The following is an audio transcript of the video lesson plan Take a Stand.

Hi, I’m Carol and I’m here to share the lesson Take a Stand. This lesson looks at a range of environmental and social issues and helps students form and express personal opinions on these topics.

In addition to formulating their own opinions, students will finish this lesson with the ability to engage in collaborative discussions with their classmates and write a position paper that uses evidence to support their claims. This is a great activity for middle school students in social studies, science, and English classes.

To prepare for this lesson, you’ll need a copy of each of the signs in the Take a Stand lesson plan. These cards read “Strongly agree,” “Agree,” “?????,” “Disagree,” and “Strongly Disagree.”

Tape these signs up in areas of your classroom where students can clearly see them and where there is space for people to gather. Students will be using these signs to show their opinion on a statement.

We have a list of statements for you to read one by one out loud to your class. For example, you might read, “In an effort to feed a growing population, people in developed countries should drastically reduce the amount of meat they consume.”

Once students decide on their opinion, they get up and move near the sign that best represents their views. Encourage your students to move to a different sign if their opinion changes at any point in the discussion. They might be reluctant at first, but students will take advantage of this option once it’s clear that changing your mind is no big deal. It’s even helpful for keeping discussion calm and civil.

Now, we want to hear from our students about why they’re standing where they are. A student in the “agree” or “strongly agree” section might say, “Meat production uses more space to produce less food than growing crops does, so we should definitely cut down on eating meat.”

Another student might disagree, saying “Well, that’s true about land use. But a person’s diet is a really personal thing, so we shouldn’t be telling people what they can or cannot eat.”

And a student standing under the question mark might say that they see both sides of the argument and aren’t sure where they would fall.

These statements touch on different topics that relate to population growth and global issues. Other statements include:

  • Individual action to help the planet doesn’t make a difference; only industries can make real changes.
  • People in this country should be required by law to recycle and compost their trash.
  • To lower our use of energy and levels of air pollution, we should spend more money on improving our public transportation systems than on our highways.

We have some suggestions about how to effectively facilitate the discussion. You can put students in a “hot seat” to explain their position and answer questions from their classmates, or you can ask students to come up with one word that describes why they chose to stand where they did.

If students are more reluctant to speak in front of the whole class, you can have them share with a partner and discuss their reasoning before speaking out to everyone. Creating a structured discussion where everyone has to share is a great way to make sure that the conversation isn’t dominated by a few opinionated students.

Once you’ve finished reading statements, it’s helpful to debrief the experience of the discussion itself with students. Did they change an opinion because of an argument that someone else made? Was there a time that you wished you had more information on a topic? How did you feel if you were ever standing alone at a sign?

Ultimately, we want these argumentation skills to stick in students’ minds, so we wrap up this activity by introducing a written element. Students will pick one of the statements from the activity and research all perspectives on the issue.

Once they’ve decided where they stand, they write a short position paper advocating for their stance. Position papers are a great way for students to practice writing persuasively and using facts as evidence to support a claim – helpful skills for much more than just an in-class debate!

So that’s Take a Stand! It really is a versatile lesson, and can even work well as either an introduction or a wrap-up for a unit. To get more information on this activity and many others, check out Thanks for watching.