Dwayne Hodgson

A Portfolio

The work and adventures of Dwayne Hodgson,
+ Learning Designer & Facilitator at learningcycle.ca
+ Storyteller & Photographer @ thataway.ca

Warm-Ups: Part 2: 4 Examples


In my last blog post, I shared some suggestions on how to use Warm-Ups effectively in a learning event.

Now I'd like to share 4 examples of Warm-Ups that I've used in various settings. Next week, I'll share 4 more. 

1) Self-Portraits

1. Draw a picture of yourself at the moment when you learned something significant. Don't worry if you're not an artists -- stick figure drawings are just fine.

2. Exchange pictures with a neighbour and share the story that you've drawn.

3. Introduce your neighbour to the large group. We'll hear from everyone.

 NB: Adapt the question in step 1 to the topic (e.g. a picture of when you were successful in your work, of when you felt connected to your community, a challenge you face at work, etc.)

2) River of Life

1. On the flip chart paper provided, draw a "river of life" from when you were born until today. Mark up to 7 significant events that occurred -- either positive and negative -- that you'd like to share with the group. Feel free to draw rapids, boulders, crocodiles, whirlpools, other rivers etc. to illustrate your journey. 

2. Post your completed river of life on the wall. 

3. Take a gallery walk and note what common experiences we all share. 

NB: This warm-up has proven especially effective in cross-cultural settings as it illustrates that we all mark similar milestones: moving, education, births and deaths, job changes, etc. For smaller groups or longer workshops, you can also have people present their rivers to the large group, but consider asking them to only mention a few highlights from each river to manage the time. Leave the charts up for others to review later. 

3) I Am From...

A few years ago at one of the Dialogue Education Institutes, Marion Darlington-Hope introduced us to a wonderful warm-up called "I Am From". Here's how it works:

Each participant receives a handout entitled "I Am From", with 4 sections titled Where I Grew Up, My Home, My Work, My Community. For each section they add in some short phrases that describe an aspect of where they were from. For example.

Where I Grew Up 

I am from....

Fresh-baked bread, dogged eared Encyclopedias, the smell of sawdust in Dad's workshop, formica tables, chocolate milk and Hogan's Heroes after school...

They then shared their "poems" at their tables. I adapted this workshop with a group where many of the participants already knew each other. It proved to be a great way to deepen their relationships and tap into the affective domain in a safe way. Some participants cited it as their favourite learning task of the 3-day workshop. 

4) Airport Customs Tips

As I suggested in the last post, warm-ups should normally be related to the topic. But sometimes I bend that rule by designing a warm-up that taps into a generative theme (or an idea that generates energy for the participants).

For example, I was once asked to facilitate an action-planning session on the final day of a 9-day meeting of international partners of a development agency. Many of the group members were clearly tired and homesick, and anxious to leave that evening to return to Africa or South America. Clearly, their minds were half-way home. 

Rather than fight this "generative theme", I decided to build on it by creating a travel-themed warm-up task:

1) Find a partner and share your best tip for getting through airport customs checks quickly. 

2) Let's hear a few examples in the large group.

Some of their ideas produced a lot of laughter (e.g. put a Bible or underwear at the top of your bag); and the task helped them to start thinking about how they would apply what they had learned during the consultations when they got back home. 

NB: You can also weave in a current event (e.g. the World Cup, the Olympics, an election) or other common experience (e.g. the weather, summer vacation). Just make sure that the theme is safe and inclusive for everyone there. 

Your Examples?

I'd be curious to hear some of your examples of warm-ups that you've used before. Please post them in the comments section below.  

In the next post, I'll share a few more examples of some warm-ups I've used, including one that I used at my wedding! To make sure that you don't miss this post, please subscribe to my blog