Classroom Corner: Agree to Disagree Lesson Plan Activity

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by Edward Pye

[This article was first printed in the Fall 2016 issue of TEAL News.]

Agree to Disagree is a fun and interactive opinions-based speaking activity which could easily be prefaced with a lesson on arguing and debate. I usually run through the different phrases for giving opinions before I do this. It works well with high-level academic students, but can also be customized to lower levels by using less complex ideas and language.

Objectives:

  • Using language and grammatical structures for arguing and debating.
  • Thinking and responding quickly
  • Interacting in content-based discussions with multiple partners

Preparation:

  • You will need to clear a space for the class to line up in two lines
  • you will also need to prepare a series of controversial debate statements. Obviously you can tailor them to what you have been studying; however, the more controversial the topic, the better it works. I have found these statements work well at different levels:

Lower Level:

  • Cats are better/more fun/cleaner than dogs
  • My home city is more exciting/interesting/expensive than this city
  • Women are better than men

Intermediate Level:

  • All school children should have to wear school uniforms
  • Athletes and movie stars deserve the amount of money they make
  • The death penalty should be outlawed
  • A bear/lion/crocodile could beat a tiger/wolf/shark

Higher Level (academic):

  • Higher income earners should be taxed more than lower income earners
  • Women should be allowed to serve on the front lines in the military
  • Marijuana should be legalized everywhere
  • Fast food companies should be allowed to market to young audiences
  • Abortion clinics shouldn’t receive funding from the government.

Steps:

  1. Start by having all the students come to the front of the class and having them line up in two lines facing each other so that everyone is matching a partner. If you have odd numbers, put one person on the end in a group of three.
  2. Stand in the middle of the line and explain the activity to students
  3. The teacher will read one of the controversial statements aloud, the students have to carefully listen to the statement and quickly think about whether they agree or disagree with this statement.
  4. Once they have thought about their position, the student has to say “agree” or “disagree” before their partner can. The first student to do so gets to argue their opinion while their partner must argue the opposite (even if that is not their own personal opinion).
  5. Give students three to four minutes to debate with their partners. This can be a noisy activity, so I sometimes tell students to move away from the line to chat.
  6. When time is up, pull the students back together and quickly go over the main points on each side of the argument. Have the students give their ideas and then elicit rebuttal from the other side. Try to do this quickly because the activity can go on for too long if you let it.
  7. Once that idea has been talked through, rotate one line, so everyone has a new partner.
  8. Give the students the next controversial statement and repeat the steps.

I find that doing three or four rotations and giving about 10 minutes for each is good because it allows students to interact with more people, and that is the key for this activity.

Biographical Information

From the Fall 2016 issue of the BC TEAL newsletter:  Edward Pye is a New Zealander with an English literature degree from Otago University. Before moving to British Columbia, he taught in South Korea for eight years. Since then, he has worked as an Educational Programmer on UBC’s Okanagan campus and as an EAL instructor at Okanagan College.

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This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Pye, E. (2016, Fall). Classroom Corner: Agree to Disagree Lesson Plan Activity. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BC-Teal-Newsletter-Fall-2016-Final-2.pdf

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