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A creative way you can “teach” people and make lessons memorable – through “stealth learning” Part 1/3

November 21, 2012

If  YOU need to “teach” someone something  and make your messages memorable – connect your message to something your audience likes to do.

I learned this from a fantastic English teacher at school (Mr Bishop) who “tricked us” with what I call stealth learning. His lessons were casual and fun and didn’t seem like work at all – yet his lessons were so memorable because he connected his “lesson material” with our world and what we liked to do.

We students thought we were just hanging out listening to and talking about The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel. Now this was music from Mr Bishop’s generation (not ours) – but the technique was so effective.

He was actually teaching us about poetic devices through the lyrics of the songs! (more in link at the end of the post)

(Thank you Mr Bishop and you may like to know that I use similar techniques when I train corporate executives AND when I teach my son Orlando.

Mr Bishop – I think you’d be proud of the way I teach my son through fun “stealth learning” – like using a kids JOKE book.)

As a corporate trainer I’ve learned how to make training interesting and engaging. People are more likely to remember humorous examples and “stories” rather than random facts and information.

Here is a story about how a joke book helped my corporate training career AND it helped me “teach” my son.

I’ll start with my son – Orlando

This year I decided to devote myself to driving my son Orlando across the other side of town to a school that better suits his learning needs.

Orlando learns best when learning is part of “a project” – rather than random facts. This helps him focus and apply himself!

So on our long drives every school day  – I give him different projects.

Our Tuesdays are Cheerful Choosedays!  –

On Tuesdays – to make the trip more fun, Orlando’s “job” is to read me some jokes from a kids joke book I bought him.

I call this “stealth learning”.

He thinks we are just having fun (which we are) but this also:

  1. Encourages his reading. He is reading for a reason – to tell me jokes
  2. Helps me “teach” him things related to a joke he has just read.

For example, this morning he reads me a joke.

Orlando: Who tells jokes in Never Never land?

Tony:  Peter Pan?

O: No dad – Peter Pun!  (I laugh – he has a long pause then adds…….I don’t get it.

This then gives me the opportunity to explain what a pun is. Of course I gave him a simple explanation – there are many forms of pun where words sound or look alike.

e.g.  a not-for-Prophet organisation

I explain to Orlando: A pun can be where words sound similar.

Peter Pun sounds like Peter Pan. Puns can be clever wordplay that makes you smile. Puns can also make you laugh where the pun is different from and maybe the opposite of the original.

I was able to refer to a joke Orlando made yesterday about his “plans” make his own  comedy spy movie –  SKYFAIL instead of SKYFALL FAIL sounds like FALL – it’s a Pun. And SKYFAIL sounds funny because it’s the oppositie of the success usually enjoyed by Mr Bond!

The interesting thing is – the joke book also gives me interesting and memorable examples for my corporate training.

I travel the world helping organisations avoid misunderstanding in their spoken and written communication.

One module is about avoiding lexical ambiguity (as opposed to syntactical ambiguity)

Lexical ambiguity is when a word can have more than one meaning.

For example:

The vaccine contains rabies.


This sentence has two  very different meanings due to different meanings of the word contain.

Contain can mean the vaccine may limit rabies.

Contain can also mean that the vaccine has rabies in it.

Anyway, in the training I now explain how because English borrowed from so many other languages and because words can have many meanings – this can be a good source of word humour.

In the presentation I project an image of Orlando and use this example of one of the jokes he read to me.

Q: Why is Cinderella bad at playing soccer?

A: She runs away from the BALL and she has a pumpkin for a COACH.

Two meanings for BALL and two meanings for COACH!

This is also “stealth learning” for the training participants.

The participants are relaxed because they think this is just a fun story.

There is what I call THE APPEAL OF THE REAL – a real-life example many of them can relate to – especially if they have kids.

The photo and the story and the example illustrate lexical ambiguity and make it more memorable.

I also use an memorable example Mr Bishop taught us at school. He used a headline from WWII


What image comes to mind when you read that?

I’ll explain more in about BRITISH PUSH BOTTLE UP GERMANS  in  part 3

Also, you can find out more about how Simon & Garfunkel left a lasting impression – with this link:


Hi, I’m Tony Biancotti and I can help you harness your creativity and hook attention with lots of tips from everyday life for  boosting creativity and hooking attention in everyday situations.

I can also help you improve your presentations and business writing.

I can share with you practical and easy-to-apply tips I’ve gathered over many years working as a:

  • TV journalist
  • political speechwriter
  • lawyer
  • blogger
  • musician and performer
  • coach and trainer in persuasionpositive messagespresenting and better e-mail and business writing.


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