Activity: Giving opinions, respecting views

Resources needed:

  • Individual whiteboards and pens
  • Debating topics such as ‘Smoking should be made illegal’



  1. Introduce the activity and explain to the children that they will be invited to give their views and opinions on a range of topics. Establish some ground rules for doing this, with the children’s input. For example, not criticising or ridiculing others for their point of view; listening to all sides fairly; not interrupting etc.
  2. Give each child a whiteboard and pen and show one of the statements from the list. Ask the children to write either ‘agree’, ‘disagree’ or ‘not sure’ on their whiteboards and show to you. Make a note of the numbers of children showing each opinion.
  3. Now invite children from those in agreeance and those who disagree to give their opinions. Ask that this be in the form of a ‘soundbite’ for now – no long, protracted arguments at this stage but simple statements such as, ‘Smoking kills’ or ‘People should have freedom of choice’
  4. Guide the discussion and make sure as many people as possible have their chance to speak. Play ‘devil’s advocate’ where necessary to challenge opinions, especially where children claim to know the facts – where did they find the information? Is it reliable? Does anyone have personal experience?
  5. Once you feel the opinions have been exhausted, ask the class to vote again. Note the numbers – have they changed from the first count? Would anyone like to say why they changed their mind? Affirm that changing one’s mind when presented with further argument or evidence is a healthy part of the debating process.
  6. Now set the children a challenge. They should choose a topic they feel quite passionately about and prepare a short, persuasive argument to support their opinion. They will base their argument entirely on their own opinions at this stage, so would not be able to present any secondary sources of evidence. If any children seem unsure or unable to choose a topic, provide them with one from the list you had prepared earlier.
  7. Choose a selection of children to present their argument. Before they begin, introduce the topic they will speak about and ask for a show of opinion, as before. Once the child has delivered their speech, ask again for the show of opinion. Has anyone changed their mind?


Further Activities:

Ask the children to develop their argument further for homework. They could research the topic further, talk to people at home or conduct a survey amongst their friends.

Let the children design and make a poster or leaflet based on their topic. Encourage them to look at other ‘propaganda’ material and judge its efficacy and impact.

Examine how advertising uses facts, figures and sometimes scientific language to persuade us to try a certain product.


Curriculum Areas covered:

They develop their sense of social justice and moral responsibility and begin to understand that their own choices and behaviour can affect local, national or global issues and political and social institutions. They learn how to take part more fully in school and community activities.

Developing confidence and responsibility and making the most of their abilities

  • Pupils should be taught:
  • to talk and write about their opinions, and explain their views, on issues that affect themselves and society;

Preparing to play an active role as citizens

  • Pupils should be taught:
  • to research, discuss and debate topical issues, problems and events;

 Teaching point: some topics, such as smoking, may be sensitive for some children if they have family members who smoke or have even lost a loved one to a smoking-related illness. Be sensitive to this and choose topics appropriate for the age group/maturity level/needs of your class.