Today’s new blog post. Observations on training. Written as Haiku.

I’ve written in the past about how Haiku (a form of poetry written in three lines, the first having five syllables, the second having seven, the third having five) can serve as a fun, effective icebreaker. You can have people introduce themselves or write about the topic at hand using this structure.

In today’s blog post, I offer some general observations about training, all written in Haiku. Continue reading

Easy Drag and Drop eLearning Interactions

The focus at work lately has been on eLearning. As we are building these training modules, we have found some creative ways to use Articulate Storyline drag and drop functionality. Today, we would like to share three fun and engaging drag and drop eLearning interactions from our recent projects.

Magnetic Poetry

One struggle I have with eLearning is getting participants to share their stories or reflect individually. Giving space for free text journaling in the module opens up the opportunity for participants to skip an activity or write gibberish. To combat this,  add an interaction that resembles one of those Magnetic Poetry sets your roommate had in college.  Try your hand at creating your own phrase in the interaction below.

Magnetic Poetry - elearning interaction

Try this Magnetic Poetry eLearning interaction.

Pros and Cons

Continue reading

Fall into Training: A Series of Autumn-inspired Training Haiku


Last week I was out for a walk in the woods and a leaf fell on me. The calendar says it’s still summer for the rest of the week here in the northern hemisphere, but the weather is turning cooler, the days are growing shorter and, well, leaves are falling on me.

I love the change of seasons, and I think it’s fun to write poetry.

On this not-quite-fall Monday morning, I offer you this series of autumn-inspired training haikus.   Continue reading

A Poem for Mr. Sketch (reprised)

When I conduct a train the trainer program, I often like to present the trainers with a gift of a new package of Mr. Sketch markers upon completing the course.

Earlier this week, I spent some time working with a team of trainers and once again had the pleasure of introducing the joys of my favorite office supply. During the program, a colleague asked me to do a dramatic reading of a poem I had once written about Mr. Sketch.

I wrote this poem in December 2012, the first year that I was blogging. The words of this poem ring no less true today than they did four and a half years ago. Following is a reprinting of that poem (with all new photos of people enjoying the amazing scents).

If you are so moved do your own dramatic reading of this poem and post it on YouTube and if you send me a link (bpwashburn at gmail dot com), I will send you a fresh, new package of Mr. Sketch markers.

BW and JN

Brian sniffing grape while Josie sniffs orange during a break from a Competency-based Assessment workshop

Continue reading

A Letter of Thanks to Maya Angelou

Dear Ms. Angelou,

I know you’ll never have a chance to read this. I’m sorry for that, but I’m writing this letter anyways.

As I grow older, I find genuinely life-changing ah-ha moments are fewer and farther between. Several Christmases ago, you gave me an ah-ha moment that has stuck with me. It improved my parenting skills, my presentation skills, and maybe even my appreciation for the kind of poetry that doesn’t rhyme.

When I was a senior in high school, my English teacher (Mr. Reddinger) asked the class to take a few moments and write down what poetry meant to us. When he walked by my desk and looked at my paper, he saw that it was blank. He rolled his eyes, shook his head, and moved along.

Poetry was pretty meaningless to me. It used way too much symbolism, which made me think harder than I felt I should have to think in order to understand something that was written in my native tongue. Why not just tell me what you mean? Besides, how can writers call themselves “poets” if their words don’t rhyme?

As the years passed, I grew older and wiser and more set in my ways about poetry.

When I had kids, I was thrilled to read Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein. They mostly rhymed, but even when they didn’t, they still made sense.

At Christmastime, it was a lot of fun to snuggle around the fire as a family to read The Night Before Christmas.

When the night before Christmas turned into Christmas Day in 2008, my very young daughter opened a present. It was a book. Maya Angelou’s Amazing Peace. A Christmas Poem.

Amazing Peace

I had a sinking feeling. I opened it but noticed that this “poem” didn’t rhyme. What fun was that for a toddler, let alone for me? Luckily, it came with a CD, so I didn’t have to fumble through a bunch of poetic verses and stanzas, dripping with symbolism and meaning.

When the presents had all been opened and we all had a chance to take some time to appreciate the gifts we had been given, my wife popped in the CD. My daughter was captivated, perhaps mostly by the illustrations in the book. As I listened, I was captivated by your passionate narration.

It was a poem that didn’t rhyme and was dripping with symbolism and hidden meaning, yet listening to your narration it all seemed to make sense.

The next time I opened Amazing Peace, I tried reading it myself (without resorting to the CD). Not just reading it, I tried reading with passion. I could never equal your narration, but I could improve my own narration every time.

This experience was one of the first things that came to mind a few weeks ago when I read Lauren Hug’s blog post about how her own husband improved his public speaking skills by reading bedtime stories to his child.

Finding something worth being passionate about. Practicing it with passion. Delivering it with passion. These are the lessons I learned from you. These lessons have made me better in what I do.

Thank you Ms. Angelou for helping me to be better.

With great affection and appreciation,


5 Haikus about Learning and Development

I’ve been in Japan for the past two weeks – a combination of an industry conference and some R&R. I like it here. And to give you a taste of my experience, I’ve decided to give each of you a gift. The gift of a blog post in traditional Japanese Haiku.

Instructional Design

What do they need most?

How will you know they “get it”?

Let them show and tell

Classroom-based Training

Please use Mr. Sketch

Booooooo for the sage on the stage

Yay for engagement

Blended Learning

Flipping the classroom

Learning content on your own

Then show your mad skillz



Simulating real life stuff

As fun as a game!

Learner Experience

They are the reason

We all get a nice paycheck

Always respect them

How about it? Feeling inspired? If you have a learning and development-based Haiku, I’d love to read it in the comments section below. Writing Haikus also make a great ice breaking activity. For more on this idea, click here.

One final Haiku (sorry, I can’t stop today!):

Know Haiku lovers?

Pass this link along… and hit

“Follow” to subscribe

Green Eggs and the Boomerang

boo·mer·ang (boo-muh-rang)

noun: strategy used by skilled training professionals to throw the audience’s question back to the group without the presenter first providing an expert opinion or answer

That Flip Chart Gang

That Flip Chart Gang

I do not like that Flip Chart Gang

Would you like to boomerang?

I do not like that Flip Chart Gang,

I do not like to boomerang.

Even when someone asks?

They may have a task.

They may even ask.

But I will not do it Flip Chart Gang,

I will not throw back the question like a boomerang.

Would you, could you, in a small group?

I would not, could not in a small group.

I would not, could not with a large troupe.

Even if they have a task.

Even if they are brave enough to ask.

I will not do it Flip Chart Gang.

I will not throw the question back like a boomerang.

Would you try it once or twice?

I would not boomerang once,

I would not boomerang twice.

I’m the expert and giving up control is too high of a price.

Whether it’s in a large troupe,

Or if it’s in a small group,

Even if they have a task,

Even if they are brave enough to ask.

I will not do it Flip Chart Gang.

I will not throw the question back like a boomerang.

Give it a whirl, and you will see,

Let them answer just once and I’ll let you be.

I shall give it a whirl and honor your plea,

Just this once, if you let me be.

A question has been posed, what do you all think?

Hey! The audience’s answer doesn’t stink!

Maybe I am not the only one who is wise.

Maybe answers can come from any of these gals and guys.

Maybe I will boomerang more than once or twice.

Maybe giving up some control really isn’t that high of a price.

And it can happen in small groups!

And it can happen in large troupes!

The next time they have a task,

I will hold my answer when they ask.

Instead I will use the boomerang.

Thank you, thank you Flip Chart Gang!

Want to know more about empowering learners with the “Boomerang Technique”? Check out these related blog posts:

The Learning Tree

Once there was a tree,

And she loved a little girl.

And every day the girl would come

And try to climb.

At first the girl fell every time.

Then she fell some of the time.

Then she made it to a safe branch every time

And sat

And swung

And jumped to the ground

And did it all over again.

And the tree was very happy.

Time went by and the girl grew older.

One day she came to the tree

And the tree said “come, climb on me!”

“I am too busy and frustrated to climb” said the girl.

“I need to add and subtract and I don’t get it.”

“Bummer,” said the tree, “but I’m no teacher.

I have only lemons. Maybe if you make lemonade

And sell it and give people the correct change

You will get it.”

And so the little girl climbed up the tree

And picked the lemons and made lemonade

And sold it and learned how to add and subtract.

And the tree was very happy.

Time went by and the girl grew up.

When she passed the tree

The tree grew excited and said

“Come, climb on me!”

“I am too tired and frustrated to climb” said the girl.

“I want to do well in college

And learn

And grow

But my professors lecture

And bore

And put me to sleep

And I just don’t get The Impact of Climate Change in Rural American Farming Communities 1923-present

“I am not a professor,” said the tree.

“But the impact of climate change

has been my life.

You may cut down my trunk

And examine the thickness of my rings

And count my rings

And research what happened over all that time.

And maybe you will have a better understanding

And you will be happy.”

