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Starter Suggestions:
How can we start to teach a topic?

by Darron Davies

How can one start a session?
Here are some ideas from my experience that work well.

Acronym: First of all take the title of the topic that you are studying e.g. team and ask trainees in teams to come up with the best acronym for the title. This can also be done at the end of the topic for revision: t.e.a.m. – Together Everyone Achieves More.

Definition: Trainees can also come up with their best dictionary definitions of the topic. Compare definitions, explore subsets of words, and compare with the proper dictionary definition.

For example trainees may be asked to define the term "Team". A group of trainees may come up with this definition "A group of people that come together for a particular purpose." Such a definition can then be dissected to raise important introductory questions "What does ‘purpose’ mean?", "What is a group?", "Can a team work apart?"

Etymology: Trainees can also be introduced to the original use of the word according to the Oxford English Dictionary. When do they think it was first used? How has it changed over the years?

Proper definition:"A number of persons associated in some joint action; now especially a definite number of persons forming a side in a match, in any team sport, hence a group collaborating in their professional work or in some enterprise or assignment."

OED: 1529 Skelton Vox Populi  "All these men goo to wracke that are the body and the steye of your Graces realm allwaye… Thei must be ..Your streinghe and your teme ..for to defende your relme."

Uses of the word: As a fun exercise get trainees to type the word ‘team’ into an Internet search engine. How many times does it occur? How is it used? Are there any patterns that can be discerned? Trainees may even like to type the term into the search engines on the or websites to see its use in respective music or film titles. Can trainees think of songs that contain the term? Trainees can even type in the word "team" into a newspaper CD-Rom search. How is it used?

Daily Life References: Explore the many ways in which we use the word ‘team’. In what contexts do we use it in daily life?

Quotes can also be explored: see Grant M Bright quotes at:

Trainees can explore and discuss quotes. You can even remove words from quotes. Trainees have to fill in the missing words e.g.

The key elements in the art of working together are how to deal with change, how to deal with __________, and how to reach our __________. The needs of the team are best met when we meet the __________ of individual persons.
- Max DePree
    (answers are at the end of this page)

Take a Taxonomy and ask trainees to sort in the order from e.g. 1-7.

Douglas McGregor's list of the unique characteristics of an effective management team:

1. Understanding, mutual agreement, and identification with respect to the primary task.
2. Open communications.
3. Mutual trust.
4. Mutual support.
5. Management of human differences leading to group synergy.
6. Selective use of the team.
7. Appropriate member skills.
8. Leadership: Managing and integrating the other 7 characteristics.

Mnemonic. Take a sequence or acronym and invent your own mnemonic. We all know "every good boy deserves fruit" for the musical scale. In teambuilding we have the sequences for team development forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning: ‘fsnpa’. What mnemonic can you make up that helps us remember this sequence?

When we introduce new material, we should tie it to the students’ frame of reference. Fads, TV programs, and teenage life are apt vehicles for students to translate core content material into their own idioms and experiences and then, with our help, to transpose their ideas and opinions back again to the course curriculum. (p. 127)

…. when students are given lots of background content before they actively engage in concepts, they develop passivity and resistance. There are excellent reasons for introducing students to content at the higher category levels (identification, understanding, synthesis, creative application), where creativity and application help awaken their interest in the facts, terms, key concepts, and historical figures that define the subject. (p. 67)

- Robert L Fried, The Passionate Teacher: A Practical Guide, Beacon Press Boston 1995 Excerpts.

From what other sources can we find engaging references to teams in everyday life? You may like e.g. to show a 15 minute segment of football players or coaches debriefing on a sports show. What implicit/explicit statements do they make about teams?

Answers Missing Words: Conflict, Potential, Needs.

Darron Davies

© Copyright In Clued - Ed 2009


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