BOOK REVIEW: Energize Your Audience! 75 Quick Activities That Get them Started…and Keep Them Going by Lorraine L. Ukens (Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, 2000))  

In her book Energize Your Audience! 75 Quick Activities That Get Them Started… and Keep Them Going, Lorraine L. Ukens provides readers with 75 activities to keep participants actively engaged in the learning experience. Although the book was written with workshop facilitators in mind, many of the activities can be used as is or modified for use in the college classroom, especially in a student success course.  Ukens describes 75 activities that she breaks down into three categories; icebreakers, energizers and group challenges. The presentation of each activity follows the same format; objective, time required, group size, materials, preparation, process and discussion.  Ukens promises that each activity will take less than fifteen minutes to execute. As a Reading and Student Success instructor I was drawn to this book to see if I could find new icebreakers, energizers and group challenges to use in my classroom and student success workshops that I facilitate on my campus.

I was impressed with Ukens brief introduction in which she reinforces the use of games to break through the resistance of adult learners. She argues that games take their minds off of life, school or work pressures; diminish their anxiety in sharing information with each other; and provide a shared history so learning can take place. Ukens consistent outline of each activity makes the book easy to skim for ideas, and she also includes the necessary handouts for each activity to copy or modify.  For example, one activity that I plan to try is entitled “Mind Over Matter.”  This activity is located in the energizer section to be used after a break or as a transitional activity. I plan to use this 10-minute activity as a fun way to transition into the importance of critical thinking and the problem of jumping to conclusions. Containing just four steps, the activity can be done with groups of any size with minimal preparation. All you need is a handout with questions (provided), each requiring careful thought to answer. For example, “What was the highest mountain in the world before Mount Everest was discovered?” (Answer – Mount Everest ; it existed before it was discovered.) And “Which animal can see best in total darkness: an owl, a leopard, or an eagle? “ (Answer – In total darkness, none of them could see a thing.) There are ten such questions that learners have two minutes to complete.  Discussion questions are provided to debrief the activity, such as “Why is it important to examine information closely during the problem-solving process?” and “How did a tendency to jump to conclusions affect how you answered the questions?” The similar simplicity of all activities in the book helps you quickly decide which ones you can use with your students.

I also was intrigued by the group challenges section of Ukens’ book.  These activities are intended to encourage group unity through a physical or mental task.  I found many activities interesting and have marked a few to try in my classroom. While looking through this section I did note that some of the activities would require more background knowledge than my traditional age students may possess. The first activity I plan to incorporate into my class is called “Comprehensive Coverage.” Using the handout provided, small groups of  students are directed to work together to match two sets of proverbs, for example, “They are truly wise who gain wisdom from the mishaps of others” matches with “Learn and profit by observing other people’s experiences.”  I plan to add a second part to this task and ask students to share any proverbs or sayings from their cultural background that are also similar in meaning.  As with each of the Ukens’ activities, there are several discussion questions to wrap up the activity.  For instance, “Were the proverbs difficult to understand? Why or why not?” and “Why can thoughts and ideas be communicated in many different ways? (Individual experiences and background influence patterns of communication.)” With minimal preparation, this quick activity has the ability to get students talking and interacting with each other in a meaningful way. 

I found the book useful as I am always looking for new active learning strategies to get students in my courses engaged in their learning. Because the activities are geared toward workshop facilitators and not the classroom, I give Ukens’ book only 3 out of 5 stars for use by educators. I personally would not spend the fifty dollar list price for this book, but if you are looking for a wide selection of icebreakers, energizers and group challenges and are willing to make modifications for your classroom, I would recommend checking the book out from the library.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

–Reviewed by LuAnn Wood, Faculty, Reading and Student Success, Century College, MN

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