Take A Stance helps students develop their analysis and evaluation skills. It also allows them to identify their personal views related to topics that can be challenging to discuss. The educator reads a statement aloud and students consider how they feel about it. Students respond to the statement by placing themselves along a line across the classroom that represents a continuum from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”. Students discuss the reasons for their position on the line. After discussion, students are given the opportunity to move along the line if their perspectives have shifted.
- Identify a space in the classroom where students can order themselves so they create either a line or a U-shape.
- Place signs reading "Strongly Agree" and "Strongly Disagree" at the opposite ends of this continuum.
- Read students a prompt that calls for agreement or disagreement with a particular statement.
- Ask students to stand in a spot on the line that they feel best represents their point of view. Remind them that standing on either end represents absolute agreement or disagreement. Students may stand anywhere in between the two extremes, according to how much they agree or disagree with the statement.
- Ask students to explain why they have chosen their particular places to stand. Encourage them to refer to examples or evidence when defending their stance. While listening to students’ responses, consider alternating from one end to the middle to the other end, rather than allowing too many voices from one stance to dominate. After a few viewpoints are shared, remind students that they may then move to a new spot if the arguments presented have altered their opinions. Continue the activity until most or all voices have been heard.
This teaching strategy is especially useful when addressing issues that students have a wide range of opinions about.
Engaging in a barometer activity, such as this one, can be a useful pre-writing exercise for an essay assignment because it introduces students to many arguments.
Since this activity asks students to put their opinions “on the line”, educators must be sensitive when using it. Ensure the topic being discussed is appropriate and not inflammatory or provocative. Reiterate your classroom rules about respecting the opinions of others. While students should be encouraged to be honest, they must simultaneously avoid insulting others. Suggest that students offer opinions or the defense of their stance by using “I statements” (e.g., “I feel that…” “I believe that…” “I experienced that…”).
Consider creating a space for students to stand in if they are undecided or unsure about a topic. If you feel the activity requires debriefing, you could ask students to write a personal journal reflection describing how the activity changed or reinforced their original opinion. Alternatively, you could work as a large group to chart the main arguments shared.