Fifty Tips on Teaching

Kathy Obear
Amherst, Massachusetts


  1. The body can only withstand between 30-45 minutes of seated activity.
  2. Build in a stretch break / or activity every 30-45 minutes.
  3. Build in a 5-10 minute break every 2 hours.
  4. People need an excuse and "permission" to be playful and have fun. They generally appreciate the chance to let go and have fun, though they may be hesitant at first because it's not "cool" or "adult".
  5. Facilitator needs to model attitudes / interpersonal goals of session: - openness to new ideas - respect for differing opinions - challenges to established values and beliefs - willingness to be playful - willingness to take risks -willingness to express feelings - willingness to self-disclose - accepting of others as capable / competent / worthwhile
  6. Facilitator should always model / demonstrate / give an example of each activity / task for participants before they are asked to do it.
  7. In high risk or self-disclosing activities, facilitator should model a deeper / more risky disclosure than is expected from participants.
  8. Always avoid public embarrassment or involuntary participation by an individual in front of the group.
  9. In self-disclosure / high risk activities, provide a way by which individuals can "pass" and choose to not participate in activity.
  10. Be extremely sensitive to the physical abilities and disabilities of participants.
  11. Most people like surprises and creative teaching techniques.
  12. People generally appreciate the chance to get to know others and share with them on a more personal level.
  13. Some people do not like the more "touchy-feely" activities that involve physical touching.
  14. Minimize / avoid any possibility of failure or frustration unless it is a deliberate aspect of the learning experience.
  15. Participants appreciate the chance to get to know themselves better and to share their new awarenesses with others.
  16. Most, if not all, people enjoy the opportunity to talk with others, though some will need to feel comfortable and secure before they take the risk to participate.
  17. Provide refreshments that are nutritious and high energy foods. Provide alternatives that don't contain sugar, chemicals, caffeine, etc.
  18. Always do a physical team-building activity after any major break or meal.
  19. Avoid doing a fantasy / relaxation activity after a meal or in the late afternoon.
  20. People like to be entertained.
  21. Participants will have a shorter attention span towards the end of the seminar.
  22. Develop a bibliography for each seminar and take books that are on it for participants to look through.
  23. During breaks mix with participants.
  24. Plan to arrive at least 45 minutes before the seminar to set-up materials / name tags, double check equipment, adjust temperature / ventilation of room, arrange furniture, post directional signs, get the "feel" of the room, etc.
  25. Plan to stay a few minutes after the seminar to mingle with participants who have questions and comments.
  26. During small group activities and individual tasks always wander around to answer questions, intervene, etc.
  27. Avoid jargon / buzzwords. Use a very simple layperson's vocabulary. Explain every unclear word or concept used by participant.
  28. Video-tape one of your seminars and become aware of all of your mannerisms that are distracting.
  29. Never turn your back to the audience while you are talking.
  30. Avoid your writing on newsprint during a brainstorming session. Ask for a volunteer.
  31. Use every break and time when participants are in groups / individual work to read ahead, check equipment, pass out materials, revise the lesson plan, take a restroom break, etc.
  32. Always run through / rehearse any new activity before you try it in a seminar.
  33. As you prepare, use a highlighter to mark every key phrase / word in the lesson plan.
  34. Before you develop a seminar, research the topic thoroughly. Read books / articles, interview experts, do a survey, etc., UNTIL you find that any additional information seems repetitious.
  35. Do not allow smoking in the seminar.
  36. ALWAYS keep in mind that the purpose of ANY seminar is to EMPOWER others with the necessary skills, knowledge and attitudes to live a more healthy, productive and fulfilling life at work and at home.
  37. Refer to current events and relevant work-related topics as examples.
  38. Share personal stories / information honestly. Be careful to not over do it.
  39. Use analogies and stories to make key points.
  40. Avoid arguing with a participant. Redirect any direct challenge to the audience and ask for their opinions and ideas.
  41. NEVER go over allotted time for the workshop!
  42. End at least ten (10) minutes early so that people can fill out the evaluations.
  43. Never mention time or promise a break at a certain time. Secretly check your watch.
  44. Make sure all jokes, stories and analogies are relevant and in good taste. Model attitudes that are nonsexist, appreciative of differences, confrontive of bigotry and ignorance, etc.
  45. Never read lengthy passages or definitions to audience.
  46. Put all directions in writing.
  47. Distribute handouts / packets at beginning of seminar, during breaks or when participants are involved in activities.
  48. Put together a TRAINER'S MAGIC BOX of extra materials and supplies: pens, pencils, tacks, markers, transparencies / markers, name tags, overhead light bulb, extension cord, tape, chalk, eraser, scissors, glue, safety pins, straight pins, aspirin, motrin, string, staples, stapler, post-it's, paper clips, highlighter, change for pop, kleenex, comb, tooth brash, tooth paste, mouth wash, breath mints, gum, lip gloss, bandaids, matches, balloons, high energy foods, prizes for games / contests, etc.
  49. Always carry an extra set of handout originals for last minute duplication.
  50. Call the person in charge the day before the workshop to double check all details.


Kathy Obear is a diversity trainer and consultant based in Amherst, Massachusetts (413) 283-2503.


Copyright © 1991 Kathy Obear. Permission is granted to copy and use this material for educational and non-profit purposes only. This copyright statement and acknowledgement of authorship should remain intact on materials you copy from this website.