taking sides

This speaking activity gets students to make choices, take sides and use arguments and counter arguments to support their ideas. This is how it goes:

Think of controvesial issues for debate in the classroom. For instance, “eating meat is wrong”. Do not  disclose this topic but write “eating meat is …” on the board instead. Ask the students to come up to the board and complete the sentence logically. You may have four or five students completing the sentence in different ways. If you have a projector and a screen and internet (or an IWB), go on Google and see what is prompted below the search box. Many of the suggestions will match your students’ ideas.  Agree to choose one of the suggestions from the screen. If you do not have a projector and a screen, you may alternatively invite your students to run that search themselves on their phones. if use of mobile phones in the classroom is allowed and encouraged, or you may read from your phone. Here are Google’s suggested search queries:


Here are other prompts that will work well for this technique. Have the students guess what Google will come up with first by completing the missing sentences and then show on the screen (or read from the screen on your mobile phone) and have the students choose one.

  • Are cell phones …?
  • Is human activity …?
  • Is college education …?
  • Are football players …?
  • Should students have to …?
  • Should teachers have to …?
  • Should schools have the right to …?
  • Are video games …?
  • Is animal testing …?

Can you guess what Google prompted when asked “are cell phones…?”. Answers below the line.



cell phones

It seems pretty evident that we could choose a handful of suggestions from this list as a source of classroom debate (are cell phones dangerous/ruining our social skills/destroying a generation/bad).

Going back to our first example, give the students about five minutes to think of reasons why eating meat is (or isn’t) wrong. If they have mobile phones with them and are allowed to use it, it would be a very good idea to let them use them for about 5-10 minutes to do some research by clicking on any of the links provided. They can write down ideas or vocabulary on a piece of paper if they want. In the meantime, think of relevant words and expressions that they may need to convey their ideas. For instance: massive livestock farming, unethical, painful (death), free range farming, to slaughter (an animal), livestock, (im)moral, greenhouse gas emissions, carbon footprint, sustainable, nutrients

Now designate two areas in your classroom. One area will be named FOR and the other one AGAINST. Tell the students to walk and stand on one area according to their views on the matter. Give them a few minutes to discuss ideas in their groups and explain to each other why they are for and against it. Then have a debate with the students presenting their arguments and counter arguments. Try to encourage maximum participation by asking questions and inviting students to back or dismiss arguments and to ellaborate on them. Annotate useful vocabulary and expressions on the board.

As an extension of the activity, you could ask the students to write an essay and include arguments and counter arguments in it.




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