Page Content Category: 

There are many ways of promoting discussion with children: in pairs, in small groups or with the whole class. It can be used as an introductory activity where the children identify all the activities associated with a particular topic. A discussion can also be a principal activity in a lesson where children are encouraged to explore a topic or theme in some detail by presenting their own viewpoints and listening and responding to the opinions and views of others. The conclusion of an activity can equally take the form of a discussion, where ideas and suggestions that emerged from a class activity can be teased out and clarified.


Discussion is an element of almost all activities, but particularly useful strategies for promoting discussion and dialogue with children are:


  • Open-ended statement
  • Brainstorming
  • Circle work
  • Agree or disagree
  • Creating pictures and posters
  • Debates, quizzes or soapbox
  • Interviews
  • Stories
  • Poems
  • Exploring a piece of music


The approaches and methodologies for SPHE, outlined in the SPHE teacher guidelines on pp 54-99 are an excellent reference for teachers to support them in the implementation of active learning methodologies in SPHE lessons

The following exemplars illustrate how various aspects of the SPHE content can be explored using a variety of discussion strategies

Open – ended statements/ questions: outlined on p80 for fifth and sixth classes based on the topic of smoking, illustrating that they are a useful means of allowing children to gather their own thoughts and for the teacher to ascertain what viewpoints or opinions the children already hold.

Brainstorming: outlined on p81 for third to sixth classes, illustrated as a good starting point for a discussion

Agree or disagree: outlined on p82 for third to sixth classes, a very useful technique for encouraging children to express their own opinions by asking a child to take a stance on an issue and to defend or explain their position.

Circle Work: outlined on p83 for first and second classes. Sitting in a circle formation encourages good communication and reflects the principles of sharing, equality and inclusiveness and a sense of caring for each other. Each child is given an opportunity to contribute to the discussion and is encouraged to listen to the viewpoints of others. Circle work can be used in all the strands of the SPHE programme and is appropriate at all class levels

Creating a collage: outlined on p84 for infants to second class. Collages or posters can be used to represent ideas and concepts. They develop creative expression and help children to appreciate the different ways in which messages can be communicated.

Exploring a poem: outlined on p85 for third to sixth classes. Using poetry with children enables them to explore what is not known and can deepen what is known.


Please find attached further resources to support you in using discussion activities:


Agree/ disagree signs: Signs which may be used in the hall or classroom for the agree/ disagree/ don’t know technique

Co-operative games for circle work: Co-operative games that are useful for circle work

Sentence completion themes: sentence starters on a variety of topics that may stimulate discussion or be used as part of a circle work lesson

Healthy foods loop game: A loop game describing various different food types which can be used as a stimulus for discussion on the topic

Feelings loop game: A loop game introducing a wide vocabulary on the topic of feelings

Video footage of exploring a poem: Video footage of ‘Exploring a poem’ outlined on p85 of the teacher guidelines with a fourth class group of children