- Keywords: Group Work, Discussion, Critical Thinking, Learner Autonomy, Role-play, Active Learning
- Learner English level: Upper Intermediate and above
- Learner maturity: High school and above
- Preparation Time: 10 minutes
- Activity time: 50-70 minutes (can be extended)
- Materials: paper and writing utensils
This collaborative debate-style activity is modeled after a public forum at a town hall meeting where members of the community are suggesting how to use an unused piece of land. Students work in groups to build arguments favoring their position while questioning that of the other groups. One group acts as the town hall’s ruling committee that decides the fate of the unused land.
First, assign the roles for each group to assume for the activity with about 5 to 7 groups, 3-5 students per group. These roles can be thought up together with students in a prior lesson or the teacher can custom tailor the activity by choosing which roles to provide. Some suggestions are farmer, factory owner, clean energy provider, wildlife park ranger, tourism company, and corporate business owner. One group will act as the ruling committee to take notes, ask questions, and decide how the groups may use the land based on the arguments they hear.
Step 1: Divide the class into groups. Groups are assigned roles with one group being the committee that will make the final ruling.
Step 2: Tell students that each group needs to explain how they would use the land. Their goal is to convince the town hall committee to let them use the land by explaining how it will benefit the town (creating jobs, improving public image, providing a service, bringing money into the town, etc.). Explain that the committee group will make a final decision based on their arguments.
Step 3: Groups have ten minutes to prepare an opening statement saying who they are, what they want the land for, and how they can contribute to the community. During this time have the committee group discuss what kind of contributions they think are most important to the community.
Step 4: Have a representative for each group stand and give their opening statement. Other groups should listen and take notes.
Step 5: After opening statements, give groups ten minutes to think of a question or two they would like to ask another group based on their opening statement.
Step 6: Have each group read their question. If possible, write the questions on the board for groups to reference later.
Step 7: After hearing all the questions, give each group ten minutes to prepare a closing statement that addresses any questions they were asked. Have the committee group consider how to use the land based on what they have heard so far.
Step 8: Have the representative from each group read their closing statement.
Step 9: Finally, give 5 minutes for the committee group to make their decision while other groups can try to predict the outcome.
Step 10: Finish the activity by having the committee present their ruling with the class. As a cool down activity, ask students to reflect on the activity either through discussion or in a short writing assignment.
This is an especially great activity to take advantage of an active learning environment. It encourages critical thinking around social issues, while providing a stimulating interaction that incorporates a practical, content-based element that can be altered to suit the needs of any curriculum.