Create better workbooks by understanding how different activity pages work.
There are many types of workbook activity pages you might want to include into your workbook. But how do you know which workbook pages or exercises types to include. Or what activities will best aid learning? This post will go over a variety of different types of pages and give some insight into why you would use them.
Fill in the blank
These can be set up in multiple ways. One is a ad-libs cloze type format where there is a blank in the sentence. The blank is always in the grammatically correct location. There is an option to write out the possible answers nearby if you are testing comprehension. Another option for fill the blanks is to have an image or diagram where the participant is to write out parts of the diagram. Again the list of possible answers can be listed nearby when teaching. But the list can be removed for testing or examining knowledge. The other way to do a fill in the blank is to have two columns. One column has the question and the other column the responses. This is good for when participants are choosing a number between 1-10 or some other quick response.
These can be useful for inspiration. If there are a lot of terms that are related somehow it is nice to see them grouped in this way. Also another thing you can do with word clouds is to have the participants choose a certain number of options to delve into further. Great for when there are 30 potential options but the activity requires expanding on only 4 of the options.
There are so many things you can do with checkboxes or checklists. No seriously. The really common one is just to say that a particular item is done. Like on a to-do list. But you can also use them for multiple choice. I mostly see these used in workbook to show accountability. When the participant has completed the activity or wants to show they have completed the tasks, they tick the box. A good idea is to have one of your workbook pages be an actionable items list so that the participants can follow these when they leave. Again with selection, if there are four options for activity on the page, there can be a checkbox for which activity they have chosen. You can use checkboxes on feedback forms too. Simple yes/no answers can be useful to collect. Actually, any feedback you can get from your participants is worthwhile to improve your offering.
Probably the most common type of all workbook activity pages. The premise here is simple. You want to have participants answer a series of questions. Not in too much detail. These questions require about a sentence to answer. Often one question leads onto the next. Normally the space to write in is a couple of lines. Or you can simply put a box for them to write in. I am sure every workbook as at least one of these.
Continuing on from short answers, these are similar in that you want the answers to be written. But this is different in that there is a much larger space to write in. Often half a page or more. You can choose to have lines to write on or a box to write in. Sometimes if there is follow on questions or there is a series of answers, these can extend over to other pages.
Join the dots
For really simple matching of items. You often see this in children’s learning books. Great for if there is one correct answer and the aim is to join the two concepts. An example of this is when there is a word and it’s translation. By joining the word and its translation, the information has been learnt.
I know that there is already some mention of this but sometimes the information is very complex and you need to convey interlinking information. So you can have a large diagram set up and have the participants fill in the answers. You can even put nearby the types of items required and have them draw the whole diagram out themselves.
Using tables with missing fields can help learners understand how different things link together. By visually seeing how pieces of information are related can help to create the neural networks required to retain the information. There is also something fitting in seeing missing pieces of information in understanding and then learning about it and filling in that piece of the puzzle. Another way a table can be used in a workbook is by using it as a habit tracker. Days along one side, habits along the other and each day that the habit gets done gets filled it. Very easy to understand graphic and because of this it is one of the common workbook activity pages.
When working through many questions in a self-development manner, it can be really useful to set intentions up front. By knowing what expectations are at the onset, a learner can review this at the end of the workbook activities. Useful to keep referring to throughout the materials and would normally go at the start of a workbook. Or alternatively having one at the end of a workbook as an intention-setting for the future, after the workbook.
Pre-course skills evaluation
Similar to intention-setting but more of a formal process. This would probably contain a few questions that must be filled in at the start of the workshop. It is used in order to gauge what the learners know at the start of the materials. While it is possible to just let it be a free-form intention setting exercise, the key thing you want to get from this type of activity is evidence of transformation and learnings by the end of the workshop. Easy multi-choice questions, or asking about skills on a sliding scale are ways to measure this. Maybe even asking directly about what they expect to get from the workshop.
