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They work particularly well with areas of discussion which can have ranges of agreement or disagreement.
- To create a discussion wheel you simply need 8 or 10 contentious sentences based around a theme which you would like the students to discuss.
- Draw a circle on a piece of paper and draw lines through the circle (one line for each sentence) so that the circle is divided into segments.
- At the end of each line, write one of the sentences, then make sure to copy enough so that each student has one.
- Give each student out their own discussion wheel and get them to look at the sentences and put a cross on the line next to the sentence according to how much they agree or disagree with it. A cross near the centre of the circle indicates strong disagreement and one near the edge of the circle can indicate strong agreement. A cross half way along the line can mean they are undecided.
- Once your students have had time to put crosses on each of the lines they can then start to discuss. This can be done in a number of ways. The easiest in terms of classroom management is for you to give them a partner to discuss with (the person next to them or on the table in front of them).
- If you have the space though, you can ask the students to connect all the crosses so that they form a shape and then stand up and mingle round the class to find the person in the class who has a similar shape to their own. (This has no real pedagogical value, but can be a nice way to get students up and moving and get them to talk to other people in their class.)
- Once they have a partner to talk to, get them to discuss and explain their opinions and see if they can convince their partner to change the position of the crosses.
This approach gives the students more of a supportive framework and a goal for their discussion. If you have time and the students are doing well they can discuss with a number of partners, or you can show them your own discussion wheel with your crosses and see if they can convince you to move your crosses.
This is an idea that I first saw in a book called 'Short stories for Creative Language Classrooms' by Joanne Collie and Stephen Slater (P 52).