A Message from The Practice Space about COVID-19

RESOURCE 14

Activity Examples: Morality on the Spot and Expert Shares

In the real world, presentations are often spontaneous in nature, with limited preparation in high-stakes situations. Mixing short spontaneous presentation opportunities with more formal presentation assignments can help students become more comfortable with the discomfort of spontaneous speaking. Discussions and conversations should also be framed as a form of spontaneous speaking, since they require students to give immediate reactions to prompts and questions. Assessing spontaneous speaking should mostly be based on student self-assessment, where they reflect on their performance and what they need to improve. Aside from self-assessment, provide students with timely, bite-sized feedback on spontaneous speaking (either from peers or a teacher or coach), rather than a major grade.

What is the purpose of these activities?

  1. Students practice presenting, questioning, responding, and summarizing ideas without preparation. Students also practice speaking about their interests, strengths, and opinions.
  2. These activities can be done in small groups for a faster, more low-stakes version, but can also become more high-stakes presentations when done for the entire group.

How do these assignments connect to Common Core Speaking & Listening Standards?

  • Regardless of grade level, the anchor standards for “Comprehension and Collaboration” require students of all ages to “prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1). This includes situations where students have limited time to prepare themselves.
  • Anchor standards for all ages also require students to “adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6) Spontaneous speaking skills are also involved in adapting to different audiences on the spot.
  • Starting in Grade 1, the anchor standards for “Comprehension and Collaboration” require students to be able to build on others' talk in conversations by responding to the comments of others through multiple exchanges. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.1.1.B).
  • Starting in Grade 2, the anchor standards for “Comprehension and Collaboration” require students to be able to build on others' talk in conversations by linking their comments to the remarks of others. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.2.1.B).
  • Starting in Grade 4, students need to be able to review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.(CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.4.1.D).
  • Starting in Grade 8, students need to engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions, building on other’s ideas and expressing their own clearly (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.1).
  • In Grades 11 and 12, students need to propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1.C).

What do these assignments look like?

Morality on the Spot: Students get into groups of 4. Give each group 4 index cards, labeled with different roles, “Presenter”, “Clarifier”, “Elaborator”, and “Devil’s Advocate”. Students draw a card to decide what role they will be taking in a short 5-10 minute conversation about a moral issue. Give each group an index card, which includes a controversial question on an issue of morality that will be the focus of their conversation (these cards can be created by the teacher initially, but can later be generated by students once they get the hang of the routine). Note: the choice of topics is one of the most important pieces for teachers to prepare -- see the list of “Morality on the Spot Question Prompts” at the end of this resource. More detail on each role includes:

  • Presenter: This person kicks off the conversation by introducing the issue along with an initial opinion with reasoning. They offer opinions throughout the conversation and also bring the conversation to an end by summarizing what was covered after time is up.
  • Devil’s Advocate: This person offers opposing points of view or “what if” situations that provide a different perspective on the issue. They don’t have to necessarily debate the presenter, but instead be the person to push everyone’s thinking.
  • Clarifier: This person asks for clarity throughout the conversation, asking for definitions and for detail about what people mean by their points or questions.
  • Elaborator: This person adds to the ideas of any of the other students, building on their questions, opinions, or challenges. This role does not have to take their own stance.

Expert Shares: This activity is a grown-up version of show-and-tell, asking students to share their areas of expertise, talent, strengths, interests, and experiences. For an easy version, students can get into groups of 4; for a harder version, this can be done with the entire class. To get everyone started, the teacher provides a prompt related to expertise, like the following:

  • My special talent is….
  • When I was a child, I was interested in...
  • I felt proud when...
  • I feel like I lose track of time when I….
  • My favorite hobby is...
  • In school, I became interested in ____ when...
  • One of the hardest moments I’ve faced lately is….
  • My superpower is...
  • People turn to me for…
  • I am good at...

Please note that students often struggle with saying that they are good at something, especially as they get older. When introducing the activity, discuss why it is hard to talk about yourself and why it is difficult to remember your personal strengths and interests. Discuss why it is still worth it to develop this skill, including needing to write about strengths in personal statements and talk about them in job interviews and networking situations.

For the activity itself, spend 5-10 minutes having someone share a story related to the prompt. Afterwards, everyone else can choose to either ask questions or relate to the story with their own personal experience connected to the initial story, which can then roll into a conversation. This activity can be repeated as a routine over time and can also be linked as a warm up for larger projects, like personal statements or personal essays.

