- As you prepare for all the various training events, look for new ways to
present your topics. Break out of the lecture mold and become creative.
Involve your group with hands on activities.
What I hear, I forget;
What I see, I remember;
What I do, I understand.
---Confucius 451 B.C.
Listed below are two actvities that can be used to improve communication
skills. These are in the "Creative Training Techniques"
Newsletter, June 2000.Volume13.Number 6. (800/328-4329,
http://www.creativetrainingtech.com/index.cfm). [They have also
been used in scouting circles in various formats for years.
The Peanut Butter & Jelly one works well at Basic Leader Training.]*****
'Spread peanut butter on bread; er, first remove bread from wrapper'
When it comes to communication, we're not always as crystal-clear as we
think. Cindy Vallone makes that point -- while she makes a mess.
She begins by dividing her attendees into teams of four or five. Each team
gets a piece of flipchart paper and several markers. She instructs each team
to spend 15 to 20 minutes recording the steps in making a peanut butter and
jelly sandwich. Because some teams will finish early, she says, tie this in
with a break: Provide 25 minutes for the exercise and ask people to take 10
minutes off before, during, or after making the list. When everyone has
returned to the room and each team has finished its instructions, Vallone
asks teams to post the flipcharts. Here's where the fun begins. She dons a
chef's hat, apron, and gloves, chooses an instruction sheet that
seems most comprehensive, and breaks out her supplies: a loaf of bread in a
bag with a twist tie, a plastic jar of peanut butter, a plastic jar of
jelly, a dull knife and napkins or wet towelettes.
She reads from the selected flipchart sheet, following directions literally.
If the first step is "Get bread," she picks up the loaf, still wrapped. If
the next instruction says, "Put peanut butter on one side of bread," she
spreads peanut butter on one side of the loaf, without removing it from the
wrapper. She continues in this way through each step. There are endless
variations on how to "misunderstand" the instructions. When everyone has had
a good laugh, she makes her point: What's obvious to the person writing
instructions, designing a process, or writing a memo may not be so clear to
the readers. The more different the people are -- in rank, age, culture,
education level, experience on the job and so forth -- the more this will be
The point: Make sure your communication, written or spoken, is clear enough
to make sense to your audience. [This activity is great in showing how
communication between leaders and/or parents/scouts can vary based on who is
sending and receiving.]*****
Gliding to Conclusions
Here's a way to demonstrate the value of creativity and careful listening,
Jim Saleh says---while having a little fun. Give every participant a sheet
of paper and tell them you're having a contest. The object is to see who can
make a sheet of paper fly the farthest. Each entry gets three tries and only
the best try counts. Students will set to work making paper airplanes. Ask
for volunteers to measure and record results. After the first round, offer
time to improve designs. Supply paper clips if you like. Hold another
round, and then give participants a second chance to improve their designs
before taking one last turn. When the final round is complete, tell
participants you're pretty sure you can beat them all in just one attempt.
Take a piece of paper, wad it into a tight ball, and throw it.
Chances are you'll go farther than the best-performing paper airplane.
Point out that you never said anything about making airplanes. That was a
group assumption -- a dangerous but common mistake. The moral of the story:
Sometimes the simplest approach is the best.*****
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