Experiential Education Jennifer Stanchfield

Using Quotes to “Hook” Your Group’s Attention

This is the second post in a series that offers ideas for actively involving learners from the first moment they enter the room for a workshop, training or classroom lesson. In my last post I shared information put forward by neuroscientists promoting the idea that the first few minutes of an experience or lesson are a key time to hook and engage learners (See March 12th post).


The activities presented in this series are some of the “tried and true” methods I use to increase engagement, help participants transition into the learning space, make positive connections with their peers and introduce or review the academic material at hand.






















Quotes can be a great way to pre-teach or explore subjects with a group prior to a lecture or discussion.  Sharing quotes can help group members find common ground, connections, and spark creative thought around a specific topic or issue.


When facilitating workshops for educators, I often start out the program by displaying my collection of handmade quotes cards, or my new set of “Quotables” bookmarks with themes around leadership, teaching and learning. As group members arrive for the program I ask them to choose a quote that resonates with them. Depending on the program they later reflect upon this individually, write about it, or discuss it with a partner or the whole group (See previous posts for ways to actively engage groups in active partner sharing activities).  Group members often initiate conversations with each other during this pre-workshop time as they gather at the quote table.

Providing an activity for participants to involve themselves in as the group gathers together prior to a session or meeting can create a welcome focus during what can be an awkward time for some people.  A novel activity engages learners right away and helps them transition into the workshop or classroom space to better focus on the here and now.


Recently, I found success in using quotes to introduce an academic subject while working in a middle school social studies class. The teacher I was working with was preparing to introduce the American Colonial period. He and I found quotes from famous people of the era and quotes describing events of the time.


On the first day of the unit we displayed a collection of these quotes and asked students to choose one that resonated with them. They shared these with partners and eventually the whole group.


We found that this exercise piqued their interest about the subject. This introduction increased the depth of classroom discussions throughout the unit. Students expressed curiosity about the people behind the quotes from that first day on. Many were curious about their quotes author and read ahead in the social studies book or Googled information about them on their own. When those topics or people came up in their reading or lecture later in the unit they often remembered the quote and were able to relate it to the events or person that they had discovered through the quote.


Quotes can be used again later in group process or in a lesson as a reflective tool. In my team-building programs or training workshops I often display a collection of quotes as a closing activity. I ask participants to choose a quote that represents a key learning or new perspective they will be taking away from the experience. I then allow them to take the quote card with them as a memento of the experience. Many report back to me that they have them posted above their desk as a reminder of what they learned.


You will find that the process of collecting quotes for use with your groups can also be a rewarding task as an educator. I have found this reflective exercise has jump-started my own thoughts around subjects as I plan and prepare for a group. There are some great quote books and quote websites. I especially like to seek out vintage quote books in used bookstores. Enjoy your search!

Note: Our very own Quotables focused on themes of leadership, learning and teaching are now available!

Look for more ideas to create strong beginnings in upcoming posts.


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