Education and Training Prep Course

45 videos, 3 hours and 16 minutes

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Icebreakers and Energisers

Video 7 of 45
5 min 42 sec
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Now we need to discuss Icebreakers and Energisers. Firstly, it’s useful to note the difference between icebreakers and energisers. Icebreakers are completed at the start of the session and are designed to be the first time that an individual has spoken in front of the group. Icebreakers require individuals to state their name as a form of introduction and then to complete a particular task as directed by the tutor. Energisers, however, are designed to be completed at various stages of the training and these energise and motivate learning. Energisers should be linked to the subject that you are teaching, but can be a distraction technique if the subject is a very heavy, theory based topic. They are useful after lunch and in afternoon sessions, where your learners may feel a bit more tired or disengaged.

Let’s look at Icebreakers to start with. Think about when you have attended training sessions in the past, often the very first thing that happened on the course was that the tutor or the instructor made you do something, an activity or a task just to try and get you all involved. This may not even have been related to the subject.

It’s quite daunting for learners when they first join a session, they are sitting down and waiting for the lesson to begin and not really knowing what to expect. It may be that the learners are meeting for the first time, or it may be that the group already know each other quite well. Either option could mean that they may be nervous about speaking in front of a group.

Initially, you may find that your group is very quiet, that no one is talking and this is quite normal. The idea of the icebreaker is that it gives your group something to talk about and will ease them into the lesson. Icebreakers can have a number of benefits, including promoting a group atmosphere by allowing the learners to speak to the others for the first time. It is also useful for the tutor, as it give you a chance to assess your learners. Icebreakers will allow you to identify the personalities you have within the room, to see who are the confident individuals and who are the slightly more timid. Icebreakers allow you to find out something about your learners, often things which can be referred to later in the training. If you are able to remember something from the icebreaker session and refer to this later then it makes your learners feel valued and special.

What we need to ensure is that our learners are never embarrassed by the task that you give them. We must carefully consider the implications of using icebreakers and ensure that the one you select is fit for purpose. Consider the types of learners that you have on the course, what you are teaching and how long the course runs for. When running courses over a 5 day period you may spend a little bit more time on the icebreaker, as it’s more important to have a solid foundation from the start. If the individuals know each other, you should still complete an icebreaker, but consider one more relevant to the subject matter, or maybe something that tells others something they do not know about each other. Don’t be afraid to inject a little bit of humour into the icebreakers, just make sure that these are appropriate to both the session and the learners.

As a general rule, it is advised that you avoid icebreakers that require acting, singing or performing in any way, as these are the areas that can cause embarrassment or cause learners to switch off.

Some of the more basic icebreakers include breaking the group into pairs, asking them to ask a few questions to their partner and when they have finished they can then introduce their partner to the group. This icebreaker meets the needs of most learners as it ensures minimal embarrassment. You could get individuals to introduce themselves, but this can cause problems with nerves.
Take some time to research icebreakers before you select the one that you will use for your sessions. There are many examples available online, so try different icebreakers over time and if they work then continue to use them and if not you don’t have to use them again.

Energisers are just as the word says, a way to energise the group. These are frequently implemented after the lunch break where people come back and they are tired and they need energising, and they are usually doing something different, a game or an activity. These energisers could be anything but ideally are related to your subject in some way. When designing courses, always consider implementing a number of energisers, to allow for group interaction and participation.

Be aware of the attention span of your learners. Some research shows that individuals can only pay full attention to learning for a maximum of 30 minutes, after which time the retention of knowledge decreases. To try and maximise this, introduce energisers throughout your training, ask questions to start discussions which should help in the retention of knowledge.

The considerations for energisers are the same as icebreakers, avoid embarrassing your learners in any way and make sure they add a change to the normal pace of your training. A good tip when selecting energisers is to get your group moving around, this helps them to become more alert and this could be as simple as a group exercise where the groups are changed around. Always have a few energisers available to use when you identify that the group is getting tired, they don’t have to last for long but the rewards in participation you will receive from investing a few minutes in an energiser are often beyond measure!

Consider giving them a short break, often known as a power break, if you feel their attention is flagging, or you are dealing with particularly difficult subjects, which can help to get them back in the right frame of mind for learning.
The most important aspect to remember is to keep the icebreakers and energisers fun!