Distinguishing between facts and opinions creates autonomous thinkers. When you can’t tell the difference, you can be more easily manipulated into reacting and doing what other people want you to for their own gain. The media is not going to pull back any time soon. Unless people are willing to go completely off-grid and avoid contact with other people, they’re likely to have to continually withstand a daily flood of information from the news, advertising, social media posts, and propaganda.
Now, imagine having to wade through all that in a foreign language! Our students need tools for discerning between fact and opinion and practice using those tools. Below, I will share with you three easy fact and opinion activities you can use with your adult ESL students.
What do they already know about facts and opinions?
Building background is a great place to start if you haven’t started your lesson on facts and opinions yet. Find out what they already know about facts and opinions so that you know how much work you have ahead of you. If you’ve already covered it, consider doing a quick review just to verify that everyone is on the same page about what facts and opinions are. Now, let’s get started with three activities you can use when teaching adult ESL students facts and opinions.
Activity #1: Is that a fact? Interviews.
If you’ve got a group of students who love to dive right into an activity, skip ahead to the partner version. If your students like to have a bit more support before venturing out on their own, get ready to offer yourself up as the sacrifice! Don’t worry; it won’t hurt. (probably not anyway)
- Draw a T-chart on the board for students to copy onto their own paper. (Or grab that freebie at the end of this article!)
- Have them ask you questions about yourself to elicit facts, filling in the fact column line by line.
- Once they have the fact column filled, they start on the opinions. Relax, your role is a bit more passive now. For each fact, they must give a corresponding opinion. For example, if they got you to admit to your true hair color, they can now say something like, “I think my teacher would look good with brown hair.” Or they could get a little snarky and say, “I think brown hair would look like a wig on my teacher.” The snarky ones are the most fun, aren’t they?
- Pair up students and have each interview the other to gather 5-20 facts about each other. You can encourage them to share facts for certain themes such as childhood, personal information (name, age, eye color, address), hobbies, things they are great at, etc. Or, you can leave that up to them.
- Once they have collected their assigned number of facts, they should enter them line by line in a T-chart under the column FACTS.
- Next, in the opposite OPINIONS column, they write an opinion based on each corresponding fact. For example, if a student gives his age for a fact, his partner could write, “I think he looks young for his age.” Or, “He appears older than 43.”
- Finally, have them share their opinions with each other.
- OPTIONAL: Combine partners into groups of four and have them take turns sharing facts and opinions about their partner.
- OPTIONAL: Consider transforming this into conversational visits with another class.
Activity #2: Just the facts, ma’am.
I love combining a review of one skill with the practice of another. Note-taking is a versatile one that can be added to so many activities on a variety of topics, themes, concepts, and for various purposes.
This one takes some preparation, but you’ve completed it, you can use it again and again and likely find other ways to repurpose it.
- Create a short PowerPoint (KeyNote, GoogleSlides, etc.) about yourself. Be sure to include lots of photographs. The images you choose to share will make the activity more engaging and fun as well as allow your students to get to know you better. If you don’t include any text, students will have to pay closer attention to what you say to get the facts.
- Have students draw a T-chart in their notebooks (or grab that freebie at the end of this article).
- As you show them the presentation on yourself, they fill in their charts with facts they’ve just learned about you in the left column.
- Once the presentation is over, they write an opinion about each fact on the corresponding lines.
Activity #3: Spiral in facts and opinions.
Just as note-taking is a skill for which practice is easily woven into so many activities, identifying facts and opinions can be reviewed again and again without it being a beating a dead horse situation.
Take a look at the topics and themes from your curriculum. Have you already got all your building background activities planned? Why not make facts and opinions spiral in and out throughout your course? That theme about occupations? Introduce it by having them list some facts and opinions about specified occupations. Is a unit on holidays coming up? What facts can they give about holidays from their culture, and what are their opinions on how holidays are celebrated here?
Another way to spiral it in is to give them a handout of statements related to the topic or theme and have them label the statements as fact or opinion. This keeps their fact/opinion identification skills strong while getting them to think more about the topic/theme. Sharing known facts and personal opinions usually also paves the way for more class discussions. And of course, if you’re more into group work, ditch the handout in favor of a card sorting activity.
Grab the facts and opinions freebie!
Want something you can use right now with your students? Click the image below to sign up and get some free T-chart hand-outs to share with your students.