Opinion Chains

by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller


“Let’s create another opinion chain,” Aura Escobar frequently tells her fourth graders. Because this exercise is done often in her classroom, they know what to expect. They will be asked to share an opinion, it will be linked to the opinions of others, and it will be put on display in the classroom or in the hall.

The process is simple. Students are given a strip of colorful paper and a topic to write about. They record their opinion on the paper, have an opportunity to share it aloud if they choose, and then staple it to the others as the chain is passed around the room. Upon completion of the chain it is quickly displayed in the classroom.

The topic for this day is, “What did you think about the morning assembly?” Students are expected to state their opinion and give a reason or a sentence of explanation. Other chains that are artfully draped around the classroom contain the following topics.

What is your favorite bird? Why?

What is your opinion about bullying?

Tell your opinion about the incident that happened at recess yesterday.

What do you think about making laws to protect endangered species?

What is your opinion about the quote I put on the board?

While the process of designing an opinion chain is pretty simple, the benefits cut much deeper. Aura explains, “I want students to know that their opinions matter, so I give them a chance to have input on a variety of topics. I don’t judge their opinions. I just acknowledge them by hearing them and displaying them. I want my students to know that their ideas have value. I believe over time they will come to value their ideas and themselves.”

The method of displaying opinions adds another benefit. The chain communicates, “We are all connected, we are each an important part of a larger whole.” The chain helps students see oneness. They see themselves as part of something bigger than any one of them. They see the connection. They see the relationship of one to every other. The chain helps them visualize the place that I/me/my has in we/us/our.

What is your opinion about Aura Escobar’s efforts to invite student input? Perhaps we could start a chain. After all, we are all connected.

Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the coauthors of The Teacher Talk Advantage: Five Voices of Effective Teaching.They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up for the newsletters or learn more about the seminars they offer teachers and parents, visit their websites today: www.chickmoorman.com and www.thomashaller.com


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