Line of Continuum

Physical Barometer, Take A Stand, Student Barometer

UDL 4.1

A Line of Continuum is a discussion strategy where students demonstrate a wide range of opinions about a topic by physically distributing themselves in correspondence with their opinion (e.g., creating a line or a U-shape). First, the teacher designates two areas in the room that represent opposing responses (e.g., strongly agree/disagree, overjoyed/heartbroken, two characters from a novel) and degrees of intensity between them (e.g. agree/neutral/disagree, happy/neutral/sad). After deliberating, students can choose to stand on the far end of either side of the continuum based on the intensity of their opinion or can remain in the middle if they are unsure or neutral. While lined up, students discuss the topic with a partner or the entire class and are encouraged to defend their stance by using evidence. The physical movement required in this strategy gives students an opportunity to share silently and the continuum aspect provides opportunities for students to see opinions are complex and diverse rather than right and wrong.

Implementation Tips

Creating a Student Barometer Contract
Create a contract before introducing the strategy to set expectations. The contract should list guidelines about respecting the opinion and voices of others, outlining how students can be honest without offending peers (e.g., require students to use “I-statements” rather than accusatory “You-statements” while sharing opinions or defending their stances”).
Identify a space in the classroom where students can physically form a line or U-shape (e.g., standing or sitting) along a continuum. Print or pre-make statement signs that will be posted at opposite ends, such as [[ | “Agree” ]] or [[ | “Disagree,” ]] or opposing character names to help define the spectrum of opinions.
Introducing a Student Barometer
Introduce the strategy using student volunteers to model where the class will be expected to line up, and specifically define the opinion/strength of opinion at each end of the continuum. Encourage students to keep an open-mind throughout the activity and allow students to move if their thinking is persuaded.
Providing Processing Time
Provide students with time to process topics presented for a Student Barometer by first giving students a few minutes to record a response in a reading/writing journal or on sticky notes before having students share their reflections.
Supporting Student Preferences
Support students in forming and changing opinions during the activity by having 3-4 students to share their viewpoints using evidence to defend their stance (e.g., alternate from one end, to the middle, to the other end instead of allowing one stance to dominate). Ask students, “Does anyone wish to move based on the evidence we’ve heard?”
Alternate the method for conducting a Student Barometer if classroom space is limited (e.g., students post opinions using sticky notes on a continuous line on a whiteboard instead of physically using their bodies to line up). Be sure to indicate what each end of the continuum represents.
Building a Routine
Use a Student Barometer to gauge student comprehension (e.g., literature discussions, analyzing math problems), support ideas for pre-writing, or as a forum to recognize student thoughts while make class-wide decisions (e.g., allowing students to share opinions in a civilized manner).
Adding a Reflection Activity
Add some time for the class to reflect if their original opinion changed or was reinforced and why after using the strategy. Students can reflect in writing, such as in a journal, or through an open discussion.


Literature Discussion
After reading [[ | The Tale of Despereaux ]], a teacher asks, “Did Roscuro or Miggery face worse hardships?” and posts each characters’ name on opposite ends of the classroom. First, students jot down ideas. After, students demonstrate who they support by lining up (e.g., if a student is unsure which character faced more challenges, they stand in the middle of the classroom). Next, several students share their perspectives (e.g., “Miggery’s parents traded her for a tablecloth, hen, and some cigarettes!” / “Roscuro was born in a dungeon and never experienced happiness!”). After the group continues deliberating, students independently write essays to support their opinion using evidence from the discussion.
Analyzing Math Solutions
Using a proposed solution to story problem, a teacher asks students if they agree or disagree with how the problem was solved. After allowing students a few minutes to process the question and solution, students line up on a continuum to represent their opinions of whether they agree or disagree. Next, students share opinions with evidence to support their stance (e.g., “I’m in the middle because there is more than one way to solve this.”). The class continues debriefing, and then discusses how the activity was enlightening (e.g., “I realized that this is the most effective way to solve this problem because…”).
Forming Class Decisions
While deciding how a class engages in free-play, a teacher uses a Student Barometer to allow students to share perspectives (e.g., “Would you rather have extended free-play Fridays or would you prefer to spread those minutes across the week to have some free-play each day.”). Students write stances on sticky notes and stick them along a continuum on the whiteboard, demonstrating the choice they favor. The teacher selects notes to highlight (e.g., “I vote for extended Fridays so we can play a full Chess game.”). The class uses the activity as a forum to voice ideas, and then the class takes a majority rules vote.

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