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Purpose: A circle check-in is almost always a given at the beginning and end of a programme. Depending on the length of the programme, it might happen once or twice in between or it might not. Circle check-ins are good for helping one another to put names to faces, establish a value of shared space and equal voice, disrupt traditional conference or professional development patterns/expectations, holds collective purpose and intention at the centre, destabilizes hierarchy, allows for healing if conflict has arisen, and promotes deep listening.
Materials: A chair for every participant placed in a circle
Time: Dependent on the number of participants but typically budget 1-2 minutes per person.
Step one: Invite participants into the circle for a check in. Frame the experience - introduce the metaphor you will throughout the experience, use some narrative. Set folks up to dig a little deeper than they might naturally. As it is the first ‘taste’ of an experience, it is important that the framing be strong. If needed, a facilitator should model how to check-in and should go first.
Step two: After setting up the ‘feel’ of the check-in, ask the check-out question. It could be along the lines of
- What’s your story?
- Why are you here?
- Tell about a time when...
After modelling the check-in, explain that the talking piece will pass to the left (clockwise). The talking piece will make its way around the circle twice, participants may pass the first time if they don’t quite know what to say and can wait until the talking piece makes its way around again.
Step three: Close the check in circle when you receive the talking piece again with a bookend of framing. This could be notes that you made from what others said during the check-in, or a reiteration of the metaphor. The feel should be light, hopeful, exciting.
Purpose: Think, Pair, Share can be a good alternative to doing a full plenary check-in as it usually happens a little quicker, and it includes different ways of processing.
Step one: Either in a large circle or at tables, give participants a ‘check-in question’ - see above for some examples - and then give them a few minutes to think it over for themselves (if at tables, they could journal too).
Step two: After a few minutes have them find a partner and share their responses with one another.
Step three: Finally, have the pairs share back to the rest of the group - you could have them share their answer to the question, share their partner’s answer, or share some patterns or insights they noticed from sharing with each other.