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How to Use Magic in Training

Posted by Marsha Weisleder on 12/12/13 3:00 AM
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We all strive to be dynamic instructors, and hope that our training captivates and engages our audience. But let’s get real. It’s tough to keep learners motivated in a classroom, and even tougher sometimes to hold their attention. I’m sure we’ve all seen some heads nod forward and the eyes start to shut. So, what’s a trainer to do? We build in fun activities to add excitement and keep it lively!

Of course, at Langevin, we suggest many tips, tricks, and instructional techniques to keep our audience engaged. We recommend brief puzzles, games, physical exercise breaks, icebreakers, energizers, movie clips, and humorous quotes.

Now, one of my favorite instructional techniques is using simple magic tricks—the key word being simple! Let’s face it, we’re not magicians and are not pretending to be. That’s why I love using this simple trick to wow my learners and give the impression of achieving the impossible. I can promise you one thing, they won’t be sleeping during this one! It’s called The Star, The Moon, and The Sun; here’s how it works:


  • Picture of a star
  • Picture of the sun
  • Picture of the moon
  • Paper bag
  • Envelope
  • Piece of paper
  • Pen

Prep Work:

On the piece of paper write, “I knew you would pick the SUN!” Place the piece of paper in the envelope, and on the front side of the envelope write, “I knew you would pick the MOON!” Place the envelope in the paper bag (with the writing face down,) and on one side of the bag write, “I knew you would pick the STAR!” Place the paper bag (with the writing face down) on a table or stool before you begin the trick.


Tell the class that you’ll need a volunteer from the audience (he or she can stay seated) and that you will be able to read his/her mind (build this part up!). Let’s call the volunteer Carol. Tell Carol that you will show her three pictures and you will predict which one is her favorite. Point to the paper bag and tell the class that your prediction is pre-done.

Before you start (again, build this part up!), ask Carol things like, “Did we meet before today?” or “Carol, have I asked you to be my partner in some kind of trick or scheme?” Also, remember to keep the banter going as you deliver the trick.

Show Carol (and the entire class) the three different pictures, one at a time. Say to Carol, “So Carol, you have a favorite, don’t you? Tell the class which one is your favorite.” She will either say the star, the moon, or the sun. As a joke, I sometimes say, “Can I have a new volunteer?” You can even ask, “Carol, why did you pick the ______?”

Clearly, you have all three answers covered in the bag/envelope, and the trick is to remember where the answers are. If Carol picks the star, simply lift the paper bag and show the side that was face down with the words, “I knew you would pick the STAR!” If Carol picks the moon, go into the paper bag (be sure to keep the side with the writing face down) and take out the envelope revealing the writing, “I knew you would pick the MOON!” Lastly, if Carol picks the sun, go into the paper bag, take out the envelope (with the writing kept face down) and remove the piece of paper that reveals, “I knew you would pick the SUN!” Of course, the sun is the most dramatic choice because it’s fully concealed in both the bag and envelope.

Over the years I’ve used this trick in many of my classes, and it never fails to get peoples’ attention! Be sure to practice at home first, wow your friends and family before trying it in the classroom. And as all magicians know, NEVER reveal the secret of the trick!

Feel free to share any tricks you have up your sleeve to keep your participants motivated and attentive during training!

Dealing with Difficult Participants

Marsha has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience. She went on to attend Osgoode Hall Law School and practiced civil litigation for a few years. While working for a company as their in-house legal counsel, Marsha fell into a training position and never looked back! Each day, Marsha brings passion and excitement to her workshops, always encouraging her participants to find their own passion as well. Outside of the classroom, Marsha loves to spend time with her family, travel, and stay active. Of course her main obsession is Elvis! Some people might think she’s a little over-the-top about him, but doesn’t everyone have an Elvis shrine in their home? Maybe not…

Topics: instructional techniques, tips-for-trainers

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Our very own world-class course leaders share their experiences, tips, best practices, and expertise on virtual training, instructional design, needs analysis, e-learning, delivery, evaluation, presentation skills, facilitation, and much more!

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