Developing/Meets Standard Gold Standard
Skill 1: Discussing
  • I can express my thoughts and ideas through whole group discussions OR small group discussions.
  • I am present and attentive during multiple forms of discussion.
  • I can demonstrate active listening.
  • I am tolerant and respectful of others' ideas.
  • My participation in discussions is meaningful and genuine, not just to get “credit” or get “counted”.
  • I am able to regularly express my thoughts and ideas through multiple forms of discussion.
  • I am able to enhance and build on the ideas of others during multiple forms of discussion.
  • I am able to help other group members participate and join in the discussion.
  • I am receptive to new ideas and can demonstrate interest and curiosity.
  • I can take multiple roles in discussion.
Skill 2: Questioning
  • I can come up with clarifying questions to better understand important points.
  • I can ask probing questions to request follow-up information.
  • I can ask my questions in a respectful manner.
  • I can ask questions that take the conversation to a deeper level.
  • I am not afraid to say when I don’t understand something.
  • I can ask questions that help other people in my group learn about something new.
  • I know when to ask questions and when to just listen to the speaker.
  • I am able to jump in to ask questions without waiting to be called on and I can do so in a respectful manner.
Skill 3: Presenting
  • I am able to participate in spontaneous presentations.
  • I can put my ideas together in an organized fashion.
  • I put in effort and push past my comfort zone.
  • I can brainstorm ideas to present without any preparation.
  • I am thoughtful about the ideas I present, adding something unique to each presentation to enhance ideas.
  • I am eager to present in order to practice and improve.
  • I try to improve with every presentation.
  • I am aware of my presentation strengths and needs and can identify specific areas for improvement.
Student Notes Evidence

Using the qualities listed above, write your reflections on each participation skill, citing examples where necessary.

Quick Teacher Notes
Skill 1: Discussing
Skill 2: Questioning
Skill 3: Presenting

Morality on the Spot Question Prompts
Note: These are for high school students, but some may work for elementary and middle school students.

  1. Is it ever okay to lie?
  2. Is stealing ever okay?
  3. Does equal opportunity exist in sports?
  4. Is violence ever the appropriate response to injustice?
  5. Is war ever necessary?
  6. Do people who commit violent crimes deserve the death penalty?
  7. Should student evaluations determine teacher job security?
  8. Is it okay for teachers to play favorites?
  9. Is it okay to block websites in schools?
  10. Should life primarily revolve around serving others?
  11. Should children participate in armed conflicts?
  12. Do we have a moral obligation to intervene when we see suffering?
  13. Is there such a thing as being morally right or wrong?
  14. Would you kill 10 people to save one?
  15. If a child somehow survived and grew up in the wilderness without any human contact, would they still be considered human without the influence of society and culture?
  16. Is suffering a necessary part of the human condition?
  17. Does hardship make a person stronger?
  18. Does art hurt society?
  19. If freedom is simply being able to do what you want, are animals freer than humans?
  20. Is humanity headed in the wrong direction?
  21. Is it better for a person to have a broad knowledge base or a deep knowledge base?
  22. Is it more important to help yourself or help society?
  23. Is it more important to help your family or help the world?
  24. Is it better to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond?
  25. Can human nature be changed?
  26. Does absolute power corrupt absolutely?
  27. Does knowledge need to have a practical use to have value?
  28. Are we wasting human potential?
  29. Is jealousy important to driving us to improve ourselves?
  30. Are there limits to human creativity?
  31. Is taking a human life ever justified?
  32. If you could press a button and receive a million dollars, but one stranger would die, would you press the button?
  33. Is privacy a right?
  34. Should there be limitations on the right to free speech?
  35. Do business owners have the right to refuse service to customers?
  36. If you can save another’s life and don’t because doing so would break the law, are you ethically justified in your decision?
  37. Are all individuals morally obligated to save another person’s life if they are able?
  38. Is it just and right to deny entry to a country when doing so probably means death for the immigrant and their family?
  39. Is a person’s value based on their actions?
  40. Would the world be a better or worse place if everyone looked the same?
  41. Is poverty in society inevitable?
  42. Has social media been a net positive for our society?
  43. Is some degree of censorship necessary?
  44. Should full access to the internet be a fundamental human right?
  45. Should the illegal use of drugs be treated as a matter of public health or criminal justice?
  46. Should the United States provide military aid to countries with oppressive governments?
  47. Should the public’s right to know be valued over the right to privacy of candidates for public office?
  48. Is the use of targeted killing in foreign countries unjust?
  49. Do wealthy countries have an obligation to provide development assistance to other countries?
  50. Should national service be required in the United States?
  51. Which is more important: civil liberties or national security?
  52. Should immigration be a human right?
  53. Should the private ownership of handguns be banned?
  54. Which is better: an oppressive government or no government?
  55. In the criminal justice system, should we value rehabilitation over retribution?
  56. Is it okay to kill one innocent person to save the lives of more innocent people?
  57. Should an individual’s freedom of speech be valued over a community’s moral standards?
  58. Is it possible to cure poverty?
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