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Opinion Continuum

This exercise gives students an active way to consider and express their opinions, listen to other people's opinions, and begin discussing the issue.

Designate different corners of the room as "strongly agree" and "strongly disagree" with "not sure, don't know or no opinion" occupying the middle distance between the two. Because this is a continuum, between the polar opposites there are many degrees of an opinion. For instance, I might agree with a statement, but not agree strongly, so I would place myself accordingly along the continuum " that being a particular spot within the boundaries of the classroom. After the directions are given, start with an easy statement and ask the students to move to the part of the room that reflects their opinion.

Try "chocolate ice cream is the best." Once students have allocated themselves to a space along the continuum, ask for volunteers to share why they are standing, where they are standing. When everyone has the idea of how this process works, move on to substantive statements.

Here Are Some Possible Opinion Continuum Statements About Nuclear Testing and Nuclear Weapons. Remember that These are Statements of Opinion, not Questions or Facts. Keep the Opinions Simple and Easy to Understand.

  • Nuclear weapons are necessary to fight terrorism.
  • The world would be a much safer place if all nuclear weapons were abolished.
  • We will never be able to get rid of nuclear weapons, we just have to live with them.
  • The total disarmament of all nuclear weapons is the only way to keep our world safe.
  • It is important for young people to be fully aware of current nuclear dangers.

Here Are Some Possible Opinion Continuum Statements About Small Arms:

  • Because so many die from small arms, they should be considered weapons of mass destruction.
  • The world would be a much safer place if there were no small arms.
  • There are too many small arms in the world for gun control and disarmament to work.
  • Strict gun control and small arms disarmament would significantly decrease violence in our world.
  • It is important for young people to be fully aware of the issues surrounding gun control and small arms disarmament.

Ask students representing different points of view to state several reasons why they hold their particular opinion. Get a wide range of opinions throughout the room. It is helpful to summarize what students say to make sure all students understand and can hear each perspective. It is also helpful to ask open, probing questions to get more information or clarifying questions to help students think more deeply about their own perspective. A variation is to have each speaker summarize the opinion of the previous speaker before expressing his/her own views.

After several students with different opinions have shared their thoughts, ask if anyone would like to change their opinion based on what they have heard. It is important to acknowledge the value of remaining open to new information and being able to change our minds " change our opinions. This is a way that we all learn.

Once the educator has presented a number of opinions for students to react to, reconvene as a group. Hold an informal discussion, and ask for volunteers to share their thoughts or feelings about the exercise and what they have experienced.

Adapted from Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility.