Philosophical Chairs Discussion
- Grades: 6–8, 9–12
- Unit Plan:
In this lesson, students discuss an assigned reading and debate whether music that may be considered offensive should contain warning labels.
- Analyze points of debate around censorship, choose, and support a stand on the issue
- Chart paper or chalkboard/whiteboard
- Markers, pens, or chalk for discussion board
- Copies of Philosophical Chairs Reflection Sheet, one per student
- Copies of the Parental Advisory text that appears on music labels, one per student
- Post-It notes or scrap paper
- Optional: Computers for online research
Set Up and Prepare
- Set up your classroom for the "Philosophical Chairs" discussion. Have one designated area for students who agree with the topic. Directly across from the "agree" area should be a "disagree" area. In between the two should be a section for students who are neutral on the issue.
- Write the topic/issue on a piece of chart paper or the chalkboard/whiteboard you are planning to use during the discussion.
- Instruct students to read the Parental Advisory text that appears on music labels prior to conducting the discussion.
Step 1: Inform students that they will discuss the assigned reading with an activity called Philosophical Chairs. Essentially, Philosophical Chairs is a means of debating an issue. Students will respond to a question and be divided into groups based on their responses. They will then discuss their reasons for their answers.
Step 2: Reveal the topic to students: Music that may be considered offensive should contain warning labels.
Step 3: Provide each student with a Post-it Note or small piece of paper and instruct them to write down their name followed by their stance on the issue. They should write "agree," "disagree," or "neutral."
Step 4: Collect student slips and position students in their chosen areas (agree, disagree, or neutral).
Step 5: Select one student to start the discussion by stating why they chose their particular stance on the issue.
Step 6: Continue with a detailed debate with students explaining why they have taken one of the three positions.
Supporting All Learners
You may want to review the text with your struggling students prior to the Philosophical Chairs discussion. Nonetheless, because this activity is strongly based on voicing opinions and listening actively, it is accessible to all learners.
Ask students to conduct online research to find texts and examples that either support their position on the issue or bring new information to the discussion.
Have students get the perspective of their parents on the topic discussed in class in order to prepare for writing their position papers.
At the conclusion of the discussion, have each student complete the Philosophical Chairs Reflection Sheet.
Review your discussion assessment chart and student reflection sheets to evaluate the effectiveness of the selected topic.
As the discussion occurs, complete the attached Discussion Assessment Chart in order to rate the quality and quantity of each students’ contribution to the discussion.