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2. Warm Up and Energizers

Warm-ups or energizers are activities the trainer uses throughout the course to encourage involvement and interaction. These activities may be used at the beginning of each day to bring the group together and begin work on a positive note. They may also be used during the day to recharge the group (e.g., after lunch, after a long presentation). Here are a number of warm-ups and energizers you can use.

Expectations - The trainer gives the participants slips of paper, and asks them to write down at least three things they would like to learn during that day’s activities. The participants attach their slips to a poster board or piece of flipchart paper, which is posted in the classroom. The trainer can then review these expectations with the group and tell them which topics will and will not be covered. This activity can also help the trainer focus the course on individual or group learning needs and interests.

Super Model Exercise

Objective - Ice breaker or energizer - Great for laughs and relaxation. Shedding of status and roles.

Time required -5-10 minutes.

Space requirements - big enough for participants to form a circle.

How to do it:

  • Arrange participants in a circle.
  • Instruct participants that they have to act out your instructions. When pointed to and given the following commands:

"Super Model" - should immediately pose as a fashion model. The two participants alongside the participant acting as a super model (the one on the left and the right) take the role of photographers and mimic gestures of taking a photo.

"Elephant"- poses as an elephant by immediately thrusting two hands held together in front to represent the elephant's trunk. The two participants alongside form a circle with their hands and place them on the side of the participant pointed to serve as "ears" of the elephant.

"Jell-O" - shakes his or her body like Jell-O continuously. The two participants alongside hold each other's hands and form a circle around the target. The idea is to form a "glass" around the Jell-O.

"Queen Bee" - turns around and puts his or her hands together behind the back (just above the buttocks) and flutters them back and forth to mimic a bee's tail. The two participants alongside thrust their arms away from the bee and flutter them like wings.

"Donkey" - and those alongside him or her should freeze and not move at all.

Expect that people will be confused and make mistakes. Such mistakes generate laughter and fun. To make the exercise competitive, participants who make a mistake (both the one pointed to and the two participants alongside him or her) can be eliminated from the game. The exercise can be used several times in a meeting or seminar.

National Anthem - This warm-up works best when you have participants from a number of countries. To conduct this warm-up, you will need a source of music (tape player or radio) and a ball. The participants should stand in a circle. The trainer puts on the source of music and participants dance and pass the ball around in the circle. Whenever the music stops, whoever has the ball in his/her hand must step into the circle and sing the first verse of his/her national anthem. If he/she cannot remember the national anthem (which happens sometimes) he/she must sing a love song to pass. After this has been done satisfactorily, the trainer turns on the music again and participants again pass the ball in the circle. The game continues until many participants have had the opportunity to sing or the trainer feels that everyone has been energized.   

Tell A Story - The participants should stand in a circle. The purpose of this activity is to build a story with each participant contributing one sentence that must:

  • Make sense and at the same time add some fun to the activity,
  • Build on to the last sentence, and
  • Be grammatically correct.

For example:

  1. “I was walking to breakfast this morning.”
  2. “A dog came up to me.”
  3. “I said good morning to the dog.”
  4. “The dog asked me what I was going to have for breakfast.”

The activity continues until all of the participants have contributed or until the facilitator feels that the group has been energized.

Yes, I need more energizers but just don’t know how and where to get them. CLICK HERE

The Last Word - The participants should stand in a circle. One participant moves and stands randomly in front of another. He/she makes a statement (e.g., “It is such a lovely day”). The person spoken to will move to another person and make a statement starting with the last word in the statement he/she received (e.g., “Day one of the course was very tiring”). Each participant takes turns to ensure that everybody gets a chance to participate.   

The Telephone - Participants should sit or stand in a circle. The facilitator quickly whispers a message to one participant. This participant passes the message in a whisper to the next person and so on. The last person shouts out the message. Chances are the final message will be different from the original. Here is an example of an initial message (note how two different activities are blended into the initial statement, a sure cause for confusion when whispered quickly): “I had rice for dinner and then dressed in blue to go dancing.”  

What Do You Have? - Divide the participants into teams of 4-6 people. Each team should make a list of 6-8 items that they would probably have with them. Make one or two items less common. The team gets points for each person who has these items. Only one of each item per person can be counted and the team with the most points wins.  The list could include: a photograph, a calculator, a pencil, a photograph of a family member, an unusual key chain, something red, etc.   

Brainstorming - Divide the participants into teams of 5 people. Ask the teams to list: things that are square, things associated with a holiday, things that are red, things they can make out a model plane, etc. The teams are not allowed to discuss, just list items! The team with the most items on their list wins.

Ball Toss Brainstorming - Announce a topic (things associated with a topic, a holiday, the course content, etc.). Then, toss around a ball. When someone catches the ball, they shout out something related to the topic and then toss the ball to someone else. Continue the exercise until everyone has had a chance to speak.   

When they catch the ball, each person tells what they thought was the most important learning concept was. Continue the exercise until everyone has caught the ball at least once and explained an important concept of the material just covered.   

Each person tells one step of a process or concept when the ball is tossed to them. The instructor or learner, in turn, writes it on a chalkboard or flipchart. For example, after covering "manager assessment," the trainer would start the ball toss by having everyone give one step in the manager assessment process.

