How “Fly Swatter Phonics” Can Help Solve Your Next Training Challenge!

My 4-year-old grandson, Jackson, loves kindergarten and loves learning. In fact, I’m honestly amazed at how much he’s learning—and how quickly!

Is it because he’s smart and curious by nature? Yes, I’m happy to say that he is. Does he love learning because he likes his teacher? No doubt. She’s very likeable! Or is there more? Could it be because his teacher is making the job of learning exciting and fun? Bingo!

Here’s an example of what I mean, taken from a recent weekly update.

Dear Parents,

Our “W” week turned out to be a very fun week as it included a brand new game called “Fly Swatter Phonics” (inspired by the season we’re learning about, Spring). The game was played as follows: 3-5 flies (one-vowel words) were placed on the board. Two students were handed fly swatters. I then read aloud one of the words…blending our phonics sounds together. The students were to read the word choices and try to be the first to swat the fly (correct word). Once the fly was squished, two more students were selected and different words were placed on the board, continuing the game until all had a turn. The game was a huge success! On Friday, we played again, except this time I allowed the winner of each round to play a couple more times before sitting down (a modified “Around the World”). And the great part is you can play this at home. You just need 3×5 cards and a fly swatter and your house can be buzzing all weekend long!

The thing that impresses me most about Jackson’s teacher isn’t what she’s teaching, but how she’s teaching it. Through fun, age-appropriate games, she is laying the foundation for a lifetime of learning.

Let the Learning (and Fun) Begin

So what’s the point here? What does a fun little game 4-year-olds play in a kindergarten class have to do with solving the complex training challenges today’s organizations face? I believe it’s the connection between having fun and actually learning. In this blog, and the next, I’ll illustrate, and leave you with a few takeaways.

In his May 3, 2012, blog, colleague David Hutchens shared a very common situation. David wrote: Client X comes to us with a PowerPoint deck of 300 bazillion text-dense slides and says, “This is our old training program. Can you do something with this?”

He’s not kidding! This happened with a longtime client just a few months back. As it turns out, the content driving the training program (and the 300 bazillion slides) had been created by 10 (this is not an exaggeration) different internal committees. Believe me when I say there was nothing fun about the program. However, because we love this kind of challenge, we dove in and sifted through the many layers of overlaps, inconsistencies and redundancies to uncover the content most relevant to the critical learning outcomes. Then we “chunked” (a totally magnificent training term) the content into a flow that people could actually wrap their heads around. The result was a relevant and manageable number of “flies” to swat. The takeaway? If you want to make training fun, keep it relevant and manageable!

While this sounds so obvious, it’s a mistake we see organizations make all too often. Even if “fun” isn’t a direct outcome of your training program, your content needs to be kept to a manageable amount of data and it should be immediately useful on the job.

Come back next week as we continue to explore what 4-year olds (who are learning to read by “swatting flies”) can teach us about solving some very common training challenges.

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