Objective—Students will:

  • Be able to explain the merits and the trade-offs of the Options.
  • Be prepared to craft a policy Option that reflects their own views on the issue.
  • Practice deliberative dialogue in a small group.


  • Prior to this activity, students should have participated in an Options role-play from a Choices unit.
  • Students should also have an understanding of deliberation. (See “Guidelines for Deliberation”)


Policy Options for the topic under consideration

Pros and Cons

Student Rubric for Deliberative Dialogue

In the Classroom

Introducing the “Fish Bowl”—Explain that students will discuss the merits and the trade-offs of each of the Options presented during the Options role-play and that, following this activity, students will have an opportunity to develop their own Option reflecting their own views. If necessary, review with students the nature of deliberative dialogue. Explain that this discussion will take place in a “fish bowl.” This means that at any one time some of the class will participate in a discussion while others are observing silently from the outside. Those on the outside will be looking for ideas about the Options that resonate with them. After each Option is considered, the roles will rotate until everyone has had the opportunity to speak.

Breaking Students Into Groups—Form three or four groups depending on how many Options were originally presented. The new groups should be “jigsawed” from the Options groups so that each new group contains students from each of the original Options groups. If needed, assign one student to facilitate in each group.

Inside the “Fish Bowl”—Ask students in the first of the new groups to move to the center while the others remain outside the circle. This group will discuss Option 1. Ask students to identify the arguments in support of this Option. Then students should talk about the risks and the trade-offs involved in taking this approach, drawing on the knowledge they acquired during the role play. They should understand that this is not a time to dismiss the Option before it has gotten a full airing. Even if no one in the group personally supports this Option, it may be supported by some of those observing. After an allotted time groups should switch until all Options have been discussed.

Outside the “Fish Bowl”—Students on the outside of the circle should be listening carefully to the issues raised, considering other ideas or concerns that they might raise if they were in the circle, and thinking about their own views on this Option in light of the discussion. Students should complete the Pros and Cons handout while their classmates are deliberating. [Some teachers include a “hot seat” on the inside circle so that observing students can enter the discussion individually to make one point and then return to the outside of the circle. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach.]


The Student Rubric for Deliberative Dialogue is a self-assessment form for students to reflect on their participation in the fish bowl exercise.

The Rubric for Deliberative Dialogue is designed for use by the teacher.


Using the handouts from the relevant Choices unit, ask students to complete their own Option. Remind students to take into consideration what they learned from the readings, in the role play, and in the fish bowl discussion.

Extra Challenge: Encourage students to write a letter to an elected official or to the editor of the local paper or the school newspaper expressing their views.

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