Top 10: ways to create a positive learning environment

1: music: on arrival, during the breaks, as a timer instead of a clock, to begin and end tasks, and to play as people or groups rotate

2: backdrops: set of slide presentations which engage and entertain – again, as people arrive, or in the breaks, or to change the mood or dynamic of the group

3: infotainments: little entertainments within the programme – like a quick quiz (possibly on what’s been learned in the session so far)

4: games: most games can be adapted to provide a learning point – for example, ‘I went to Market and…’ can be adapted as an icebreaker, where each person in their group gives their name and something about themselves…

5: interesting tables: put stuff on the tables that engage and attract attention – colourful felt pens, possibly ones that smell of different fruits….post its, laminated quizzes, bowls of fruit or sweets…

6: regular learning reinforcers: this follows on from point 4 above.  Many games can be adapted as quick, ongoing revision and recall activities: for example, pictionary relay can be a brilliant and active revision session, where each team member is given a name of something covered in the session, and has to draw it for the rest of the team to guess.  The family card game of turning over faced-down cards to find matching pairs is also excellent for anything that requires a match (eg a date with a battle, or an author with a book)

7: building a positive relationship 1: participants really like to be seen as individuals, and valued as such; so the main way of doing this is to learn and use their names; the trick for doing this is to take all their first names, and note them as a seating plan; then, before anything else, put them in groups to do an icebreaker, and during that time, learn their names…!

8: building a positive relationship 2: cues and clues – listen for comments they make, so you can refer to them later; eg “as Sandra said earlier….’

9: Fab and Drab: ask the learners what they would like from the day – what would make it fab; and what they would like to avoide – what would make it drab.  Get them to use post its to record their ideas, and put them onto two flip charts.  This helps you know what they want to do and avoid – so you can tailor your session more easily and with confidence

10: instant feedback: give everyone a post it pad, and a felt pen; then at regular intervals, ask them to draw one of three faces – smiley, neutral and frowny, to let you know how the session is going so far – it gives you instant visual feedback, in a fun way, without asking people to write or speak.  And you can get this anytime, and react to it, rather than save it until the end of the day, when you can do nothing to adjust…

We have written a manual of 88 games and activities that inspire learning.  It’s called ‘Building Learner Involvement, Attention and Recall’.  If you are interested in purchasing a copy, contact Arnie at or leave a note in the box below.

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