English - Explosive arguments

Pupil must perform to win a debate about nuclear weapons

Victoria Grace Walden

O Fortuna plays as the judges enter - you could be forgiven for thinking that this is an episode of The X Factor. But it is the Bomb Factor lesson from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament's Peace Education, and it is designed to go with a bang.

Created to encourage pupil creativity while tackling serious political issues, Bomb Factor takes the form of a talent contest. Three pupils are chosen to play the judges and each is given a card: the first displays facts that support nuclear weapons, the second presents arguments against them, while the third carries debating points on how to reduce nuclear danger.

The rest of the class is divided into groups of three. Each group is given a card identifying them as a country or organisation with a vested interest in this debate. On each card are facts, beliefs and future plans pertaining to the country or organisation.

The "contestants" have just 15 minutes to plan how they will persuasively present their point of view. One by one, the groups make their way on to the stage, introduce themselves - and then it's show time. They have just two minutes to present their argument and convince the judges that their view is the right one.

The "Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament" team has choreographed a dance to express why money earmarked for nuclear weapons should be spent on education. The "Russian" team delivers a rap: America has them so why can't we? "Team Nato", meanwhile, sings the predictably middle-ground jingle, "Why can't we all just get along?"

But the action doesn't end with the performances. The teams are then grilled by the judges, who use their cards to try to pull the arguments apart.

The show finishes with pupils taking part in a "phone-in vote" to decide which team has been most persuasive and whether nuclear weapons should be kept or countries disarmed. Teachers could repeat the lesson at a later date, allowing pupils to see all sides of the story by giving them the opposite stance to the one they took first time round.

The idea of making presentations is usually met with resistance by pupils in the classroom. But Bomb Factor lets their creative juices flow as they get to grips with a powerful issue. The lesson can captivate a restless class and it's great for pupils who like to learn on their feet. There's no time for fidgeting or boredom here.


Download the lesson plan and resources for PeaceEducation's Bomb Factor for free from TES Resources. bit.lyBombFactor

sjb1987 has shared golden rules on how to ensure that pupils get the best out of speaking and listening assignments. bit.lySpeakingAndListening.

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