When teachers come across controversial topics, the majority of them try to avoid them. ESL teachers, in turn, can make use of them in order to increase teaching success. Controversial topics offer an unequalled opportunity to encourage their students to think and develop discussions. Though you might feel nauseated by the idea of teaching some topics.
Do not hesitate to use the following strategies to make it a success rather than a failure
1. Introduce the topic
Before providing your students with any arguments, supporting one point or another, it is better to start with brainstorming based on what they already know about this controversial topic. You might even get surprised at the knowledge and experience your students already have. In addition, a given issue might have deep personal connections to your students, which can be a great way to motivate them to share.
2. Present pros and cons of the issue
Despite the fact that you completely agree with either one side of a controversial topic or the other one, having this type of class requires the teacher to maintain neutral outlook on the issue, in other words, to be the moderator. Thus, you are responsible of presenting both sides of the argument regardless of your personal opinion. Your students should realize all problem points of the case. You should also cover any unfamiliar vocabulary related to the topic.
3. Make the discussion smooth
Once you have presented the issue and have made sure the controversy is clear, give your students an opportunity to discuss their sides in small groups. As usual, every person has his/her own opinion. Thus, you should provide time to talk in smaller groups rather than as an entire class. This way, students will be able to share their ideas about the issue. Make sure that all students have a chance to express themselves and no one is being bullied. Remember that your role is to be the facilitator in this discussion.
4. Express your own opinion
Only after everyone has expressed their opinions on the subject, you can express yours. Otherwise, your students might feel the fear to express themselves honestly. Sometimes, students are afraid to support a point of view that is opposite to their teacher’s. So, it is indispensible to give your students the opportunity to discuss their sides in order to remove the intimidation. Your students should not feel bad because they disagree with you, should they?
5. Present a case study
This kind of activity is a powerful tool for stimulating discussion. Real life situations give clear examples of what to do when a person experiences a problem. Case studies teach students to overcome difficulties and move on. So, it is absolutely useful to motivate your students to take risks and express themselves in difficult circumstances.
Use these tips the next time you need to get ready for a class where you raise a controversial topic.