'58 ½ Ways to Improvise in Training' by Paul Jackson - a second review

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Product: Book 58 ½ Ways to Improvise in Training.
Author : Paul Z Jackson
Name & Address of Publisher : Gower Publishing Limited, Gower House, Croft Road, Aldershot, Hampshire, GU11 3HR
Date of Publication : 10th May 2000.
ISBN : 0 566 08131 2
Price: £ 49.50

This is a well-presented hardback book, with an attractive orange cover. It is 7 ½ inches by 10 inches with 140 pages and there are no pictures other than that on the cover but there is still a lot I like about this book. The one thing I dislike is the price, £49.50 seems scandalous for a book such as this and I guess if I was to buy it I would wait for the paperback version. Gower perhaps assumes that training departments can afford such extravagances from their limited budgets.

This is actually a very well presented collection of 58 ½ energisers or activities that the trainer can use in the classroom.

A table heads each activity. This table makes it very easy to select an activity that best suites your lesson and that may be dictated by the number of participants (2 to 100) or the time you have available (5minutes to 60 minutes) etc. Each activity is then broken down into What the Trainer Says by way of introducing the activity and how the activity can be varied or developed. There is also something the author calls Side Coach that is suggested elements that can be introduced as the activity progresses. All of the activities are described in a similar format, which aids quick reference.

The author Paul Z Jackson is an independent training consultant, a senior producer for BBC Radio Four and lectures widely. An earlier publication by him was entitled Impro Learning which you may have seen.

Paul is completely upfront in admitting in his introduction that his materials have been obtained from colleagues seminars and from other publications (well what training material isn’t?) and he says "There are a lot of other books of games, none of which you’ll need now that you’ve bought this one". Well to be honest I am not convinced and clearly neither is Gower who included their latest mailshot advertising 75 Ways to liven Up Your Training, a collection of energising activities by Martin Orridge and Another 75 Ways To Liven Up Your Training, a second collection of energising activities by Martin Orridge (Price £42.50 each). I bet Paul didn’t realise the two were going out together? Also the final ½ element of the 58 ½ activities in Paul’s book is the recommendation that you buy his latest book Impro Learning: How to Make Your Training Creative, Flexible And Spontaneous!

If like me, you have had energisers fall flat on their face, you will be a little sceptical at some of Paul’s suggested activities. Some involve physical contact and most are intended to raise at least a smile. Paul does acknowledge that non- English speaking students may struggle with an activity but not until chapter 11 on page 25. I would hope that an experienced trainer will know whether his/her students include hearing impaired/ disabled etc and therefore will know immediately whether an activity is suitable or not and will not use those that are just too risky.

So this is a useful collection of activities and it is intended to be used as a reference book to be dipped into when an energiser is called for. It is not unique and the dilemma is why buy this one, not one of the many others such as the two advertised in the accompanying mailshot? You could of course start by looking on the Training zone web site for FREE material! I say no more.

Stephen P Radburn BSc

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