This is a good energizer.  How can I incorporate more of these ideas into my training program? CLICK HERE

Calm Down! Sometimes the participants need to calm down or "come down" to reality after some intensive material is presented. Also, to get the full benefit of new material, some "introspective time" is needed.

Have the participants lay their heads on the table, lie on the floor, or get in a comfortable position. Then, have them reflect on what they have just learned. After about 5 minutes, say a key word or short phase and have them reflect on it for a couple of minutes. Repeat one or two more times, then gather the group into a circle and have them share what they believe are the most important points of the concept and how they can best use it at their place of work.

Note: This may seem like a waste of time to many, but reflection is one of the most powerful learning techniques available! Use it! 

Boom! - All participants should sit in a circle. They are instructed to count out loud around the circle. Each person whose number is a multiple of 3 (3-6-9-12, etc.) or a number that ends with 3 (13-23-33, etc.) must say BOOM! instead of the number. The next person continues the normal sequence of numbers.

Example: The first person starts with 1, the next one says 2, and the person who should say 3 says BOOM! instead, and the next person says 4.

Anyone who fails to say BOOM! or who makes a mistake with the number that follows BOOM! is disqualified.

The numbers must be said rapidly (5 seconds maximum); if a participant takes too long to say her/his number, she/he is disqualified.

The last two participants left are the winners.

Note: You can have the participants “clap” once instead of saying Boom.

Note: To make this energizer more interesting, when a specific number is reached (e.g., 30) have the participants count backwards towards zero.  The game can be made more complex by using multiples of bigger numbers, or by combining multiples of three with multiples of five.

Unique Sayings - At the beginning of the week, form groups of three or fours. Ask each group to record some of the sayings frequently used in their countries or in their region of the country. After 5 to 7 minutes, ask the groups to report their list of sayings. As each group reports their list, the trainer should check that the entire group understands each saying. Keep this list of sayings for another warm-up later in the week. Write each saying on a piece of paper and place each in an envelope.

On the third or fourth day of the course or workshop, divide the participants into two groups, one group at each end of the room. One representative from each group comes to the center of the room to receive an envelope containing a saying. The representatives read the saying silently and return to their groups. Without speaking to her/his group, the representatives draw a picture on the flipchart to represent the saying she/he has received. The drawings cannot contain any words or parts of words. 

The members of each group guess the saying that their representative has drawn. The first team to guess the correct saying receives one point. After one group has guessed the saying, each group sends a new representative to the center to receive another envelope with a saying and the activity proceeds as described above. The activity continues for 10 minutes or until all the sayings have been drawn and identified. The group with the higher number of points wins.   

Hot Pepper - Participants sit in a circle away from the tables and close their eyes. The trainer gives a small ball to one who is instructed to pass the ball quickly to the next person saying “Hot!” Participants continue to pass the ball around the group.   As the ball is passed from participant to participant, the trainer turns her/his back, closes eyes and calls out “Pepper!” The person who is holding the ball when “Pepper!” is called is removed from the circle. The ball continues to be passed until only one person is left.  

Words - Divide the participants into three or four small groups. Write the word INTERACTIVE on the flipchart. The groups have 5 minutes to create as many three-letter words as possible from the word INTERACTIVE.

For example, some of the words could be:  

  • It
  • Rat
  • Retain

After their time is gone, the group with the most words wins.   Note: Depending on the topic, other words can be used in this way, such as “demonstration,” “counseling,” etc.

Spider Web - The participants should stand in a circle. A ball of yarn is given to one  who tells the group something about her/himself, such as name, where she/he is from, her/his type of work, why she/he is attending the course, etc. (The information to include will depend on the size of the group and the time allotted for the activity.)

The participant with the ball of yarn holds onto the end of the yarn and throws the ball to another in the circle, who in turn must introduce her/himself in the same way. Participants continue introducing themselves by tossing the ball around the circle until all participants form part of this spider web.

As soon as everyone has introduced her/himself, the person holding the ball returns it to the person who threw it to her/him, as she/he repeats the information about that person. That person then returns the ball to the person who threw it to her/him, repeating her/his information. This continues around the circle, with the ball following its previous path in reverse order until it reaches the participant who first introduced her/himself.

Note: Warn the participants beforehand of the importance of paying attention to each introduction, since they will not know who will be throwing the ball at them.

I like this game.  It sounds easy but I am not sure it will work well in my upcoming training. CLICK HERE

The Post Office - The participants should sit in a circle, each having her/his own chair. The facilitator takes one chair away and the participant who is left standing stands in the center of the circle and begins the activity.

The participant in the center of the circle says something like:

“I bring a letter for all of my colleagues who have black hair.”

All of the participants who have the characteristic stated (e.g., black hair) and the person in the center of the circle change places. Whoever ends up without a chair to sit on stands in the center of the circle and again states that she/he is bringing a letter, but for people with a different characteristic, such as:

“I bring a letter for all of my colleagues who are wearing black shoes."
“I bring a letter for all of my colleagues who have never shaved their head.”

The activity can continue as long as the group is interested and enthusiastic, but no longer than 10 minutes.

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