How can we make

good online dialogue about civic and controversial issues?

In this activity, students explore and practice different online dialogue strategies and tools - including strategies for visible listening, connecting with others, voicing ideas, and seeking to persuade others to understand and agree with specific perspective. Then students consider the role of online guidelines in supporting productive discussions.

Activity #1: Strategies for Online Civic Dialogue

(30 minutes)


Below is a collection of dialogue strategies intended to support youth to engage in authentic, respectful, and productive dialogue about civic issues on social media. These moves can also be used to support productive in-person conversations in the classroom. The toolkit contains different types of moves that represent important features of productive dialogue.


First, introduce the toolkit to students and discuss the different dialogue moves

This toolkit was inspired by several different sources, including: Youth Voices and National Writing Project educational resources (especially work by Chris Sloan); the Out of Eden Learn Dialogue Toolkit (collaboratively developed by Project Zero and Chris Sloan of Youth Voices); and findings from qualitative research with young people who frequently talk about civic issues on social media.  

Ask the students to work in small groups and discuss the following questions:


  • What’s familiar? What moves feel familiar or are commonly used by people in online discussions you’ve been part of or observed? Describe.


  • What’s new? What moves feel less familiar and even intimidating?


  • What’s missing? Are there any commenting moves that should be added to the collection - based on your commenting practices or things you see other people doing in online discussions?


Ask each group to report out from their small group discussion to the class. Invite them to teach the class about any commenting moves that they use but which are not represented in the collection. Document the new moves on chart paper for the class to consider using in future in-class and online discussions.

Click here to download this exercise as a PDF.

© 2018 by the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics

Students explore their identities and communities, identify civic issues that matter to them, and consider how they might use digital media for civic participation.

Students work to understand and analyze civic information online, and consider what information they

can trust.

Students navigate diverse perspectives and exchange ideas about civic issues in our inter-connected world .

Students consider how, when and to what end they can create, remix and otherwise re-purpose content that they share with others in online spaces.

Students consider a broad range of tactics and strategies for acting on civic issues.