student activities

Successful Student Exercises: Start Small, Then Big

You start a course that you are super keen about. You whiz through the introductory module, start to dig down into the first few lessons, and WHAM – you are asked to complete a full plan of something or fill out an 8-page worksheet.

Freeze up!

You know that tense feeling you have? Interestingly, that is what most college and university students feel when taking programs as well.

So, where in the teacher’s manual does is state kill the student with overwhelm? I must have missed that chapter.

Lucky for you (and your future student), I have a simple strategy to share that tackles tension before it ever rears its ugly head.

The Secret to Successful Student Learning

Start small with your exercises. If your students feel successful applying a step in a small way, they are more apt to work on a larger version of that step.

There are several reasons why bite-size exercises work best for students;

  • Small exercises are just that, small, so students are less hesitant to start them.
  • Small exercises are easier to complete, so student feel more motivated to finish them.
  • Being that they can complete them quickly, students are left with a win – they instantly feel the intrinsic reward.
  • Small exercises help students gain valuable learning experiences.
  • Students find it easier to get feedback from peers and the instructor.


You promised people they will learn something in your course, right?

So, let’s ensure that happens. Here’s how;

TIP #1: To conquer overwhelming courses with oodles and oodles of serious content, add playful, bite-size exercises.

  • Many courses are modularized (split into modules or units) and strive to teach or present something per section. It could be one big concept, or an introduction to a topic, or preparation steps for something.
  • Perfect, that’s completely on track by breaking down the content.
  • Now it’s important to take the one or two essentials nuggets of knowledge or skills per module and allow students to practice it, in bite size portions. Maybe 2 or 3 little portions.

TIP #2: People learn by doing as it moves knowledge into long-term memory to reuse later.

  • This is how our brains work
  • We have both short-term and long-term memory
  • Short-term memory is very momentary
  • Long-term is harder to develop
  • By getting out hands or body going, we tend to retain more

Example: Bite-Size Exercise

Let’s say you are taking a DIY home decorating course because you are itching to paint, embellish, and refurnish one of your fave rooms .

So, Module 1 covers different styles of decorating, such as classic, eclectic, French country, romantic, minimalist, etc.

And the module has lovely pics and descriptions of these styles. Then comes …

Exercise Overwhelm: Choose a design style and create a plan on how you will transform your fave room using a certain theme, including colours, accent pieces, window and floor treatments, and select furniture.

Hit a brick wall. Faint.

Or…. you can guide them with bite-size exercises, FIRST.

Bite-Size Exercise (b4 Exercise Overwhelm)

 1) Get a Taste of Your Colour Preference

  • Access this virtual room makeover by Benjamin Moore
  • Play with some colours and get a feel of what you like
  • Using the share button, add to a new Pinterest board and share with fellow students
  • Review other boards by peers, and ask design questions to learn more

Bonus Playtime: Get the right colour combo by exploring these palettes

2) Play with the Design of Your Room

  • Download the following software to virtually redesign your room, by Lowe’s
  • Draft in your existing room dimensions, furniture, flooring and window treatment
  • Now, change it up
  • Have fun with this as nothing is permanent right now
  • Save your project to play with more in following modules

NOTE: This exercise took me 15 minutes to create and find fun, free resources. Also, I would suggest in future modules to drill deeper into interior design theories and steps and have students play with those elements all BEFORE the larger project of a design plan.

As well, each exercise would take about 30 to 45 minutes for learners to complete (longer for enthusiasts) and warms them up to interior decorating without overwhelming them.

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