of learning, and to create lasting impressions of the materials. Those memories, especially when laughter is involved, can be the most lasting impression of a training and, thus, can help learners to recall other elements of the training.  If you are a novice trainer, challenge yourself to pace your trainings to allow for the active components of the training. If time is running out, consider restructuring your training to limit the PowerPoint or the lectures before you ax the activities. 

So, the moral of this story is…don’t skip the ice breakers, the energizers, and the activities.  Your team will be more productive because of it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day, one and all!

I love teaching about sexual and reproductive health. And I love making trainings fun and engaging. So, when you put the two of those together, I REALLY love sex ed games with condoms! Oh, yes.

So, for Valentine’s Day, my gift to you are instructions on how to play a most enjoyable condom game!

I like to call this…Condoms: Behind the Sheets

Objective:

  • To build condom-skills in a low pressure environment
  • To build confidence in condom-skills

Supplies:

  • A large piece of fabric (or sheet or shower curtain or curtain)
    • Cut holes in the fabric so that several players can put their hands through the holes (ideally 10 holes for 5 players–customize to the size of your fabric)
  • Condoms- at least enough for 1 for each player
  • Demonstration penis models for each player

Set Up

  • On a long table, place 5 stations with a condom and penis models.
  • Ask for two participants to hold the fabric up. They should hold the fabric up so that players CAN see over the top but CANNOT see the table. Tip: the holes should be aligned with the wrist of the participants (not the elbow which would allow them to see the condoms)
  • Divide the remaining participants into 5 groups.
  • Ask for one volunteer from each group to stand behind the sheet and insert their hands through the holes so that they can reach the condoms and demonstration penis model.

Play

  • Explain that people often feel unsure of their ability around using condoms. They can gain confidence in their ability by practicing.
  • Tell the participants that the five who are behind the sheet will be competing to see who can accurately put the condom on the demonstration penis the fastest while doing it correctly.
  • While they are competing, the rest of the participants should actively cheer for and coach their team member who is competing.
  • The winner of the race represents the winning team.
  • While they are competing, the rest of the participants should be divided to cheer for and give instructions to “their” player. The winner of the condom race represents a winning team.
  • Allow for as many groups of participants as time allows while maintaining the teams.
  • Keep score and offer a prize to the winning team.


Debrief:

  • Why did we do this activity?
  • What does this activity teach us about using condoms?

Alternatives:

  • Use internal condoms and pelvic models
  • Play a song while the participants are competing to make the point that putting on a condom takes little time at all

This is a lot of fun, engaging, and interactive. Allow the competitiveness and cheering to take over!

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.

Leadership Training with the CDC in Haiti

I just wrapped up facilitating three great days of training for Senior Leaders at the CDC Haiti. They are doing tremendous work in support of the ministry of health. Our time together was spent in building their already-strong leadership and management skills.

Highlight:

I started the session by presenting Integrated Practices for High Performing Health Systems, developed by USAID and WHO, that highlights the key differences and overlaps between leading and managing. With such high performing professionals, like those at CDC, nesting their behaviors  within a larger framework (like health systems strengthening) emphasize the importance of building leadership and management skills.  We thought about their day-to-day work and where their tasks fell within the practices. It became immediately clear for some where they had strengths and areas in need of attention. We then linked the rest of the training to their work in health system strengthening in partnership with the government.

We spent three days together exploring their skills and working with tools to build their skills. If you or your organization would like a similar training, please reach out. I’d love to help! 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.

Center for Sport in Society: Mentors in Violence Prevention

I was in a college-level gender studies course when I first heard the term “toxic masculinity” a term used to describe masculine behaviors that are harmful to men, their partners, and even to society at large .  It’s been, ahem, a few years since I took that course and, since then, the term has gained wider understanding and usage.  It, too, has evolved from a term that was used to describe men who grew up without a sense of “maleness” and a concern about what feminism was doing to men (gasp! the effects of those feminists was horrible in the eyes of the first users of the term!).

At that time, I was working at Philadelphia’s Mazzoni Center, an LGBTQ health center, as an HIV counselor and as an honorary member of the Trans Health Committee (it was an honor, indeed!).  While I was learning about gender in an academic sense, in real life, I was counseling clients through complex relationships with varied risk for HIV where gender and gender expression and identity could play a significant role in their relation to their partner(s).

It is not a stretch at all to imagine how extremes in masculinity and femininity may be detrimental to our health.  For example, toxic masculinity may fuel a desire among men to exert power over women, to take reckless risks, and to be less likely to seek out mental health care. It is also not a stretch to imagine how men may feel alienated from participating in sexual and reproductive health decision making within their partnerships.  Since my days at Mazzoni Center, I have gone on to train young men living with HIV in Cameroon and male inmates in a Malawian prison about their roles in creating a safe and loving relationship and the responsibilities they have as men to challenge these detrimental notions of masculinity.

The curriculum I used, Men As Partners developed by EngenderHealth, evolved from the Mentors In Violence Program (MVP) developed by the Center for Sport In Society at Northeastern University.  So, I was overjoyed to recently be invited to participate in an MVP training! In some ways, I took the long way to get to this training as I have been long familiar with off shoots of the program for some time.

The MVP program created a unique approach to combating violence against women by focusing on empowering bystanders to act when they see or hear something that could lead to violence. The focus of the training was on reviewing common scenarios that young people confront and discussing options for intervening. For example, we discussed scenarios where friends talk about sexual violence towards a woman and our challenge was to suggest options for deescalating the conversation and alerting the speaker to the fact that such talk is “not cool” and inappropriate.

In this era of #MeToo, the more tools we can give men, young and old, to disrupt cultural norms the better.  Far too many young people believe that there are only two options for action in a potentially violent situation: to call the police or do nothing. With each scenario we discussed, we compiled a list of feasible options of what could be said or done to change the outcome.

If you haven’t already, please take a few minutes to watch Jackson Katz, the founder of the MVP program, discuss the role of men in preventing violence against women.