How do I help students have productive discussions about current and controversial issues?

How do I help students have productive discussions about current and controversial issues?

Engaging young people in discussions of local, national, and international issues is a core component of civic learning. When youth discuss current events, they report being more engaged in school and having a greater interest in politics. It can also lead to improved communication and critical thinking skills, increased civic knowledge, and a higher chance of participating in civic life as adults. However, the rise in partisanship has led to much more divisive civic and political dialogue off and online. Explore the resources on this page to learn how to engage youth in productive civic and political dialogue.

Discuss Current & Controversial Issues

Watch the videos below to see how teachers integrate discussion of current and controversial issues into their classrooms.

In this video, high school students engage in rigorous debate about privatizing social security.

In this video, middle school students discuss the pros and cons of teen driving.

Build a Class Culture that Supports Discussion

Watch how teachers from a range of subject areas at the Urban Academy in New York City build a respectful classroom culture that promotes discussion.

In this video, teachers discuss how they foster a culture of respect using three guiding principles.

Watch how teachers support all students, including the quieter ones, during discussions.

Digital Civics Toolkit: Dialogue Module

In the DIALOGUE module, you will find activities, resources, and tools to help youth consider the features of good dialogue and navigate the affordances digital and social media provide for dialogue about civic issues.

Blogging & Youth Civic Voice

Listen to teachers and students talk about the benefits of blogging in the classroom and how it promotes productive online dialogue, provides students with an authentic audience, and develops young people’s civic voice.

To learn more about the HOW of integrating blogging into your classroom, read about the strategies 9th grade teachers Jason Muniz and Nina Portugal use.

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