12 Types of Classroom Activities for Adult leaners and Examples (2023)

Page Updated on March 3, 2023

Activities you can run during your training sessions should NOT be restricted just to the classic team-building games and icebreakers! There are 12 other types of classroom activities for adults that you can also use and these activities each have a different purpose and benefit.

So let’s take a look below at the types of classroom activities you can use and let’s look at some examples.

12 Types of Classroom Activities for Adult leaners and Examples (1)

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What Kind of Activities Can You Run to Engage your Learners?

The best way to engage learners and help them remember and understand information is to make sure that they actively participate.

So, you do not want to talk at them all the time but you want them to actively contribute in some way.

To do so, there are many types of classroom activities you can use in your classes or training workshops that are perfect for adult learning.

The trick is using the activities that are most suited to the learning objective you are trying to achieve and using a variety of activities, in order to engage as many learning styles as possible. So what are these 12 activity types?

1. Quizzes

Quizzes are a fun way to engage learners and there are many types of quizzes you can devise, such as multiple-choice, true/false, or fill-in-the-blank quizzes.

You can ask participants to do quizzes on their own, or you can ask them to work in groups and even set a quiz up as a competition, whereby the group that gets the most questions right wins.

When designing a quiz, it is important to keep it simple. A quiz should lighten the mood, rather than feel like a test.

When to use quizzes: Quizzes are useful when you want your learners to revise a topic and also when you want to check their understanding.

2. Buzz Groups

12 Types of Classroom Activities for Adult leaners and Examples (2)

Buzz groups are short discussions that are done in pairs or groups of three people at the most. They are called buzz groups because, as participants start talking, they will generate a buzzing noise in the class with their chat.

Ask your participants a question; ask them to solve a problem or to agree on a definition.

Other good types of questions for buzz groups include asking participants to find similarities and differences between concepts; discussing pros and cons or discussing the participants’ opinions on something.

The question needs to be simple and to the point. Write the question somewhere where the participants can easily see it, such as on a board, a PowerPoint ppt slide, or a handout.

Buzz groups are best when they are kept short,so give your participants up to 5 minutes and try to limit it to that timeframe.

At the end, ask each pair to report their answers to the rest of the class and then you summarize them.

When to use Buzz groups: Buzz groups are useful to engage participants who are shy and are not comfortable working with big groups. They are also good for participants to start reflecting on a topic.

3. Snowballing

This is a follow-up from buzz groups and it consists in combining small groups into bigger groups.

So, for example, after a buzz group, ask pairs to combine into groups of four and do a follow-up activity from the discussion they had in the buzz group. You can then ask the groups of four to combine into a group of eight for another subsequent activity.

When to Use Snowballing: Snowballing works best when the activities are connected and expand on each other. You can use snowballing when you want to guide your participants into developing a project, for example.

4. Brainstorming

Brainstorming consists in encouraging participants to come up with ideas to solve a problem or answer a question.

Brainstorming is done quickly asparticipants are encouraged to say whatever first comes to their minds. The aimhere is not quality but quantity. The ideas will be analyzed and discussedlater.

During brainstorming, ideas are not judged and the flow of new ideas is instead preferred. All ideas are welcome.

You can run a brainstorming session withthe whole class at once, as you write down the answers, or in groups, so eachgroup writes down their answers and then they present them to the rest of theclass so the ideas can be combined or improved.

At the end, the most useful ideas arechosen.

When to use brainstorming: Brainstorming is very useful for problem-solving. Also, you can use a quick brainstorming session to introduce a new topic, so that participants come up with their own solution first before you explain the topic to them.

5. Discussions and Group Learning

When introducing a discussion, make sure that the topic meets one of the learning objectives of the course.

In order to be useful, a discussion needsto be structured and very focused.

You start a discussion with one question, and then you can have a series of follow-up questions if it is useful to delve deeper into a topic, whilst maintaining focus. For instance, as you facilitate the discussion, you can ask probing questions, such as ‘Can you say a little bit more about that?’

The question needs to be clear and concise and always use open questions. A closed question only requires a yes or no answer and does not lead to any interesting discussions.

For example, if you ask ‘Is team-work important?’ participants may just answer yes or no and that is the end of the discussion. If, instead, you ask, ‘Why is teamwork important?’ they will elaborate.

Dr Valeria Lo iacono

Also, good questions are personal and/orcontroversial. A personal question requires the participants to express theirpersonal opinion or to tell something that they experienced.

If you are looking for an in-depthdiscussion, ask participants to work in small groups as smaller groupsencourage everyone to participate.

At the end of the activity, ask each groupto summarize their discussion to the rest of the class (they can nominate oneperson to present) and then reflect with the whole class to summarizeeverything that all the groups have discussed.

When to use discussions: Discussions are useful when you want participants to reflect on something in-depth and for topics that involve attitudes and awareness, rather than factual information.

6. Debates

Whereas a discussion encouragesparticipants to cooperate and to explore a topic, debates are competitive.Groups or individuals are pitched against one another to put their argumentforward.

