When starting a new topic, it's good to find out what the pupils already know and what their opinions are. For this, I use a speed dating-style activity.
Pupils get into groups of 10, five forming an outer circle facing inwards and five forming an inner circle facing outwards. When you are discussing vegetarism, for instance, the inner group ask the outer group questions from a card, such as: "why do people become vegetarian?", or "does a vegetarian get the necessary nutrients without supplements?", or "what alternative protein sources can you name?"
They move around, with three minutes per person. Answers are jotted down and, at the end, marked out of 10.
I collect the cards and at the end of the unit I give them out again to repeat the exercise. The second time around, the pupils work harder to get a higher score.
Claire Nicol is a design and technology teacher at the Emmbrook School in Wokingham, Berkshire.