Post-course skills evaluation
To continue with the review process, this evaluation matches up with the pre-course skills evaluation. However, the key difference here is that the skills have been learnt. The participant should be able to match the two sets of answers up and visually (hopefully at a glance) see their improved skills. If they rated their expectations for the workshop out of 10 at the start, you can get them to compare with the actual workshop results at the end. Very useful information for you as a course builder. But more for the student to witness their return on investment.
Working out space
Used in a textbook type document with lots of learning. Particularly a math book. It is so important to make sure there is amble white space just for jotting down answers. This same theory can apply to many type of activities though. If you are asking someone to ponder and dream about their ideal life, give them some working out space. It is a big question. By putting in lines, it stops the creative juices flowing. The bigger the space can be, the more jotting people can do. But do not give them a whole blank page, it will be too scary and daunting. Just don’t overlook any opportunities to leave space for brainstorming and working out answers.
Colouring in pages are no longer just for children. Still a great activity for children to use once they have completed other activities and not to be used as a substitution for other creative outlets. As an activity for a reward when completing everything else, or to instil calm and use a meditation, colouring pages are great. But for younger children, as an activity it teaches the to stay between the lines and their growing brains need to learn just to draw and be creatively free. So pick this as an activity as a reward and not as a learning task.
Allow participants and students to track their progress. When a lesson is complete, have a checkbox or something to colour. It is an easy reward. Rewards help built habits. So when tracking any habits a progress page is a must. Tracking progress is enjoyable when working through various modules and activities (particularly when long). It charts or maps out what the expected learning over the course will be.
Applicable when teaching how to use software. It is useful to have screenshots of the software and have indictors explaining what everything is. Different people like different types of instructions so having both a screenshot of the software interface and a list of steps nearby covers both. Don’t forget to make sure that the screenshots print well and everything is legible. There is a tendency to make the images small on the page to fit in more content. But remember, if the user can’t read the text on the menus in the picture, then the picture is not doing it’s job.
Quiz or test (+ answer key)
Of course, quizzes and tests are wonderful ways to actually test knowledge. I am sure you can think back to school and all the ways you can use a quiz, text or exam. Example is using short answers, fill in the blanks, tables missing bits of data, multiple choice or even including an area to do working out. Each test or quiz will be for a different reason. You can gauge knowledge retention with correct and incorrect answers. But don’t forget to include an answer key in the back somewhere. With a quiz you can do a tally of answers or something like ‘mostly A’s to determine the outcome. When doing this type of quiz, try to keep the key or outcome on the next page so that users are not tempted to give incorrect answers.
Just to mix things up there are many types of puzzles that can be included. An example is colour-by-number but with math sums. I love this idea. Another puzzle used often is a cross word or find-a-word. These are not really for learning or retention. More for fun. So don’t rely on these too much as teaching tools, more for rewards.
Used to find your way through the workbook. It seems obvious but is often missed out. When a workbook has a very easy outcome this might not be included. Example in an email list-building opt-in that is called something like “30 ways to …” you are hoping that customers read until the end and having a contents page will essentially list all the ways on the first page. This would give no incentive to keep turning pages. But if you are teaching something with multiple pieces of information it will be beneficial to list these at the start, and with pages numbers. Using page numbers (and having them be clickable that go directly to the page) help users who print the workbook find the page number and digital users can click and go their directly. A clear contents page will help give users an overview of what to expect in the course as it is listed out in order. If you have multiple chapters, a contents page is a must.
Depending on how long and deep your materials are. But including a list of further resources so that anyone wanting to learn more can get the right materials. It can be the reading list but also any online courses or videos that help to understand the materials. Everything listed is about building on what you have taught, to solidify and integrate it. An extra thing to consider if you are doing a group workshop is to include some blank lines. There is something wonderful about a group experience and everyone knows different materials that are appropriate to look into further. Having this space, and encouraging it, will help because there is the context along with the reminder.
One of the fun things about completing a course is having a certificate. So maybe at the end of your workbook you might want to include a certificate. It can be fun or a bit more professional if your workshop is for professional development.