Facilitation Technique: Writing First

A person is writing using a laptopWriting first is a facilitation technique where participants collect their thoughts in writing before having a discussion. This allows more participation from those that need time to gather their thoughts or feel more comfortable expressing themselves in writing. The facilitator will set a time period for silent writing, then participants share their thoughts once the writing time is up.

When To Use Writing First

Use writing first when working with a group with a few loud voices or to help people who may benefit from extra processing time. This helps the quieter folks contribute. Writing first is also useful for soliciting deeper analysis.


In this scenario, a scrum master is facilitating a sprint retrospective.

Scrum Master: Let’s spend about 7 minutes silently writing on sticky notes: what went well this sprint and what could have been better. Once the 7 minutes is up, we’ll each share what we wrote. I’ll go ahead and start the timer now.

Everyone writes.

7 minutes later…

Scrum Master: Let’s start with “what could have gone better” Who’d like to share first?

Team members take turns reading their sticky notes out loud and putting them up on the wall.

The Agile Learning Labs Players Demonstrate Writing First


Form groups of three to five people. One person will take the role of facilitator, the others will be team members.

The facilitator picks a discussion topic that will benefit from some thinking time.
Example topics:

  • How can our organization improve our use of scrum?
  • Where can the best pizza be found and what makes it the best?
  • What is the best artist, band, song, or sports team of all time and why are they the best?
  • What’s the best way to improve our education system?
  1. The facilitator starts the role play by asking the question.
  2. Next, the facilitator invites everyone to write their thoughts for one minute.
  3. After 60 seconds, the facilitator announces that time is up.
  4. The facilitator invites each person to share their thoughts.
  5. Each speaker briefly states their answer to the question.
  6. After everyone has shared, each team member can give feedback to the facilitator and share how it felt to have the time to write before speaking.

Rotate roles to allow everyone to practice as facilitator.


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