4. Mild Controversy

Activity 1: Fold the Line

Select a friendly controversial topic. Ask students to line up with those who most strongly agree on one end and those who most strongly disagree on the other end. Once there is a line in place, fold the line so that the students are paired up with a partner. The person who most strongly disagrees will be paired with the student who most strongly agrees. Give each side one minute to state their opinion and instruct the students to defend their opinions using comparative or superlative structures and a supporting “because” statement. An example is “The country is better than the city because you can go swimming.”

Once completed, unfold the line and have students move to one side of the room or the other based on their view point. There will most likely still be students in the middle. If so, ask students representing each position to make their case. Throughout the discussion, students in the middle may decide to move to one side or the other. If they are taking too long, ask them to move to the side which most represents their position on the matter. Topics may include: “City living is better than country living”, “It is more interesting to watch sports with men than women”, “Printed newspapers are no longer needed with digital copies.”

Activity 2: When Can We Meet?

Organize students in pairs, and give each one a different piece of paper with a different schedule. Ask them to determine a time at which they can meet to go eat out.

Make clear that they need to explain to their partner why they cannot meet at certain times. Emphasize that they must find a solution.

What students don’t know is that the schedules do not have a common meeting time. Therefore, students will have to resolve this problem in a different way and negotiate a solution that will please everyone. If they stall (as students will logically assume that there is a solution, or there must be a mistake in the handout), the instructor may point out some ways to compromise, such as doing one activity together or canceling /moving plans in their schedule.

Activity 3: Survivor

Organize students in pairs and inform them that they have won a camping trip to an exotic location (e.g. Machu Pichu, the Pyrénées). Give them a packing list including any relevant vocabulary such as foods, clothing items, electronics, supplies, etc. and tell them only 20 items will fit in their backpacks so they must come to a consensus.

Now it is time to go to the airport; have two pairs merge to create a group of four flying mates. Unfortunately, the small plane is overweight! The four students must now come to a consensus on what 15 items they will share on their excursion. All groups in class will share their narrowed lists to see which group is best prepared for the voyage.

Activity 4: Either Or

Make a list of “either/or” items in the target language, for example: "apples or oranges,” “science or math,” “books or magazines,” “pizza or chocolate,” “love or money.” Prepare 30-40 “either or” statements. Give the students about three to five minutes to circle their preference.

After they have completed their choices, students get into small groups and discuss the results. Conversation starts immediately as students defend their choices and often get into small friendly debates.

Credit to Wagner and Gutschow, WAFLT, 2006.