Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center
Social Studies



TITLE:  TOPICAL DISCUSSIONS

AUTHOR:  Mike Fitzgerald; McNary High School, Salem, Oregon

GRADE LEVEL/SUBJECT:  8 - 12 / American Government

OVERVIEW:  Since American Government is a class which must rely
on student participation through discussion, it is necessary to
encourage students to take part in class discussions and to
understand the necessity of being able to explain why they believe
as they do.

PURPOSE:  The purpose of this activity is to encourage students to
share their opinions on controversial topics and to be able to state
why they hold those particular beliefs.

OBJECTIVES:  As a result of this activity, students will be able to:
1.  list the arguments in favor of and against the topic.
2.  give reasons for supporting the arguments.
3.  write a paper stating their opinion on the topic and give
    reasons for holding that opinion.
    This activity works best when the teacher has some knowledge
    of the students and the class has become acquainted with each
    other.

RESOURCES/MATERIALS:  Files of topics and newspaper and
magazine articles which express points of view may be helpful.

ACTIVITIES AND PROCEDURES:
1.  It is important for the teacher to restrain from voicing
personal opinions and remember that in this activity any statement
from a student is not answered directly.  The response to a
question would be to phrase another question to the class.
2.  Select a controversial topic: ex. public executions.
3.  Ask students how they feel about the idea of putting executions
on television.
4.  As students express their opinions, the teacher asks for reaction
or input from other students.
5.  It is important for the teacher to see that all students are
included in the discussion.
6.  As points for and against the proposal are raised they may be
listed on the board to keep them from being repeated.
7.  It is important that the teacher lead the class from just stating
opinions, to explaining why they believe what they say is correct.
8.  If necessary to create balance in the discussion the teacher may
play "devil's advocate" with questions that will provide thoughts on
other points of view.

TYING IT ALL TOGETHER:  Using the lists of arguments on the board
have students state what they believe to be the best solution to the
topic.  Remember to require that they give reasons for their beliefs
and ask them to select at least one point from the opposing view that
they feel should be explored more.


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