Discussing, Deciding, and Reporting: Dilemmas

James Bury, Shumei University

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Discussion, giving and justifying opinions, debating, problem-solving, dilemmas. 
  • Learner English level: Intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity: Senior high school and above
  • Preparation time: 10 to 15 minutes
  • Activity time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Materials: Dilemma worksheet

This activity provides the opportunity to review context-specific lexis and the second conditional in a flexible, fun, and engaging way. Although the main focus is on developing students’ speaking and listening skills, it can be extended to provide practice for all the major language skills. The activity can be used in lesson types ranging from general English conversation to Business English and English for Specific Purposes. Students often enjoy the problem-solving aspect of the activity, especially if the dilemmas are relevant to them and are directly related to their personal goals and objectives. 


Step 1: Before the lesson, make a worksheet with a selection of dilemmas. The number of dilemmas needed depends on the size of the class, level of the students, and their personalities. An example set of work-based dilemmas is provided in the Appendix. 

Step 2: Print enough worksheets for each student. 


Step 1: Review the second conditional structure and elicit some example sentences related to the topic of the lesson. 

Step 2: Divide the class into groups of three or four students. 

Step 3: Distribute the worksheet and have the students discuss the dilemmas.

Step 4: Have the students decide on the best solution or possible action. Ask them to provide justifications for their choices. Each group should have only one solution or action for each dilemma, but they should be encouraged to think of as many justifications as they can. Students should write their answers on the worksheet as they will need to remember their groups’ responses in the next stage. 

Step 5: Reorganize the groups so that all of the students are now working with a different set of students.

Step 6: Have the students report their previous groups’ responses and justifications to each other. Encourage them to take notes of all of the responses.

Step 7: Have the students discuss which response is best. They must decide on one ‘best’ response for each dilemma.

Step 8: Ask the students to report back to the whole class which response their group thought was best. It is a good idea to write the students’ choices on the board so that they can be used as comparisons if time permits.


For discussions to work well it is important that students understand their contributions are important, that mistakes are acceptable, and that different opinions must be respected (Brown & Budding, 2015). This activity achieves this by providing students with the opportunity to work collaboratively and engage in learning that deals with moral situations in a fun and communicative way.  


Brown, C. & Budding, C. (2015). Using TED Talks to build large-group discussion skills. The Language Teacher, 39(3), 18-19.


The appendix for this article as available below.