Warmer of the Week – Polarisation

Here’s an idea for a simple, low preparation, communicative activity to set the context and lead in to your lesson.


The basic procedure

  1. Write ‘I agree’ on one side of the board and ‘I disagree’ on the other side of the board.
  2. Write a statement on the board related to the context of the lesson.  Something a little controversial works well.
  3. Ask students to think about the statement and decide if they agree or disagree. Give them a minute or two to think about their reasons.
  4. Ask students to stand up and move to one side of the classroom, according to their opinion.
  5. Now you can either ask students to discuss the statement with someone who has the same opinion, or pair them up with someone from the other side of the room with a different point of view.

Lessons types this activity works well with:

  • A lead in to a reading or listening lesson dealing with a controversial topic.
  • A lead in to a writing lesson looking at a for and against discursive essay as a way to brainstorm and generate ideas.
  • A speaking lesson focussing on spoken discourse – providing practice of discourse markers used to express opinions (e.g. ‘as far as I’m concerned’, ‘if you ask me’, ‘that’s not the point’, ‘I see what you mean but’…etc.)
  • A warmer at the beginning of the lesson to get students out of their seats and working with different members of the group.

Some things to bear in mind:

  • Be ready with a back up plan if all the students share the same opinion and all gather in one half of the classroom. You could ask half  of the class to come over to the other side and try to think of reasons to support the opposing view.
  • This generally works better with a smaller class where furniture allows students to move around freely.

With thanks to James Blackburn for first telling me about this idea.

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