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How can we make

good online dialogue about civic and controversial issues?

Activity #2: Getting into the Fray: Trying Out Different Dialogue Strategies

(45-50 minutes)


This activity invites students to experiment with different dialogue moves in the toolkit.


  • Identify an article about a civic issue you care about. Ask students to explore the opinion section of an online news site OR young people’s posts on Youth Voices (a school-based social network that was started in 2003 by a group of National Writing Project teachers). Students should browse the articles and choose 1 that is about a civic issue of interest to them. They should read the posts slowly and carefully and then read through any comments posted below them. [Note: If students do not have in-class access to browse online sites, you can print out several posts ahead of time for students to chose from.]


  • Write a comment. Now, ask students to prepare to write a comment on this article or post, using at least 4 of the dialogue moves indicated in the toolkit below. Ideally, their comments should contain a mix of different types of moves - listening, bridging, voicing, and persuading. But, above all, their comments should be authentic (sharing a reaction or perspective that is genuine), respectful, and productive in the sense of adding something to the discussion.

  • Pair-Share & Revise. Once they’ve drafted their comments, ask students to discuss with a classmate, get and give feedback, and make any edits.

  • Consider posting. Once their comments are ready, ask students to consider whether they would feel comfortable “going public” by posting their comment and why or why not. If students don’t feel ready to “go public” with their comments, perhaps they can carry on a dialogue about the issue in a less public online space - such as a closed class discussion forum or private Google+ community.

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