Facilitation Quick Tips: Holiday Cheer

Facilitation Quick Tips: Holiday Cheer

By Debra Christopher, MSM | December 11, 2015
Director, Professional Learning Systems, ETR

As the winter months and the holidays approach, here are three simple Facilitation Quick Tips that might tap the spirit of the season! We’ve adapted a couple of classics and added a new one of our own that are suited to this winter season. With a little imagination, these can all be adapted for other holidays or special events. 

Get ready to be grateful, throw snowballs and make an A-to-Z list!

Growing Gratitude

Setting: Appropriate for ongoing meetings. Can be used for in-person or virtual/online meetings.


  • Celebration
  • Team building

Best Used: At the end of a meeting

Materials Needed:

  • (Optional) Visual items to represent the number of celebrations and recognitions shared by the group over time. See examples below.


  1. Make “Gratitude” an item on meeting agendas for the month of December or another designated period of time. It can also be set as a standing item “from this day forth!”
  2. In the last few minutes of your meeting, invite group members to celebrate personal accomplishments and share team recognition. Ask volunteers to:
  • Share a personal or team accomplishment
  • Share a story about a team member who deserves recognition

      Celebrations can be personal or work-related.

Variation: You can make these celebrations more visually memorable by providing a visual representation of shared accomplishments and recognitions. As each team member mentions a celebration, add one item to the collection. Over the course of the month, your team can watch their gratitude grow.

Item ideas include adding seasonal stickers to a “gratitude page,” flowers to a vase, or seasonal items (ornaments, peppermint candies, almonds or walnuts in their shells, marbles) to a see-through container.

If some participants are online, take photos of this visual representation each week and share them by email or in-house Chatter group.


Setting: In-person trainings


  • Processing content
  • Summarizing key points
  • Energizing participants
  • Infusing movement into the training

Best Used: After a session break or on the second day of training

Materials Needed:

  • Letter-sized pieces of white paper, one for each participant. (OK to use recycled printer paper that is blank on one side.)


Develop a set of process questions that relate specifically to the learning objectives. Examples:

  • What are two key points we’ve covered that resonate for you?
  • What have you learned that will have the greatest impact on the health of your students?
  • What is one extremely important action that you will take as a result of this session?


  1. Hand out a sheet of plain white paper to each participant.
  2. Post the process questions and ask participants to write their answers on the paper. They should not write their names on paper.
  3. Once participants have had a chance to write out their answers, ask them to crumple up their paper into a “snowball.”
  4. Instruct the group to stand and have a snowball fight by throwing their crumpled papers across the room at each other. (You may want to do an exciting countdown before they start.) They can continue to pick up the snowballs around the room to keep the activity going.
  5. After about a minute, have everyone grab one of the snowballs and take a seat. Ask participants to open their crumpled sheet of paper and read what is written. Have participants share what they’ve read and their responses. Depending on the size of your training, you can do this sharing as a full group or in small groups.

Variation: Give participants three sheets of paper, post three process questions, and ask them to respond to one question per sheet. This adds more “snowballs” to the fight and can boost the energy of the activity. Participants can pick up three snowballs at the end for their discussion.

Winter Icebreaker

Setting: In-person trainings, virtual trainings using a format that allows for small-group breakouts.


  • Energizing participants
  • Building cohesive small-group energy

Best Used: At beginning of an event or before an activity requiring small-group work.

Materials Needed:

  • Prepared pieces of paper for small groups (see “Preparation”).


Prepare one sheet of paper for each group that has the letters of the alphabet written out vertically from A to Z.


  1. Use a fun strategy for breaking your participants or team members into small groups of 2 to 4 people.
  2. Hand each group a sheet of paper with the vertical alphabet on it.
  3. Instruct the groups to come up with a word for each letter of the alphabet that relates in some way to the winter season and/or annual holidays.
  4. The first group to complete the list with legible words wins a prize! Prize ideas (you need one for everyone in the group): packets of instant hot chocolate; cinnamon spice teabags; apples or tangerines; candy canes; holiday stickers; festive pencils.

Debra Christopher, MSM, is Director of Professional Learning Services at ETR. She is quite fond of the holidays! Contact her with questions and ideas at debra.christopher@etr.org



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