50 Discussion Ideas for Double Circle Debating Lesson

The curricula strategy double circle, also known as inside-outside circle or onion, is used as a way of organizing discussion groups in the classroom. It is a type of peer work where students frequently change speaking partners. The inner and outer circles do not need to have the same speaking topic cards, but can each have a unique topic to talk about. It is a method of quickly discussing a range of issues and encouraging participants to think on their feet.

Key skill

The inner/outer circle debate strategy emphasizes listening to others’ views and writing an opinion essay.

The image below illustrates how this activity can be organised.

Objectives

  • Listen to opposing or complementary views of others and respond to them appropiractely with their own ideas;
  • Contemplate and absorb multiple views on an issue, turn taking, and brainstorming out ideas;
  • Develop confidence when speaking, developing spontaneous responses in a group discussion;
  • Develop skills in supporting one’s opinion with facts and examples, leading a conversation.

What is the purpose of a double circle activity?

A double circle discussion is helpful for improving free speaking and fluency including the skills needed for active listening. Students can walk around the classroom, helping to increase attention and engagement. If the activity is timed, then it will be an important step to build confidence, develop thorough debate narratives, and quickly accumulate ideas for a range of issues.

Students can correct each other and help motivate those of varying skill levels to share their ideas.

What can do use a double-circle activity for?

  • It can serve as a way of comparing homework
  • It can be used for sharing opinions
  • Ideas concerning a specific topic
  • It can be introduced in different situations of a lesson:
  • At the beginning of a school year, it can be utilized as an activity of getting to know each other.
  • At other times it may be helpful for introducing topics, exchanging opinions, remembering content, or repetition of topics that had been introduced some time ago
  • To reduce anxiety and improve social contacts as well as get used to certain topics
  • Depending on the number of rounds of changing partners, carrying out the strategy takes about 30-45 minutes.

Lesson Plan

Arrange students into four groups of equal size. Arrange students in Group 1 into a circle of chairs facing out, away from the circle. Arrange students in Group 2 into a circle of chairs around Group 1, facing the students in Group 1. Groups 3 and 4 gather around the perimeter of the circle, facing the circle.

Select an issue that students will be motivated to discuss/debate. [see below]

Now, provide students in the inner circle with 10-15 minutes to discuss the topic. During that time, all other students focus their attention on the students in the inner circle. No one else is allowed to speak. Other students take notes about points those students bring up; notes are used in a follow-up classroom discussion and/or for writing an editorial opinion expressing a point of view on the issue at hand.

Assessment

At the end of the inner/outer circle activity, students use their notes to formulate a cogent editorial opinion about the topic of discussion.

50 discussion ideas for double circle discussions

Environment-themed topics

  1. National parks should be at least 50% of all of the land in the country
  2. Is tourism a benefit / advantage to a country [see over tourism]
  3. Nuclear power is the silver bullet to moving away from fossil fuels
  4. Zoos should be banned
  5. Electric cars will not solve climate change
  6. People should be taxed on their own carbon output
  7. Cryptocurrency mining is harming the environment
  8. GM food should be banned
  9. Veganism is the future of food
  10. Plastic bags and drinking straws do not harm the environment as much as the fashion industry

General knowledge topics

  1. Is space exploration a waste of money?
  2. should all schooling be done online?
  3. Reality TV shows harm society
  4. Unpaid internships are a necessary part of life
  5. Video games do no cause violence in society
  6. Children should not use the internet
  7. Bad parenting should be a criminal offence
  8. Alternative medicines should be banned
  9. Billionaires should be taxed more heavily
  10. Animal testing is justified

Education-themed topics

  1. Homeschooling is better than regular school
  2. STD testing should be provided in schools
  3. University should be free for everyone
  4. Student loans are a necassary part of life
  5. Good jobs require degrees
  6. Exams should be abolsihed
  7. Learning another language should be mandatory
  8. Teachers should be paid more than doctors
  9. Fast food should not be served at school
  10. Schools should promote team sports more

Politically themed topics

  1. Religion should be taught in schools
  2. Communism does in fact help ordinary people
  3. Rich people do not pay taxes in capitalist countries
  4. The US is no longer a world superpower
  5. Vaccinations should be mandatory
  6. Illegal immigrants are a strength for a nation
  7. Churches should pay taxes
  8. Prisons should be owned and operated by private companies
  9. Britain should rejoin the EU
  10. Presidents and Prime Minisiters of countries should not be over 50 years of age

Technology-themed topics

  1. Social media is harmful to society
  2. Technology is actually making people smarter, not dumber
  3. NFTs are worthless
  4. Bitcoin is the future of global finance
  5. Investing in the stock market is for everyone
  6. Robots should have rights
  7. Individuals should own their own DNA
  8. AI will benefit mankind
  9. Technology is over-rated
  10. Tech companies, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, should be forced to pay more tax

Print and cut the quotes into strips so that each student can have a quote to discuss and share with others. This activity is more open-ended and so suitable for higher-level students.