Taking a Stand Activity

Bruce E. Larson wrote an article about the “taking a stand” activity in which students learn about a controversial issue and decide which “side” they take while discussing the arguments for the purpose of understanding the issue and coming to a possible consensus.

Here are the steps:

1. Present a non-biased, brief overview of the issue.

2. Explore 2 opposing viewpoints by gathering and distributing articles for students to read.

3. Have students “take a stand” by moving to one side of the room if they are one one side of the issue, to the opposite side of the room if they oppose the first group, or to the middle of the room if they are undecided.

4. Have students discuss by having one person from one side share his or her reasoning. Then a student from the other side responds to that comment, and so forth until all ideas have been shared.

5. Then have students respond, perhaps in an essay, describing both sides, why they took the side they did, and what might be done to solve the issue.

It would be useful to discuss expectations for this activity. It’s not meant to be a debate but more of a dialogue. Students should also be careful to disagree or criticize an idea rather than the person saying it.

Class Discussions

Edutopia offers some ideas about class discussions including:

When seated in a circle, three students get one of the following jobs:

  1. scribe: takes notes so rest of the class doesn’t have to worry about taking their own
    (how would that student then share his/her notes with everyone else? On a class blog/website? Making copies for each student?)
  2. discussion mapper: uses a diagram to track who is talking and how often
    (then use the diagram after the discussion and/or before the next one to assess how individuals contributed (their frequency, at least) to encourage them to talk more or less)
    Here’s a discussion diagram template (provided the links hold up).
    Here’s an example of a used discussion diagram of an apparently very small class.
    (For if/when the links give out: Draw a circle. Write each student’s name on the outside edges of the circle based on where they’re sitting. Draw lines (like a web) from person to person as each student talks. Add letters such as I for “interrupt” or E for “evidence” next to a student’s name when needed.)
  3. moderator: makes sure discussion goes smoothly, that students don’t dominate, everyone stays civil, and by allowing for quieter students to speak

More info about class discussions as I run across it.