LS Online: Mad Tea

      No Comments on LS Online: Mad Tea

IMG_3686Liberating Structures we adapted for online: Mad Tea  


  • Mad Tea purpose:  Create a bigger, richer, and clearer context for shaping next steps together
  • Our (specific) purpose for this activity:  a way to review and discuss our progress, thinking and some readings on a topic.

People & Technology:

  • 2 facilitators – BJ Eib & Tracy Roberts
  • 8 participants from the same organization
  • Tech: PowerPoint, Blackboard Collaborate (tools: breakout rooms, timer, announcement, whiteboard),
  • The big “online” idea: use breakout rooms to create private pair talking spaces to replicate the repeated rapid cycles of 1:1 conversations.
  •  We did this activity after a general welcome/warmup and tech check-in,  and before another activity that dug deeper.
 Five Structural Elements – Min Specs (from original LS Mad Tea)  Notes for adapting to online (BB Collaborate)
 1. Structuring Invitation

  • You are invited to finish a set of open sentences that relate to shaping your next steps together
  • Same invitation to participants
  • Facilitator upload powerpoint with sentence prompts
  • suggest 3-5 questions/prompts for this activity
  • choose large, fantastic images for each slide/prompt
 2. How Space Is Arranged and Materials Needed

  • Unlimited # people, face-to-face in pairs in two concentric circles
  • The inner circle faces out and the outer circle faces in
  • Each person is directly across from one other person
  • Facilitator projects each question on a screen and dings once to shift the exchange between the pair and twice to shift to a new partner (rotating two people to the right)
    • theoretically, unlimited number of breakout rooms
    • pairs in breakout rooms to achieve 1:1 conversations
    • we had 8 people (4 rooms). Try using the feature to randomly assign people to breakout rooms if more than about 20 people
    • Facilitator advances slides between rounds, sets timer, sends announcements to rooms to remind people to switch talkers, sends slides to breakout rooms, brings people back at the end of each round
3. How Participation Is Distributed

  • Everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute
  • same
 4. How Groups Are Configured

  • In pairs for each sentence, switching two places to the right as each new sentence appears
  • in pairs for each sentence, then (moved by facilitator) back to the main room at the end of each round, and then (dragging self) into a new breakout room to start the next conversation
 5. Sequence of Steps and Time Allocation

1. [1] Ask everyone in the group to for two concentric circles and find one other person, standing directly across from them, face to face

2. [2] Describe the rules succinctly: in very short order, one person completes the sentence on the screen while the other expresses keen interest and curiosity

3. [1] Invite one person in each pair to finish the sentence # 1 first , ding the bells once at 30 seconds, then invite the other to do the same

4. Ding the bells twice at 1 minute, remind participants to move two to the right (you will not have to remind them after the first round)

5. [12-15] Repeat step 2-4 for each additional open sentence (up to 15 total)

6. [2] Ask, what did you notice about the Mad Tea experience?

  • Create breakout rooms named after HALF the participants
  • Tell participants: we are going to be moving in and out of breakout rooms quickly in order to have several  1:1 conversations in quick succession
  • Tell participants: each round starts together in the main room where you will see the discussion prompt on the whiteboard. When I tell you, you will move yourself to the right room.
  • Tell participants: if there is a breakout room with your name on it, always go back there at the beginning of every round –  a new partner will join you each round.
  • If there is no breakout room with your name on it, start at _______room (tell each person specifically where to start and/or write it on the whiteboard) and then every round you move down ONE room (see list of names and rooms in participant list)

Rounds go like this: 

  • Facilitator gives instructions and makes sure the first prompt is on screen.
  • Participants “drag” themselves into their first room
  • Facilitator makes sure everyone ends up in the right place
  • Facilitator sends copies of slide (with discussion prompt) to breakout rooms (so they have the full slide with prompt. alternately, you could use the announcement tool for this but that’s just small text only, no image)
  • Facilitator sets timer for 1 minute
  • When first minute ends, send announcement to breakout rooms that says “switch talkers”. Set timer for another 1 minute
  • at the end of the second minute, bring everyone back into the room. (this can feel abrupt for participants – you could use the announcement to warn them)
  • Make sure it all went ok, and remind participants that as round 2 is now starting, they will have a new question and new partner.  Remind them: if you have a room with your name on it, go back there. If you don’t, remember the last room you were in and go to the room that is 1 under it on the Participant list.
  • Repeat for however many questions you have
  • At the end of the last round, bring all back to the main room and ask what did you notice about the mad tea experience?

Post-session reflections, tips, etc…

  • This may be a case where more time is needed to do this online – e.g., be generous in the first round and with the first minute of each 2-min round (i.e., after participants go to breakout rooms). Consider 1.5 or 2 min instead of 1 min.
  • We did not have a slide illustrating the process, but I’d try it next time to see if it adds anything.
  • Co-facilitate this one – there’s a lot going on!
  • Considering using this activity (online or f2f)? Do consult the original activity description on you’ll find lots more information and very useful detail to support your facilitation (e.g., tips & traps, riffs & variations)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.