4 September 2023 Looking for innovative ways to engage students and foster skill development? In this article, we explore three dynamic training games that create an interactive classroom environment. “Don’t blow it!” challenges participants to change the shape of a balloon without breaking it. “Take Five!” prompts students to generate and organise ideas collaboratively. “Change Exchange!” rewards valuable learning points. Whether you’re a teacher, trainer, or facilitator, these games offer an immersive learning experience that encourages skill adoption and idea embrace. Don’t blow it! Objective To manipulate the filled balloon without breaking it and see how the learner’s efforts to change the balloon correspond to efforts to implement a new skill. Time 10 minutes Materials One deflated balloon per person, permanent markers. Description This activity is designed to illustrate a point about change and the challenges involved in successfully making this change. It involves the participants blowing up and tying off a balloon and then trying to change the balloon’s shape without breaking it. Process Instruct the participants to blow up their balloons to about ¾ full, leaving plenty of room to tie it off. Ask the participants how they might be able to change the balloon’s shape now that it is inflated. They might give you answers like: break it, squeeze it, push on it, etc. Tell them to change the shape of her balloon without breaking it. Have them show you how the shape has changed and tell you what they did to make that happen. Now invite the participants to write the new skill they want to implement on the balloon with a fine-point permanent marker. Next ask them to share the steps they will take to begin the implementation of this new skill. Finally, ask the participants to change the shape once again as you begin the following debrief. Debrief When you are attempting to implement a new skill, or make a change in your behaviour, it’s like trying to change the shape of your balloon. It takes constant pressure. What happens when you take pressure off the balloon? It goes back to its original shape. This is what happens when you stop applying the new skill consistently and you fall back into your old habits. Variations This activity could also be applied to organisational change as it takes constant pressure to keep the change initiative going. As soon as the pressure is released, the balloon goes back to its original shape, as does an organisation when the change initiative is not consistently supported and implemented. Take Five! Objective: To generate and organise ideas as part of a debrief following another activity. Time: 10-15 minutes. Materials: Flip chart paper Coloured markers Coloured do stickers. Description: This is a debriefing game best suited for generating and organising hypotheses from the base activity. Process: Prepare an open-ended, reflective question such as the following: What similar behaviours have you seen in your workplace? What important lesson did you learn from this activity? What factors contributed to the decision-making processes of the participants? What surprised you about the outcome? Divide the participants into teams of about five members. Specify your question and ask each team to brainstorm different answers for 5 minutes. Tell participants to narrow down the response list to the five best items. After 5 minutes, ask the teams to take turns calling out one of their responses. Prepare a common list on a flipchart. Ask teams to avoid redundant items. Continue this procedure until the flipchart contains 10-12 items. Invite each team to identify their favourite 5 responses from the flipchart list. Provide each team with 5 coloured dot stickers and ask them to place these on the flipchart next to their favourites. Circle the most-frequently chosen items from the list until you have identified the top five from the whole group. If there is a tie among selected items, give each team a minute to make a persuasive speech to convince the other teams to select the same item they selected. Proceed as before. Debrief: Congratulate the teams on their review and explain the importance of the debrief. Link their top 5 to actions about the content. Variations: As an extension, you could give each team a different question as part of the debriefing process and have them provide their top 5 responses to the rest of the group. Alternatively, you could turn this into a ‘speed debrief’ and have each team provide responses to each of five questions on flipchart paper within the allocated time. In this variation, the teams could come back at the end and vote for their favourites using the sticker dots, again narrowing each list to a top 5. Change Exchange! Objective: To help participants determine what the best takeaways or learnings are from the session. Time: 10-15 minutes. Materials: One index card per person Small denominations of coin based on the currency of your location or play (e.g. 10c, 20c, 50c in Australia.) Chimes. Description: Participants team up to share valuable learning points and are rewarded with coins; the value of the coin given is dependent upon how valuable the learning point is to the recipient. Process: Have participants take 60 seconds and write down their best takeaways/learnings from the course on an index card. Next, provide each participant with a variety of small change (e.g. a range of 10, 20 and 50 cent pieces). Have them go around the room finding one partner at a time. Ask them to share a learning takeaway and hear a learning takeaway with each partner. Once both partners have shared, they exchange a coin with one another based on how creative or helpful the takeaway idea was to their own situations. (A 10c coin would be “helpful or creative,” a 20c coin would be “really helpful or creative,” and a 50c coin would be “extremely helpful or creative.”) Ring the chime to remind participants to rotate to a new person. Debrief: At the end of ten minutes, those who received the highest value coins will share with the group their most helpful or creative action ideas. The trainer should conclude the activity by explaining to the group that small change can make a big difference! Variations: Rather than using actual coins, the exchange can be done using “play” money. If it is a group with fewer than six people, have them share their “top dollar” thought with the entire group. Incorporating training games into education can be transformative. The games discussed – “Don’t blow it!”, “Take Five!”, and “Change Exchange!” – engage students, promote critical thinking, and enhance communication skills. By using metaphors and fostering active participation, these games create a dynamic and immersive learning environment. They make learning fun, encourage collaboration, and motivate students to embrace new skills and ideas. So, level up your teaching game and empower your students to thrive in a world of possibilities by incorporating these training games in your classroom or training sessions.