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Setting up a Group Activity

If your background is more of a lecture-based approach, it wouldn’t be surprising if the idea of group activities scares you. But don’t be afraid! Studies – and our own experience here at MRWED – prove that group activities result in much higher learning. They really do embody the idea that “adults learn by doing”.
We dare you to branch out and embrace group activities. To get you started, here are some tips for setting up and facilitating a team exercise that empowers your learners to perform better when they are back on the job.

  1. Set the tone. Before you begin any activity, establish and demonstrate a signal such as a bell, chime or horn that will quickly and easily signal to everyone to stop what they are doing and refocus.
  2. Divide and conquer. The first step when setting up your class for a group activity is to divide, mix and move people and then give instructions. People will often forget or confuse the instructions during all of the hustle and bustle. One way to signpost that the specific activity instructions is to use the phrase “in just a moment, we will…”
  3. Give them all the details. When announcing the activity instructions, make sure to give all of the details about the exercise. Include why the activity is important, how the group will do it or the process they will follow, what the end result should be, how long it should take, and how the activity will be debriefed.
  4. Chunk your instructions. When giving instructions they should be clear and given in chunks or steps. You don’t want to lose credibility by giving too much direction and confusing your participants or even yourself. Groups of three directions work best.
  5. And then repeat them. Restate the instructions. Summarise the activity and the directions, as some participants may not have understood them the first time through. It will also confirm to those that did hear them that they got them right. 
  6. Use visual cues. Give the learners some easy references to remember where to go or what to do e.g. (“join me at the board”, “add you own details to the green poster”, “grab extra resources from the table behind me”.
  7. Assign roles. Group activities should have a timekeeper and a group leader. This frees up you as the instructor to mingle with the groups without needing to worry about the time. Assigned positions allow the group to focus on the task and the results. It also assures that someone will give a report if called on at the end of the activity.

Although not required for all group activities, these are some of the building blocks to creating and facilitating an energising team exercise. Just remember more often than not, more explicit directions are better than a disorganised confused classroom.
By Becky Pike Pluth and Marc Ratcliffe