Tasha Bleistein
Language Education (ESL)
Material Type:
Middle School, High School, Community College / Lower Division, Adult Education
  • Civil Discourse
  • Disagreement
  • Fact
  • Opinion
    Creative Commons Attribution
    Media Formats:
    Downloadable docs

    Disagreeing about Opinions: A lesson on Civil Discourse

    Disagreeing about Opinions: A lesson on Civil Discourse



    This lesson explores how to distinguish between fact and opinion and facilitate thoughtful dialog using principles of civil discourse. It is intended for intermediate English language learners (B1-B2 CEFR). The content is appropriate for secondary school students and adults. The lesson plan includes a handout and a presentation. The material from the presentation could be written on a board.

    Lesson Plan

    Disagreeing with Opinions: A Lesson on Civil Discourse


    Students will be able to

    1. correctly differentiate between statements of fact and opinion.

    2. politely disagree with opinions expressed by others.


    • Disagreeing about Opinions Slides

    • Fact or Opinion Worksheet

    Lesson Outline

    Warm Up (5 minutes)

    On the board or a screen (see Slide 1) show students the following two statements.

    • The unicorn is the national animal of Scotland.

    • Unicorns are the best national animal.

    Ask students if there is a difference between the two statements. If one student says one is a fact and one is an opinion, tell students that today we are going to look at the difference between facts and opinions. 

    Facts and Opinions Introduction (15 minutes)

    Elicit from the students a basic definition of fact and opinion (e.g., Facts can be proven with evidence. Opinions are someone’s view.)

    Share slides with students one-by-one. Ask them if the statements are facts or opinions.

    1. Chocolate is the best ice cream flavor.    (Opinion)                                                 

    2. Vanilla is the most popular ice cream flavor in the U.S.  (Fact)

    3. English is the most common language in the world.  (Fact)

    4. English is the most important language in the world. (Opinion)

    5. China has a larger population than Vietnam. (Fact)

    Fact & Opinion Pair Practice (15 minutes)

    Pass out the Fact & Opinion Worksheet (attached) and have students complete the first table in pairs. Have students determine if each statement is a fact or opinion.

    Check answers as a class.

    Have students complete the second half of the worksheet with their same partner. They will write three facts and three opinions. 

    Place two pairs together and have them read their statements. The other team can say if they are facts or opinions. 

    Disagreeing (15 minutes)

    Say something like the following:

    “Sometimes people share opinions as if they are facts which makes honest dialogue challenging. In civil communication, we want to disagree with opinions or incorrect facts in a way that is polite.”

    “Imagine that I say, ‘Students in this classroom are lazy and don’t arrive to class on time.’ How could you politely challenge the opinion that is being shared as a fact?” 

    For example, I agree that a few students are sometimes late for class, but almost every student is here on time for class.

    Elicit a few polite ways to disagree from class and write them on the board. Ask students which are the softest (most polite) and which are less soft/polite.

    Share others ways to disagree through the handout (Ways to Disagree), slide presentation, or writing a few on the board. Students may add other ways that were listed on the board.

    Ways to Disagree

    • That is your opinion, but I have a different opinion. [State opinion.]

    • I may need to check that fact. I believe [share factual information.]

    • I agree that [state point of agreement], but [provide new point].

    • I don’t think that is right, because [state reason for disagreement].

    • It seems that we disagree on this point. I think [state opinion].

    • What if we looked at this from a different perspective? [Share new perspective/opinion.]

    • I don’t completely agree with your point about [restate point], because [share reason].

    • I believe I understand what you are saying, but I think [share area of disagreement].

    Have a few other students model how to disagree using different sentence frames. If time allows, each could be practiced using the scenario about students arriving late (e.g., I don’t think that is right, because we are starting class now with 29 of 30 students here.)

    Practice Disagreement (15 minutes)

    Share a list of opinions and have small groups (3-4 students) practice using the sentence frames while discussing the claims. You may need to change the sentence frames to better fit the age and interests of students in the classroom.

    Sample Opinions

    • The best car brand is [fill with car].

    • [Sports team name] is the best.

    • Salmon is the healthiest fish.

    • Los Angeles is a good place to live.

    • Students today are usually distracted by technology.

    Call on a few students to model at the end of the activity.

    Debrief (10 minutes)

    Say, “Disagreeing with others can be difficult. Think about how it made you feel for two minutes. What was the hardest part of class today? What was the most useful part of class today?” Allow students to sit and think for two minutes.

    Pass out a small piece of paper for each student. Have students write two sentences about class today using the two sentence frames below. Tell them not to write their names on the papers.

    • In class today, I felt ___________________________________ .

    Choose one or create your own.

    • Next time, I don't want to __________________________.

    • I need more practice with __________________________.

    • I'm ready for the next step. I would like to try _____________________.

    When they are done, have them crumple the paper into a ball and throw it into a basket (or on a table).

    If this lesson is taught online, Padlet could be used for completing the sentence prompts. 

    The teacher selects a few papers (as time allows) to read aloud and opens up a discussion about them. For example, maybe someone said, “I felt excited and nervous.” The teacher could ask the class something like, “Do you think you will be as nervous next time?”

    After the papers have been read and discussed, thank the students for working on a skill that can be difficult.