This activity is set in the context of a meeting in which the participants (the whole class) are discussing the proposed development of a new shopping centre where they live. The teacher plays the role of the manager of the construction company who is going to build this. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss ideas and opinions and (at the end) to vote on whether the development will actually go ahead.
Before the lesson, the teacher will need the following things:
1) A script outlining the structure of the meeting and describing the development itself (Where is it? What is going to be there?) A copy of one which I used in school is provided below, although you will obviously have to alter it according to the location of the school in which you are teaching.
2) Copies of maps of the local area. On these, you should colour the “location” of the new development. The shopping centre itself should be coloured pink, and the parking area in green (as specified in the speech). Try to place the centre in a provocative situation (i.e. on top of some of the major roads, on some of the children’s houses, or even on top of the school!). This might provoke them a little and will liven up the discussion.
3) The room should be set out as in the following diagram (where possible).
Before the lesson begins, briefly explain what is going to happen (i.e. a new shopping centre is going to be built in the local area), and ask the children to decide if they are FOR or AGAINST the development (this is for seating purposes only- they can change their minds later if they wish). Then ask them to sit on the appropriate side of the room.
Throughout the lesson, you will play the role of the manager of the construction company that is going to build this centre. You will obviously be biased in the discussion, so “act” as much as possible, disagreeing with the AGAINST children and agreeing with the FOR children! Repeat how brilliant this will be for the local residents.
The structure of the discussion is as follows:
- Speech by the Teacher – outlining how the discussion will be set out
- The initial vote to find out the general public opinion on this development
- Speech by the Teacher – outlining the development itself, showing the location and the features of the centre itself
- Children ask questions to the construction manager (i.e. the teacher)
- Children discuss opinions and (in groups) write a short speech outlining their feelings
- Each group shares their speech with the rest of the class
- Final discussion and question-answering
- Final vote – the results of this vote will decide whether the shopping centre will or will not be built!
This activity would be a good opportunity for assessing Speaking and Listening. Although you would not be able to do this during the lesson (because you have to take such an active role), you could record the lesson, and assess the children afterwards.
When I carried out this activity in school (with Year 4/5 children), they absolutely loved it. I think this is because of the location of the proposed site (i.e. destroying some of their houses) and because I acted as the manager (continually repeating how exciting this development would be). The children took the lesson very seriously, and some were shouting at me to find somewhere else to build it!