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Training Superheroes for Powerful Training

We need more super heroes. Not the kind you’re thinking of — that can leap over a tall building in a single bound, defy gravity, move mountains, or see through walls. No, we need more real life training superheroes.

Maybe we already have them and we just have to take time to notice. They’re in our midst, disguised as teachers, trainers, and managers. They’re in our schools, offices, and meeting rooms. In fact you, reading this, you may be one of them!

Super Natural

When I think of the super natural abilities of the great teachers and trainers, I think of:


Building playful activities into learning events takes valiant effort, commitment, creativity and forethought. As Jill Vialet suggests in her TED Talk, that those who buck resistance and embrace the power of play reap the benefits of engagement and memorability. Even if a lesson isn’t really conducive to a learning game, training super heroes still build in interaction in these easy ways:

Start with a teaser

If you want to engage the whole brain in your learning event, start with a “wake-up” activity:

  • Stand up-sit down games: (asking people to stand if a statement is true for them) can get the blood flowing and uncover preconceptions of the content.
  • Choose One: guessing how your partner might answer a question is a super speedy way to promote laughter, build relationships, and warm up the room. It only take a few minutes to set a tone that will continue to energize your group.
Change your game plan every 20 minutes

Sitting and remaining focused for long periods is difficult for everyone. While you might be afraid of how long it will take to settle your group after a break, console yourself with the knowledge that losing 2-3 minutes is way better than having your group mentally drift for the next 20 to 30 minutes.  Favorite ways to break up learning segments include:

  • Take a walk – ask learners to stand, walk around the room, or around a table (1x, 2x, 3x or whatever makes sense for your space), then return to their seats.
  • Pair and Share – ask the group to stand; find a partner; exchange one question or reflection, then return to their seats.
  • S & S / Q & A – interrupt yourself to ask if there are any questions. While you’re at it, welcome all who are seated to stand and stretch (S&S) as they think of their questions (Q&A).
Wrap it up

Plan for 2 minutes of transition time at the end of your session. Use the time for activities that will bring closure to the learning session or prep the group for whatever comes next. For instance:

  • Jot reminders – have them take notes (or highlight notes they’ve already taken) to indicate what they want to ask, remember, or do later.
  •  Think about what’s next – What? So What? Now What? – give your group a moment to put closure on what they just learned and think about what might be happening next in their day. If they can rely on time already carved out to do that, they’ll be less likely to mentally check out prior to the end of class to figure that out.
  • I GOT THIS – ask learners to write down: 3 things they learned; 2 actions to apply what they learned; and 1  way they’ll share their learning.

2) A Compulsion to Compliment

Super Heroes are rarely thinking only of themselves. More often, they are preoccupied with rescuing others in distress and saving the world. Everyday super heroes have a similar outward focus. Not only do they notice the effort and contributions of those around them, they take time to point it out.

  • Kartoon Kudos – Shazzam!  Pow!  Wowza! Gadzooks!, and $%#!(*&! are just a few of the exclamations that cartoon super heroes use to communicate surprise, amazement, or appreciation. Super trainers can do the same with Kartoon Kudos.
  • Token of Appreciation – super heroes are often a force for good, setting a positive tone for others to follow. “Tokens of Appreciation,” which say “Pass it along” on the reverse side can be the everyday super hero’s virtual cape, they resource that’s always available and ready to use.

3) Loyalty to Listening

Let’s not confuse the power of super-sensitive hearing with the superpower of listening. Hearing, of course has to do with how sound waves are received by your ear. Listening, on the other hand, requires taking the time to thoughtfully consider what others are saying, and to discern nuance and meaning, without interrupting or pausing to think of a reply.

Resources that encourage listening and promote the development of listening as a skill include:

  • Squeezy Foam Ear – the ear stress toy, available in light or dark colored flesh tone can serve as an ongoing reminder to listen.
  • Blocked Perspective – this communication and listening game requires teams to describe a block structure from their unique perspective, and listen well to others’ so they can rebuild the structure without looking an one another’s photographs.
  • Teamwork & Teamplay – among the features on this versatile card deck is a matrix-style puzzle that requires teams to share information verbally, and then decipher the puzzle and come up with an answer.

Becoming a Super Hero

Even with the many heroes already in our midst, who bring confidence to incorporate play in their daily lives, have a compulsion to compliment colleagues and are loyal listeners, our world needs more super heroes right now.

Hopefully this array of resources will enable more and more trainers and teachers to ascend to hero status.

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