Group Check Ins & Check Outs

Learning Objectives: To learn effective exercises to check in and check out with your group.

Check ins and check outs are strategies that help facilitators to touch base with every member of their group during a session. They help to gauge the group members’ attitudes, moods, feelings, emotions, or understanding by providing an opportunity for them to express themselves in a safe and open space.

Check Ins

A check in is an activity that poses a question to the group and asks each group member to answer it in a way that provides insight on their current thoughts or emotions. This could be as simple as thumbs up or thumbs down to describe their mood. Check ins can also be more in depth, such as asking your group to explain their opinions about the group’s status or a previous experience. The goal of a check in is to give each group member the opportunity to answer a question or express themselves in their own way, which gives the whole group an understanding of how they are progressing together.

Check Outs

Check outs can be similar to check ins, but they are usually used to close out or wrap up an experience. They are helpful for thinking about the entire session and recapping the experience with the group. It also allows the facilitator to see how the group has progressed through their time together. At the end of the day, your group members may want to express a moment of excitement or talk through something challenging for them,  the check out allows your group to express these thoughts. If you create the right environment, the check out can help to develop trust and understanding between group members.

Using Check Ins & Check Outs

While you can use check ins and check outs on their own, using them together in a session allows you to see where the group begins and where they end. It provides a good reference for participants to see how far they have come in the period of time that they are together.

But, check ins and check outs do not have to be limited to just the beginning and ends of sessions. They are especially useful to facilitators because they provide immediate feedback on how the current session is being received by the group. Use these strategies during transitions or breaks between content or activities to get a real time update on your progress. When you know how your group feels, you can adapt your facilitation to suit the group’s needs so they can benefit from the facilitation as much as possible. If you receive overall positive feedback it means that you and the group are probably moving in the right direction. If concerns, questions, or conflicts become evident through the process, you may need to adapt your content or facilitation to address those needs. That way, your group can continue to make positive progress.

Suggested Activities

Feelings Check In:

  • Pass out markers and index cards
  • Ask each participant to write on the card in large letters one word that describes how he or she is feeling right now
  • Then ask participants to hold up their cards and look at the variety of responses
  • Invite group members to share why they wrote down the words that they did

Roses and Thorns:

  • Have your group stand or sit in a circle
  • Go around the circle and ask each group member to share one great thing about today (roses) and one not so great thing (thorns)

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down:

  • Have everyone in the group hold up a thumbs up, thumbs sideways, or thumbs down
  • Thumbs up means you are feeling great/ready to move on
  • Thumbs down means you are feeling lousy/not ready to move on
  • Thumbs in the middle means you are feeling unsure/need more time or clarification

Love, Hate, Appreciate:

  • Have participants pair up
  • Have them each share one thing that they love, one thing that they hate, and one thing that they appreciate about the group status/what happened that day/looking forward, or it could also be about a specific project, role, or responsibility
  • Invite pairs to share what they have discussed with the whole group

Hopes and Fears:

  • Prepare two posters – one titled ‘Hopes’ and one titled ‘Fears’
  • Pass out pens and two different colored post it notes to each group member
  • Have participants write a hope(s) that they have on one colored post it note and then write a fear(s) that they have on the other colored post it
  • Their hopes and fears should be related to the current situation, the group, their role, or a project.
  • Have participants place all of their hope post its on the ‘Hopes’ poster and all their fear post its on the ‘Fears’ poster
  • Read all of the hopes and fears out loud to the group
  • Allow them to discuss similarities, differences, what these hopes and fears mean and depending on time, what are some ideas to help make the hopes happen and alleviate the fears. This check in can be a good way to transition into setting goals and groundrules.

Emoji Check In:

  • Let group members take out their phones
  • Ask them to find an emoji that best represents how they are feeling
  • Go around the room and have participants share what emoji they chose and why

Rate My Day:

  • Have participants go around in a circle and rate the session or day on a scale of 1-10.
  • A one is the lowest score and means that they day was rough and a 10 is the highest score and means that the day was excellent
  • If you have more time, you can have group members say why they rated their day the way they did
  • Facilitators should make sure to take note of low ratings and check in with those individuals privately.

Check ins and checks outs can vary in time depending on your group size and the question you have asked each group member to answer. Make sure to consider your time and facilitation process to ensure you can utilize check ins and check outs to their fullest potential. If you have a limited amount of time for group members to share, choose an activity like Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down or Rate My Day. If you would like a more thorough or involved check in or check out, try an activity like Roses and Thorns or Hopes and Fears that allows group members to elaborate more on their answers.