Are you a discussion ‘Log or Hog’?

I love planning my summer term lessons because it is the time to re-connect with your subject and take your students down a journey of interesting tangents and topical themes, that the new spec AS content just does not give time for. So my plan for today’s lesson was a selection of engaging discussion questions with a hard hitting documentary. I wanted my students to discuss their views on the topical issues surrounding evil such as – are people born evil? Does upbringing determine behaviour?  This would then be linked to the James Bulger case and relevant links made to new spec materials of Behaviourism, Freud and Problem of Evil.

However things didn’t quite go to plan. The reality was a 9.00 o’ clock lesson, on a miserable dark morning, with a significant amount of students missing due to trips = discussion flop. But not one to give up and always having a bag of goodies that I can rely on in these cases…I ventured into the unknown territory of the string discussion.

Very simple but very effective. My aims for the activity: I wanted students to all participate (so no Logs), listen carefully without interrupting each other, not dominate the discussion and be inclusive to all (no Hogs) and finally discuss the questions I had set.

Setting up:

  • Split your class into groups of about 4-7
  • Write the questions you wish them to discuss on the board
  • Give each group a ball of string

How does it work:

  • The first person in the group to speak has the ball of string
  • They then pass the ball of string, unravelling as they go, to the next person who wants to speak
  • Only the person with the ball of string can speak.

Now this might sound a bit of a cheesy activity – passing round a ball of string but it gives students a really powerful way to visualize the discussion and motivates them not only to contribute but really engage in the discussion.

Stretch and Challenge:

  • If you have a student who is very opinionated or very quiet they can be the scribe. They write down all the different arguments presented and then they can draw the final conclusion.


This idea was shared with us on a training day with Leah Kirkman based on her book: Talk Less Teaching.


For more discussion ideas and activities check out Welcome to the Boardroom: Discussion Activities or tips for facilitating a classroom discussion see How to facilitate a successful classroom discussion?

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