Fold the Line

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The purpose of this activity is for students to interact and exchange opinions or ideas with one or more classmates whose perspectives are very different from theirs. By first having students identify where they stand on a topic or issue and then pairing students with different perspectives, students engage in more meaningful exchanges and have multiple opportunities to listen, respond, and even consider a shift in their original position.

Instructions

  1. The teacher provides a prompt for students to react to. This prompt should allow students to have a range of reactions or opinions, e.g., ‘on a scale of 1-10’, etc.

  2. Students arrange themselves in a straight line based on their opinion/reaction to the prompt. If students are lining up from 1 to 10, for example, students who selected 1 would be at one end of the line, and students who selected 10 would be at the other end of the line, with students who selected 2-9 standing between them in order.

  3. The teacher identifies the mid-point of the line and ‘folds the line’ in half. Half of the line remains where they are standing, while the other half folds over so that each student is now facing a classmate. This way, students are paired with classmates whose opinion ranges from close to their own to very different from their own.

  4. Students have a conversation with their peers to find out (1) what their opinion is and (2) why they think that way. At higher levels of proficiency, students may also be asked to try to convince their peer to change their mind.

  5. When students have finished the first conversation, they can pair with another partner with a different perspective. Half of the line remains where they were standing. The other half shifts positions by 3-4 spaces to ensure that students are now paired with someone who has a different perspective.

  6. The teacher may shift the lines as many times as desired to give students a chance to interact with different perspectives.

  7. The teacher may the activity from interpersonal to presentational by asking students to reflect in an audio recording or in writing on their conversations by using appropriate sentence frames or position statements. “I used to think…, but now I think….because (name) said…..”

  8. The teacher may end the activity after step 7 or provide another prompt and repeat the steps as many times as desired.

Adaptation for Online/Distance Learning

  1. The teacher provides a prompt for students to react to. This prompt should allow students to have a range of reactions or opinions, e.g., ‘on a scale of 1-10’, etc.

  2. Students re-name themselves so that their name indicates their opinion. For example, if the teacher asked for an opinion on a scale of 1-10, students would rename themselves to be “3-Matt” “1-Juan” “9-Lucy” etc.

  3. The teacher manually assigns students to breakout rooms in small groups. Students are first grouped with students who have similar opinions. Students share their reasons for their opinion with each other and at the intermediate and advanced levels share reasons why others should have the same opinion. “Everyone should think this way because….”

  4. The teacher brings students back to the main room and then re-assigns them to breakout rooms, this time grouping students with different opinions*.

    * Alternatively, the teacher may choose to randomly assign students to breakout rooms instead of manually assigning each student to a particular room. The downside to this is that students may end up with a partner / group who shares their same opinion, which could shorten the conversation substantially.

  5. Students have a conversation with their peers to find out (1) what their opinion is and (2) why they think that way. At higher levels of proficiency, students may also be asked to try to convince their peers to change their mind.

  6. The teacher brings students back from breakout rooms and asks non-volunteers to share what they heard from their partner. This is to ensure individual accountability after a breakout room.

  7. The teacher may shift the lines as many times as desired to give students a chance to interact with different perspectives.

  8. The teacher may the activity from interpersonal to presentational by asking students to reflect in an audio recording or in writing on their conversations by using appropriate sentence frames or position statements. “I used to think…, but now I think….because (name) said…..”

  9. The teacher may end the activity after step 8 or provide another prompt and repeat the steps as many times as desired.

Helpful Tips

  1. When doing this activity for the first time, pick a very simple prompt, one that is not controversial. For example, have students indicate how they feel about a certain season, having a cat as a pet, etc. Let students understand how the activity works before requiring students to react to what could be very controversial prompts.

Differentiation

  1. Brainstorm with the class what people might say who select different points on a scale. That allows students to gain insights into what they might say before needing to create their own thinking on a prompt.

  2. Students can also be assigned a certain opinion that they must support. Students could then work in pairs of small groups to develop reasons to support that position.  

Materials

  1. Prompt(s) for students to react to

Videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhmacK92C-s