There are many ways for you to organize adebate but, just like a discussion, a debate needs to be well structured. Unlessparticipants are already well informed about the arguments on a specific topic,give them a scenario or a case study to debate.

You can ask participants to debate in pairsor in groups. After a pair or two groups of participants debate, the otherparticipants listen and make a decision at the end as to which argument wasstronger.

Another way to run a debate is to ask eachperson or group at the opposite sides of the debate to switch sides at the endof the debate.

When to use debates: A debate is useful when you want learners to understand alternative viewpoints.

7. Presentations

Presentations consist in dividing participants into small groups and asking them to design a short presentation together and deliver it in front of the class.

The presentation can be produced as aresult of research, or simply as a result of a short group discussion.

The difference between asking participantsto just share their discussion with the rest of the class and doing apresentation is that the latter is more formal.

For a presentation, participants come to the front of the room and each person in the group takes turns delivering a part of the presentation.

Depending on the resources and timeavailable, they can use visuals such as PowerPoint slides or a sheet of A1paper or simply speak in front of the rest of the class.

When to use presentations: They are very useful, of course, if you are teaching presentation skills, as a way for participants to practice. They are also good for teaching other topics though, as another way to involve students actively.

To do a presentation, participants reallyneed to focus on the topic; they need to work well together and it is a goodway for them to take ownership of their learning.

8. Role-play

With role-play, you give your participantsa scenario and they act it out with each participant playing a different role.

Commonly, you run role-plays in groups of three, where two participants play a role each and one participant acts as an observer (if the class is not divisible by three, there can be two observers). You can run the role-play more than once for the same group so that participants can rotate roles.

When to use role-play: Role-play is very useful for any type of training that involves interpersonal skills. For example, it is good for teaching how to give feedback, how to handle conflict, and communication skills.

Alternatively, you can have just oneperformance, with one group of participants acting out the roles, while therest of the class observes.

9. Training Games for Learners

There are many games that you can do for your training sessions, too many to list here. We have listed some games in our ‘25 Corporate Training Activities’ eBook, which you can refer to.

Games are usually fun activities that caninvolve the use of props; they can be competitive or at least present achallenge, and are usually done in groups. Some games can be done sitting downand others standing up or moving around.

When to use games for Classroom Training: You can use games at the start of a training session to allow participants to become familiar with each other (the so-called ice-breakers), or during the session when you want to re-energize your participants.

There are a couple of things you need to be aware of though when it comes to using games for training.

Firstly, every game must be connected to alearning objective. Asking participants to do random games that have noconnection with the topic can be counterproductive (as participants will wonderwhat the point is) and a waste of time.

Secondly, make sure you use games that all your participants are comfortable with, based on variables such as their age, gender, culture of belonging, and job role.

10. Problem-solving Activities for Learners

Problem-solving consists in givingparticipants a problem to solve such as a scenario that poses a problem, apractical task to solve, a puzzle or an enigma.

When to use problem-solving: Problem-solving is useful when you want to encourage creativity; for practical topics that require hands-on involvement or for scientific subjects.

11. Case Studies in Lesson Plans

Case studies consist in practicalscenarios, which reflect a real-life situation involving people (they do nothave to be situations that really happened but they need to be believable andrealistic).

Rather than being an activity in itself, acase study is something that can be used as material for another activity.

When to use case studies: Case studies are useful for presenting participants with scenarios that can be used for discussions, debates, problem-solving, or role-play.

The beauty of case studies is that theygive participants real-life examples, which are relatable and bring a topic tolife, making it relevant.

12. Asking Questions

Asking questions is not an activity as such, but it is a very important tool for a trainer to engage participants.

Instead of explaining an idea straight awayto your participants, lead them to that idea by asking questions. It does notmatter if they give wrong answers as you will guide them and explain theconcept later.

The important thing is that the emphasis ison understanding rather than simply knowing something.

So, for example, if you are teaching presentation skills, instead of just explaining straight away what the main qualities of a good presentation are, ask your participants ‘What do you think the three best qualities of a good presenter are?’.

You can also ask a series of questions todelve deeper into a topic.

You can also ask your participants questions after you have covered a topic, as a way of checking if they understood.

When to use questions: Every time you are introducing a new topic and whenever you want to reinforce the participants’ learning or test their understanding.

Bonus Idea: Using Visuals

You can use visuals as a starting point for another activity. For example, you can use pictures or videos to start a conversation. Likewise, you can ask participants to produce visuals as an activity.

For instance, you can ask them to draw a picture to express a concept, to draw a diagram, or to take a photo (depending on the situation).

Another type of visual you can ask participants to draw is a mind map. Mind maps are a useful way to separate a topic into sub-topics or to look at the same topic from different points of view.

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Dr Valeria (Lo Iacono) Symonds

Involved with education for over 25 years, Valeria has taught at the University of Bath and Cardiff Metropolitan University (both UK) & Hankuk University (Korea). With a PhD, she has also worked as a researcher (Exeter University) & has many years of industry experience including with Cardiff University in management roles. She is the founder of Symonds Training.

12 Types of Classroom Activities for Adult leaners and Examples (7)

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