Whole-day training tip: Respect the afternoon doldrums

All-day training doesn't have to end after lunch just because your students are too tired to pay attention. Here are some tips on keeping everyone alert and interested through those sleepy afternoon hours.

When you’re teaching a two- or four-hour course, it’s reasonable to expect to keep your students’ undivided attention for the entire training period. But if you’re teaching a course that involves full days of training, you can’t count on wide eyes and bushy tails the last hour or two of class. Here’s a tip for making sure your students get their money’s worth during all-day-long training.

Assume information overload
Day-long classes are tough to teach. In the morning, your students are full of energy and their minds are ready to absorb new information. But in the afternoon, your students are going to be less focused. It’s only natural—they’ll get tired; they’ll be thinking about what they’re going to do after training.

But you don’t have to let the afternoon doldrums spoil the training day. Here are some tips for maintaining student interest and energy levels all day:
  • Cover the heavy stuff in the morning. If you’re going to introduce new and complicated concepts, do it in the morning while everyone is still fresh.
  • Announce scheduled breaks. I know you don’t want your students to be watching the clock while you’re trying to teach, but scheduled breaks help keep your students alert. Use the break as a motivational tool: “Folks, I know I said we’d break at 10:00, but you’ve worked so hard, let’s go ahead and break early.” And make sure to specify how long the break should last.
  • Make a big deal out of lunch. During the morning session, use lunch as the carrot to keep your students attentive. Give them progress reports like, “Now we only have two more lessons to go and we can break for lunch.” Before you dismiss the class for lunch, briefly summarize the material you’ve covered, and make your class this promise: “That was the hard stuff. After lunch, we’ll get to the fun stuff.”
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Schedule labs, team projects, and fun stuff in the afternoon
If you’ve filled your students’ heads with new facts and information in the morning, schedule afternoon exercises to reinforce what they’ve learned. If the subject matter lends itself to it, have your students break up into small groups of two or more to work together on a project.

I once had an instructor who scheduled the work-at-your-own pace exercises for right after lunch. That way, students who came back from lunch early could get a head start, and anyone coming in late from lunch didn’t miss any lecture time. Then after an hour or so of letting everyone work on their own, the instructor picked up the lesson again. I liked that approach because a lot of people came back from lunch a little sleepy, and by the time the lecture started back up, everyone had gotten their second wind.
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