Watch this video to see 'Mad Tea' in action...

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The purpose of 'Mad Tea'

Promote small group intimacy and collaboration and make a large group session feel interactive. Focus attention ahead of a session.

This is a Liberating Structure in development (Impromptu networking, a classic Liberating Structure is similar, but we didn’t record a video about it, so we refer to it here as an adaptation, even though it is an established approach in its own right).

Activity description

  • Useful for
  • Preparation
  • How to do it
  • Duration
  • Adaptations
  • Technical requirements

Energizing participants at the beginning of a meeting or class, give them opportunities to talk to each other in pairs or trios (for the breakout room version) or hear from the whole class quickly (for the text chat version).

Using the breakout room version can also help prime participants for structured/timed activities later on that require concise answers and care in making space for others to speak during a limited timeframe.

Slides with prompts written on them.

  1. Prepare slides with prompts that are completing a sentence, such as "the best thing that happened to me last semester was…" or " Lately, my priority has been…" or "one superpower I have is…" or "a challenge I need help with is…" Make sure some of the prompts are positive/hopeful.
  2. Explain to participants that this is an energizing but slightly dizzying activity, and that it uses breakout rooms. Let them know if they find themselves alone in a breakout room that they can return to the main room.
  3. Screenshare your slides to show the first prompt.
  4. Split participants into random breakout rooms in pairs or trios. If you do pairs, usually 2 minutes per round is enough. If trios, 3 minutes. 
  5. Decide how many rounds you will do, depending on time. Between each round and the other, when people return to the main room, read out and show on screenshare the new prompt, then recreate breakout rooms randomly/automatically so people are likely to end up with a different partner.
  6. After all rounds are over, ask participants how they felt.

This activity takes about 2-3 minutes per prompt, and can work well for anything from 3-6 rounds or so. 

  • If you do the breakout room version, make sure to bring people back quickly from rooms (e.g. give them only 15 secs notice) to be able to send them back out again quickly .
  • If people complain the time is too tight, give them an extra minute for the next prompt.

Here are some adaptations and alternative tools: 

  • This can be done via text chat without break out rooms. Just ask participants to respond to the prompt concisely in the text chat  and read some/all of their responses aloud. If you have time, and participants are willing, you can call on some to elaborate aloud quickly on what they wrote.
  • If you want to use this for a more focused activity, instead of varying prompts between rounds, you can do "impromptu networking" (a classic Liberating Structure) where you have several rounds in different groups, but the same 1-2 prompts each time. So each person gets to repeat to 1-2 other people the same thing, and listen to different responses to the prompt in small groups. But give them 2 mins per person to respond.
  • If you are using breakout rooms but some participants are having connectivity issues, keep them in the main room and let them respond to the prompt together or with you. 
  • Slides with prompts on them so participants can see as well as hear the prompts.
  • Can use breakout rooms or text chat.

Additional resources

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How do I use these resources?

We have created a welcome video and some introductory text that explains in detail how to use these resources. You can also find answers to some key questions below. 

Yes you can. We have included descriptive text and slides that you can reuse / adapt for this reason. We have suggested some variations for activities to help you make adaptations.

We show how much time an activity should take and what resources you need to help you make a decision.

As we include more resources over time you will have a greater choice of activities and more information about the different contexts within which they work best. 

Any technique can block some people out, make them feel unwelcomed, or be used in a way that privileges some and makes it harder on others.

All of these techniques should be used in conjunction with pedagogies of care and what we call Intentionally Equitable Hospitality

If you try an adaptation of this activity, or try it as is and have interesting results to share, please contribute your adaptation/reflection in the comments or get in touch through social media / email.

Coming soon: there will be room to discuss these activities in private discussion forums in OneHE’s.

Please join the OneHE mailing list to make sure you know when this community space has been launched.

You can also get in touch by completing this feedback form

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