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Stoplight & Thumbs Up

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

When decisions need to be made, and you are looking for a consensus among your staff, Stoplight Cards and Thumbs Up are two tools you might use.

Materials Needed

  • Prepare three "stoplight cards" for each teacher. Index cards work fine. Cut and paste a circle of red to one card, a circle of yellow to another, and a circle of green to the third. Alternatively, you might purchase stickers of red, green, and yellow and stick those on cards. Note: An alternative activity called "Thumbs Up" (see below) does not require props.

Time Required

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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.

This activity can be used for whatever part of your meeting requires teachers and staff members to make decisions about issues that face your school.

"Instant Meeting" Idea

Before the meeting, prepare green, yellow, and red "stoplight cards" (see Materials Needed above). Distribute a set of three index cards, one of each color, to each meeting particpant. When a decision is being proposed, explain the use of the stoplight cards.

Imagine you are facilitating a staff meeting that will require several decisions. Group members will use the cards to indicate where they stand on the decision to be made:

  • Green card -- indicates agreement with the decision
  • Yellow card -- indicates some hesitation or caution about the decision
  • Red card -- indicates disagreement with the decision State clearly the decision to be made. Then ask group members to hold up the card that indicates where they stand on the decision.

Ask those who are holding yellow or red cards to explain their hesitation or disagreement. When their thoughts have been heard, you might call for another vote to see if the results have changed.

Thumbs Up is essentially the same tool as stoplight cards. The difference is that participants indicate with their thumbs, rather than cards, where they stand with a decision:

  • Thumb up --- indicates agreement with the decision
  • Thumb sideways --- indicates some hesitation or caution about the decision
  • Thumb down --- indicates disagreement with the decision The clear advantage of the thumbs-up activity is that you can use it in a moment with no preparation.

Source: Making Decisions: Stoplight Cards and Thumbs Up (, "Great Meetings" -- March 22, 2005.