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Center of Attention, "Talking Stick"

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

Too many people talking at once? This idea borrowed from Native American culture can be used to ensure that one person at a time is given the floor and is fully heard.

Materials Needed

  • a "talking stick." Note that any tool could be used in place of a "talking stick." You could use a "talking mug" or a "talking paper clip." You could use a child's play microphone and pretend you're running a talk show. What's your school's mascot? If it is a tiger, a little stuffed "talking tiger" could be the tool.

Time Required


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This activity might be used for any part of a meeting where your intent is to collect opinions and perspectives from all participants.

"Instant Meeting" Idea

Are your meetings often "taken over" by the loudest voices? Do some individuals tend to interrupt others or monopolize conversations? The "Talking Stick" activity will help ensure that one person at a time has the floor and that all voices are heard.

The "Talking Stick" has its origins in Native American culture:

" The talking stick was commonly used in council circles to designate who had the right to speak. When matters of great concern came before the council, the leading elder would hold the talking stick and begin the discussion. When he finished what he had to say he would hold out the talking stick, and whoever wished to speak after him would take it..."
Source: The Talking Stick

Similarly, a "talking stick" can be used in a staff meeting where you want all voices to be heard without interruption. You can hold the talking stick and introduce the idea behind it.

Any prop could be used in place of a "talking stick." You could use a "talking mug" or a "talking paper clip." You could use a child's play microphone. What is your school's mascot? If it is a tiger, a little stuffed "talking tiger" could be the tool.

Introduce the topic of discussion, and then look for a show of hands from people who would like to share their thoughts. Pass the stick to one of the willing participants.

If you are working with a large group, you might have people line up when they want to speak. When the person holding the talking stick is finished, he or she hands the stick to the next person in line.

You might set an additional ground rule such as "If you are ready to pass on the talking stick and several hands are raised, hand the stick first to someone who has not yet had an opportunity to speak."

If you're worried that the conversation might be monopolized by a long-winded speaker, you can set a time limit. For example: "The person with the talking stick has up to 2 minutes to state his or her thoughts."

Follow-Up

You might ask for feedback on the use of this technique. Was it useful in giving everybody an equal opportunity to speak? Did it help keep the conversation focused? Did it enable all voices/opinions to be heard without interruption? Did it encourage listening?

 

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