Why should I use this technique?
You can’t avoid it; many family programs require instructions conveyed by a facilitator. While not an inherently bad thing, you may find verbally communicating clear instructions trickier then you imagined. Instructional cards can communicate instructions through text and/or images; serve as handy reminders of important information that families can refer to throughout a program; layer in more content; and can extend the fun and learning as a take-away piece.
When should I include them?
You may not think to include instructional cards in a program initially. We didn’t, but quickly saw a need for them in several programs being redesigned for families.
In one program, we needed to communicate instructions to load and fire Alka-Seltzer™ cannons – 4 steps to be completed in a specific order. Our facilitators felt rushed trying to verbally communicate the instructions to eager families which resulted in confusion and missteps on the part of the families. So, we wrote each step on a numbered card and gave the set to families. Each family member got to pick a card and refer it as the activity progressed. Read more [Link to article].
In a drop-in program, we needed to quickly introduce families to the program activities without the facilitator feeling like a broken record repeating a lengthy, but informative, introduction over and over. So, we created a card that highlighted the key goals of the activity and provides answers to a few frequently asked questions. It’s a simple solution that can be incorporated into other programs too.
How do I design them?
Draft, test, modify, repeat. Observe families using the cards to see where they get frustrated or confused. This step is crucial, because if they don’t understand the instructions, the chance for a positive, satisfying experience fades.
Word count and line spacing play an important role in creating a visually attractive and easy to read card too. From years of exhibit designing, we realize that the number of lines the text takes up is just as important as the word count. You can’t set a word count goal without thinking about how much space it would take up on the card. Two lines of text may only equate to about 25 words.
How do I test them?
One place to start is to ask yourself, “Are they easy to read aloud?” Because that’s how families communicate written instructions quickly to readers and non-readers. Try reading them aloud a few times to your colleagues and judging their reactions. Are you rushing through because they’re so much to communicate or speaking at a comfortable pace and duration?
What if no one’s reading them aloud when that’s your intention? The simplest fix might be to add “read this aloud” on the card itself.
How do I use them as a facilitation tool?
In an activity with sequential steps or roles, use them to encourage families to self-select a role for each family member and remind them of the proper sequence of who does what. Plus, the act of handing a family a set of cards can be a physical invitation from the facilitator to signal that everyone has a job and needs to participate, including adults.
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