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 Collaborative Solutions

Each week, Instant Meeting presents an idea or activity that you might use to make staff meetings more interesting, teacher-centered, educational, or fun.

Brief Description/Purpose

This meeting activity gives your whole staff an opportunity to play the role of professional developer -- solving problems for one another -- for an hour.

Materials Needed

  • 9- x 14-inch brown envelopes, one per teacher
  • 4 x 6 index cards; each teacher should have the same number of cards as there are participants in the activity -- for example, for 20 teachers you will need 400 (20 cards for each of 20 teachers) cards
  • a set of markers for each group of teachers

Time Required


More Ideas for
Instant Meetings

Be sure to see our Instant Meetings Archive for additional ideas.

And don't miss our Great Meeting series. Dee Kelsey and Pam Plumb offer a short course on creating meetings that work, based on their popular guide, Great Meetings. They present ideas to help you learn how to lead meetings that generate ideas; analyze problems; define a vision; evaluate ideas and make decisions; plan for long-range needs; encourage group participation and keep groups on track; and much more.

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This activity can be the focus of a single 60-minute staff meeting, or it can be one activity that is part of a school-wide professional development day.

"Instant Meeting" Idea

In this activity, each teacher might identify a problem for which they would like to solicit outside suggestions. Have them use markers to write that problem or situation in the middle of a 9- x 14-inch brown envelope. The problems might be anything classroom related: a disciplinary issue, an instructional situation, a classroom organization/management question, a parent-involvement issue there are no restrictions. The following are a few examples:

  • I would love to do cooperative learning, but how do you keep all of the students on task?
  • I can't get my students to come in and automatically begin their "bell work." What can I do to make this a routine for them? I always have to remind them to get started on it.
  • When I try to use manipulatives in math class, all they do is play with them. What can I do to get them to focus more seriously on the activity?
  • How do I get my students to show up for my detention?
You might give teachers some advance notice of this activity. You might ask them to think in advance of a problem or situation they might like to solve.

When teachers have done that, collect all the envelopes. Shuffle them. Then re-distribute them; give one envelope to each teacher. Each teacher will read the problem described on the front of the envelope they receive. The teacher will then respond to the problem by writing on one of the index cards a suggestion, a related experience, a quote, or anything else that might help that teacher with the problem. Teachers do not have to sign the cards unless they wish to do so. When they have finished writing their thoughts, they should drop the index card into the envelope.

You might leave the envelopes tacked onto a teacher's lounge bulletin board for a week. That way, teachers can add cards to envelopes as they think more about the problems/situations presented by their peers.

Read More

Brown Bag It: A Professional Development Activity That Works
Looking for a great staff meeting idea? One that is totally practical and fun? The "Brown Bag It" activity gives all members of your staff an opportunity to play the role of professional developer for an hour. Included: Staff developer Melba Smithwick shares step-by-step activity instructions.

Follow-Up

Take time in a future staff meeting to allow teachers to share where they stand on solving the problem or situation they used for the Brown-Bag It activity. Many teachers will share thanks for advice or suggestions -- anonymous and otherwise -- that they received as part of this activity.

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