Handling Controversial Topics

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How do you handle controversial topics in class?


In teaching any language to those who have a different native tongue, one of the important things that you must always remember is that the key lies in practice. Practice basically means giving your students countless reasons to keep speaking in that new language, no matter how silly they might sound.

One way to do this, especially when teaching English, is to discuss a specific topic (you can perhaps pick a topic from a random tech blog), and then talk about it with your students – ask them for their opinions, standpoints, etc. Of course, this might prove to be a little difficult when you’re supposed to discuss controversial topics, things like marriage, sexuality, religion, politics – how do you handle the discussion of such topics?


Best Tips on How to Handle Controversial Topics


You begin by first introducing the topic. Before giving students any materials supporting one side or the other about a controversial topic, ask them what they already know about it. This is only the first of many opportunities for discussion in your class. If you are teaching adults, you may be surprised at the experience your students may already have with a given issue.

As you proceed, you must be very careful to present both sides of the issue. Though you almost certainly agree with either one side of a controversial issue or the other, leading a unit on a touchy subject requires the teacher to be the moderator. As such, it is your responsibility to present both sides of the issue no matter where your opinions lie.

Also, never forget to take the role of facilitator. After presenting both sides of the issue and making sure students understand the controversy, give small groups of students an opportunity to discuss the arguments each side presents. They will be sure to offer their own opinions, perhaps vehemently, and you should not pressure them with discussion as an entire class.

In the end, whether the topic is something as simple as whether or not they enjoy online shops like Lazada and Zalora, or something as sensitive as abortion, it’s important to always make space for everyone in the conversation.