It is all too easy for a few confident speakers to hog class discussion. A quick way I use to involve everyone is to draw a line on the board with zero at one end and 100 at the other and subdivide the line into tens. Ask pupils to decide where they stand on a particular issue, with the ends representing extreme opposing views. Zip round the class, placing an X for each pupil's reply. This will have an instant visual impact, with each child's view clearly registered. It can also point the teacher in the right direction for development of the topic.
Refinements can include allowing pupils to come to the board to place their own cross or initials. For certain topics, differing gender views can be recorded by using two colours. Opinion can be tested at the start of the lesson, and revised at the end when work is completed. Even complex essay questions such as: "Do you think Lady Macbeth deserves her madness?" can be kick-started in this way.
One of my most successful units of work involved a difficult, low-ability Year 7 group. While sharing a class novel, we had to make our minds up about a character's moral dilemma. After considering all the arguments, they took great care in deciding where they stood before sticking named labels to a grid drawn on a large piece of card, which then became the centrepiece of a wall display.
Jennifer Newman, English teacher, Springwood High School, King's Lynn, Norfolk.