Nine Tips for Delivering Together PD Sessions

Sep 9, 2014

This summer, I delivered a Together Teacher workshop in Houston for a group of almost 200 teachers. That’s a big room to manage!

Right after, someone asked me about strategies I use to stay Together when working with large groups of adults. I imagine what I do is no different than what any teacher would do, but just in case, I’ve outlined a few of my practices below.

PS: I’m sure I’ve acquired all these tips from watching other wonderful facilitators over the course of my career. Here goes!

  • Set Up (Obsessively) Your Room in Advance. I have a lot of specifications about room setup, and am unabashedly high-maintenance about it all. It pays off! I like to have a room ready to go the night before whenever possible. If I’m flying in, I ask the host site to send me pictures in advance of a completed setup. The morning of the workshop, I test videos, animation, and other tech repeatedly to make sure everything works. No extra surprises needed! Even still, with this most recent group of 200, there was actually a power failure (long story). But because everything else was set up, I didn’t miss a beat!
  • Number Your Table Signs and Nametags. No matter the size of a group, I insist on visible, numbered table tents and nametags for all participants. I also always have the nametags at each table assigned letters A, B, C, D and so on, so I can easily call on people and regroup to mix things up for participants. For example, I might say, “Odd Tables, Person B, please stand and share your group’s answers!”

  • Color-code Your Handouts. This can get expensive, but it’s worth it to me to have the most-used handout on a particular color. In materials-dense sessions like mine, this helps keep everyone on the same page—literally! The PowerPoint deck also has accompanying page number alignment that’s color-coded like the handout.

  • Wear Your Fanny Pack. Yup, I said it. Go there. I simply cannot teach without a fanny pack, apron, or some sort of wearable pocket to access my supplies. Inside my facilitation fanny pack, you will find my clicker, Chapstick, cough drops, Band-Aids, door prize cards (more on this below), and markers. This way I don’t set my things down somewhere in the workshop room, only to never find them again! Here is my current fanny pack of choice, but I’m hoping someone will buy me this one for Christmas!
  • Use Your Pacing Guide. I deliver the same basic 6 sessions on a repeated basis, but sometimes I have 4 hours, sometimes 4.5 hours. On the left hand side of my Facilitation Guide is my Pacing Guide. Sometimes I add certain content for certain groups or remove things for others. On the right hand side are spots for my “In the Moment Thoughts” I want to raise when I bring the group back together. Then I have a section for “Adjustments to Slides / Handouts.” Lastly, there is a section for “Follow-Up,” if I see people whom I may want to ask questions for the blog. Just for fun, the template I created for myself is below. Click on the photo to enlarge.

  • Set Up Your Facilitator Table. I learned this from my friend Emily at KIPP Austin. I set up a table at the front of the room that includes one set of sample materials, a back-up clicker, water, more cough drops (I’m prone to voice loss), a pack of nuts or another snack, and my door prize station. Oh, yeah, and usually a cup of coffee.



  • Door Prizes, Door Prizes! Everyone loves treats! When I circulate during small group discussions or pair-shares, I give orange index cards to people sharing great answers. There are 20 orange index cards labeled 1 – 20 (stored in my fanny pack, of course) and I have another set of matching numbered index cards on a ring at the front of the room. When all my cards are handed out, it’s time for a door prize: usually a Starbucks gift card, Sharpie markers or other cool supplies.
  • Use Your Clocks. In addition to wearing my own wristwatch, I use an online timer to display a huge digital running watch (if it’s not too stressful for participants), and also set everyone to the same time at the beginning of the workshop. That way, when we take breaks, I can announce, “Please return at X time, which means I want you back 30 seconds before that.”
  • Hold Your Late Arrivals. I catch flak for this sometimes, but I really find people filtering in late very distracting to me and often disruptive to other participants. So, I have late arrivals wait in one location and then usher them in during a work period (if they can do it on Broadway, so can I!) to a clearly marked table. This helps avoid people randomly wandering about looking for an empty seat or a set of materials.

Phew! That’s it!

How about you? What tricks do you use to stay Together when you’re training others?