The first principle, and in my opinion the most important, is Trust and Tone. Trust is an indispensable element of all human interactions, which include collaboration. Collaboration, enabled by trust, is essential when a group of teachers work together.

So, what is trust? In order for me to be able to trust my colleagues, I must understand the knowledgebase and the intellectual functions within our content areas so that we can incorporate them in our  instruction. I must understand what is essential in my colleagues subjects and how they see it. What is their view of teaching and how that affects their teaching.

According to Ortloff, one central reason for limited collaboration is lack of trust. This can easily lead to a situation where teachers are jealous of their own content and are not willing to slim down their own curriculum. Slimming down the curricula is essential when doing the planning for any cross curricular unit. To be able to find the shared goals, both, or all parties have to give in and find the essential in their curricula.

In order for the teachers to be able to build trust, they have to be comfortable with each other. Teachers must feel their ideas are respected and encouraged. When people feel valued, respected and understood, there is sense of safety to explore and a freedom to continue to grow. Planning an integrated curriculum is a laborious task. To be able to freely brainstorm and find new ideas, there must be this accepting climate. As Bonk and Khoo put it, the tone of the collaboration must encourage psychological safety, comfort and sense of belonging.

A drawing of a person.

Trust and tone activities

Activity 1: Eight Nouns

Index cards and pencils

This activity is fun and a nonthreatening way to get to know each other. It’s an activity most appropriate at the start of the collaboration.

1. Ask everyone to write down eight nous on an index card that best describe themselves. 

2. Teachers should also describe why each particular noun selected represents who they are. 

3.  After having written down the nouns and descriptions, teachers talk about the nous and try to find what they have in common.

This activity includes feedback, feelings of social presence and connectedness, sharing, community building and socializing.


Activity 2: Find Someone Who

Find Someone Who – A bingo grid (PDF)

This can be used as a getting-to-know-you activity or an ice breaker. It can be used with personal information or instructional material that people need to talk about.

Give participants/ teachers a bingo grid or a list of items for which they need to find someone to answer or give them information.

 1. Each teacher takes their list and walks around the room trying to find someone who is able to give an answer to a question on their list.

 2. The teacher listens attentively to the answer and jots down the answer and the person.

 3. When everyone has completed their grid, teachers report what they have heard and learned from others.

Examples of items: Find someone who can tell you… a) one way to help students be self-reliant, b) a way to promote metacognition, c) an assessment that gives immediate data, etc.

This activity includes developing common vocabulary, clarifying and sharing.


Activity 3: Community Circle

Chairs in a circle

Ask participants to bring chairs and sit in a circle where everyone can see everyone. 

1. a prompt or a question is posed, and people are given time to think of a response. 

2. ask for a volunteer to start. 

3. go around the circle – each teacher speaks in turn.

4. If somebody is not ready to share or needs little more thinking time, Right to Pass may be used. The teacher will say “Pass”, and the facilitator will move on to the next teacher. 

People who pass will be asked to respond later.

A safe, connected community circle allows participants to feel included and have a voice and it creates a positive climate. It’s a vehicle for sharing, reflecting and discussing.