I had the chance to spend part of a day in Tom Angelo’s class earlier this week. Tom teaches middle school history and needed a way to help kids review a huge amount of information about the 19th century.

So he had his kids rotate through four different stations designed to activate a variety of thinking skills. I especially like one that I’m calling Agree / Disagree. The idea is that kids have to state an opinion about a particular topic or statement. They then try and convince others in the group that their position is the “right” one.

How to do it?

1. Develop statement that students will read and agree or disagree with. This could be just about anything. Tom used

Some have called 1800s a “Century of Progress.”  America made its best and most important advances yet during this century.

2. Create a five-level Likert scale:

  • Strongly disagree
  • Disagree
  • Neither agree nor disagree
  • Agree
  • Strongly agree

and post it on a whiteboard or poster paper.

3. As kids rotated to the Agree / Disagree station, have the following instructions available:

On the board is a scale with values ranging from 1 – Strongly Disagree to 5 – Strongly Agree. In front of you is a stack of Post-It Notes and a sheet with a challenge statement.

Before flipping over the paper with the challenge statement, each group member needs to write their name on a Post-It.

Then flip the paper and read the challenge statement.

After reading the question, each group member will silently place their Post-It on the board according to their level of agreement with the challenge statement.

When everyone has put up their Post-It, each group member must defend their decision.  Each person should attempt to convince the others that their choice is correct.

After some discussion, give each other a chance to move the Post-Its around until everyone is in agreement or at least agree to a compromise.  Your goal is to get Post-Its as close as possible.

When the discussion is finished, each group member should write five reasons why your group chose the spot they did.

I saw some great conversations, and even some arguments, about the guiding statement. The brains of kids are doing a lot of stuff here – activating prior knowledge, ranking, classifying, grouping and developing rationale.

This particular guiding statement was purposefully broad but it could be very specific. I also see the activity as a great way to introduce a topic or lesson. Use it with small groups or your entire class.

No matter how you use it, a very cool way to engage kids with content.

Have fun!

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