The girl cut down the tree

And counted the rings

And did some research

And was finally able to relate to the topic

And the tree was very happy

Time went by and the girl landed her dream job

She came upon the tree.

The tree was excited to see the girl

But said

“I am sorry, I’m no longer much fun to climb.”

“I am much too preoccupied to climb,”

Said the girl.

“I just need a place to sit

And to think.

I have a presentation to give tomorrow

And I need to put my slides together

Which means I probably need a power source, too.”

The tree reflected a moment and said,

“I’m not a professional trainer

And I have no power to offer you

But you always seemed to learn something

When we were together.

You learned to try

And fail

And try again

And fail

And try yet again

Until you reached a safe branch.

You learned to turn

Lemons into lemonade

And to count

And give people correct change.

You mastered history

And biology

And climate change.

You learned it all by doing.

Without slides.”

The girl sat.

She looked around.

She planned.

She didn’t use slides.

And the tree was very happy.

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow”!  And now you can find sporadic, 140-character messages from me on Twitter @flipchartguy.

Oh, the Places You’ll Train!

If I could write a children’s book about my training experiences, it would probably go a little something like this:

You’ve gotten the call,

A gap has been found,

No chance it can be dull,

’cause you’re the best trainer around!

Armed with certificates and fancy degrees,

And classes and skills and subject matter expertise,

A lesson is needed, so do not delay,

A rockin’ lesson is needed, so be off, on your way!

Some classes are big,

Some will be small.

Sometimes you’ll use a computer

And you’ll see no classes at all!

Some locales will be exotic

But mostly they’re tame

After a while the airports and hotels

All start looking the same.

Helping people to “get it”

is what you were born to do,

From sales to coaching to building a canoe.

There is nothing you can’t train,

When given due time,

You assess certain needs,

Then you develop the design.

You’re a super trainer all right,

You ought to don a red cape,

It’ll be an amazing day of activities,

Until the hotel staff says you can’t use tape.

No tape blue and no tape masking,

No tape duct, thank you for asking.

Nothing can be taped to the wall,

No flipcharts, no signs… nothing at all.

This doesn’t bode well

For your planned gallery walk,

No movement and writing,

Just lecture and talk?!

You’ll have to adjust on the fly

C’mon, there is no time to cry

Your learners march in

Start time has drawn nigh.

Most learners are eager,

They’re eager to grow,

Eager to think, pair and share,

Eager to know.

And when they get it,

It’s like someone switched on a light,

It all makes sense now,

They shout “Ah ha!” with delight.

Things are rolling,

Connections made dot-to-dot,

Full steam ahead,

Until one guy says: “I’m just too hot.”

It’s easy to solve,

you turn on the A/C,

“Actually!” exclaims another,

“More heat would satisfy me!”

The session is sidetracked

By the temperature debate

And now people realize

It’s been five hours since they last ate.

These things happen

To even the best lessons planned,

But the trainers who thrive

Are the most flexible in the land.

Stick to the objectives, but go with the flow,

Be there objections or questions, just go, go, go, go!

Deliver with strength, deliver with grace,

Deliver with poise, presence and good pace.

Focus on the learning need

And you will succeed

(57 3/4 percent guaranteed).

If you’d like better odds

Here is a clue:

The key to training success

Is to accept it’s not all about you

Your learners’ bosses can be a giant post-training black hole,

Unless they’ve asked some questions, like:

Does your learner have a goal?

Will she be asked to use her new skills? Does this even align with her role?

Often your evals score high,

Except when they’re low.

Sometimes the comments get personal,

Sometimes they land a low blow.

The important thing is,

And write this right down,

That learners use what they learn

Whether they smile or frown.

Be they from Toledo, Teribithia or Tellygaloo,

Training success is really measured by what learners can do.

Oh, the places you’ll go when someone does something new,

Then says: “thanks so much, I learned that from you!”

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays and Thursdays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow” at the top of the page!

A 17-syllable Icebreaker Can Reveal A Lot

In the beginning

I want to know my learners

Their Challenge: Haiku


I model the task

I’m not “too good” to do this

I write on flipchart



My haiku reveals

I really like Mr. Sketch

And lifelong learning


Breaking the ice – smiles

Or sometimes they roll their eyes

But now I know them


Their expectations

Their subject matter knowledge

Three intriguing lines


Use this icebreaker

The next time you meet learners

What will they reveal?


Actually, don’t wait!

Leave a comment in haiku

What is your story?


You may also like 6-Word Memoir as a concise way to break the ice!