Most Choices units feature an options role-play activity. In a traditional role play, students work in small assigned groups to articulate one option or perspective through an oral, persuasive presentation.
However, use of the options framework doesn’t have to be limited to the role-play activity. If you use several Choices units, you will want to modify the activity while still having your students examine the policy options presented in a unit.
Here are a few suggestions for alternative ways to use the options framework. Some of the activities require students to be familiar with all of the options, while others require students to understand only one option.
Challenge students to develop an effective advertising campaign to promote their assigned option to the general public.
Divide students into three or four groups and assign each group an option. Have each group develop an ad campaign for its assigned option. It could be a social media campaign, print campaign, TV ad, or online ad. Even if you don’t have access to video equipment, students could develop storyboards for a TV campaign or act out their ads in front of the class.
Have your students use their artistic talents and creative thinking skills by creating political cartoons.
Using techniques such as caricatures, labels, captions, symbolism, and irony, have students create a political cartoon about their assigned option. The cartoons could either take supportive or critical points of view of the option (or both).
Four Corners Debate
Get your students up and moving while debating the issues.
Students should be familiar with all of the options before participating in this activity. Create four posters, each with one of the following labels, “Strongly Agree,” “Agree,” “Disagree,” and “Strongly Disagree.” Place each poster in a different corner of the room. Present students with statements that take a stance on various issues pertaining to the essential question or issue at the center of the options framework. For example, a statement for the issue of immigration might be, “The greatness of the United States is based on its diversity and openness to fresh ideas.” (If you are using a current issue unit, you can find suggestions for statements in the Teacher Resource Book on the page titled “Focusing Your Thoughts.”)
With each statement that is read aloud, instruct students to stand in the corner that best correlates with their view on the statement. Once students have gathered in their respective corners, allow each group to huddle and discuss the reasons why it strongly agrees, agrees, disagrees, or strongly disagrees with the statement. Each group should appoint one or two people to report their reasons to the class. After they share their views, have students discuss and determine with which option the statement most closely aligns.
Read several other statements that reflect the range of options and repeat this same process. You could culminate the activity by assigning a different corner for each option and having students chose the option with which they most strongly agree and stand in the designated corner. A written follow-up assignment which asks students to articulate how their views align with the option they selected could be easily added.
Meeting of the Minds
Bring together the various “characters” that are closely tied to the debate through a “Meeting of the Minds” activity.
Place students in groups of about four or five and have each group member research and represent a prominent individual associated with the central policy issue debate. The selection of characters should represent the full range of options. Once the students have conducted research on their assigned character, have the small groups come together to develop questions around which their characters could engage in a lively group discussion. The questions should serve to elicit controversial and divergent viewpoints. Alternatively, you may wish to provide students with discussion questions.
During the actual “meeting of the minds” students need to stay in character, representing the beliefs, assumptions, and persona of the character they researched. Encouraging students to dress as their character may enliven the activity. You may also want to do this as a jigsaw activity, allowing students to first work in groups around their assigned character before the various characters converge for their “meeting of the minds.”
Students explore the options by creating a television or radio talk show.
Break the class into groups. Inform students that they will work to create an episode of a television or radio talk show. In creating groups, you could either break them into options groups or bring representatives from multiple options groups together. Students may film a video, tape an audio recording, or create a podcast of their discussion. Students will brainstorm a name and setting for their talk show.
Within every group, assign students to the specialist roles that are described in “Presenting your Option” in the Teacher Resource Book. These roles vary by unit, but generally include a group organizer, political expert, economic expert, history expert, social expert, etc. For this activity, the group organizer will take the role of the host, and the experts will discuss the option from the perspectives of their assigned roles. For example, the economic expert should present the economic justification for his or her option. You may wish to assign other students who are not part of option groups to be members of the audience or people who call into the program with challenging and critical questions about the option that is being discussed.
Challenge students to persuasively advocate for their option in a collaborative writing assignment.
Break the class into option groups. Explain to students that they will need to write a persuasive newspaper article as a group that explains and supports their option. Students may wish to utilize a collaborative web-based application, such as Google Docs, to create and edit their document online. As an alternative project for current issues topics, groups of students may pick a controversial event or dilemma in the news that relates to the policy debate and write a newspaper article from the point of view of their option. Students may wish to do additional research on the topic to see how their option may be relevant.
Socratic Seminar/Fishbowl Discussion
Engage your students in a student-driven discussion that explores the strengths and weaknesses of each option.
Students should be familiar with all of the options before participating in this activity. The discussion is not about winning an argument, but rather about deliberating and expanding one’s understanding of the issues. Students should come prepared for the discussion with their thoughts and reactions to the options, as well as questions that allow for exploration of the pros/cons and potential ramifications of each option. During the seminar, students should listen actively, share and substantiate their ideas, and pose questions to the other participants to develop a more informed and nuanced understanding of the issue.
In the fishbowl variation, a portion of the class is in the center facing each other in a circle and discussing the issues, while the remainder is on the outside observing and listening. Members of the outer circle should take notes or use an evaluation form to assess the discussion process. A good website that can help with this is www.socrative.com.