Unpack democracy

What is democracy and how does it work in Australia? Explore questions around the key ideas of our democracy with these discussion-based activities.

Years 5 to 12
1 or more lessons

Discussion strategies

Inspire discussion and debate in your class by using one or more of the strategies below to explore the Democracy discussion starters for all students and the Rights, power, action discussion starters for older students in the toolkit.

Yes or no?

  1. Select some discussion starters to read out to the class. Choose discussion starters that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
  2. Label one side of the room ‘yes’ and the other side ‘no’. Ask students to stand in the centre of the room.
  3. Read out the discussion starters and ask students to respond to each by moving to one side of the room or the other.
  4. After the class have made their decisions ask 2 or 3 students to explain their opinion and give examples to support their view.


  1. Give the students 1–3 minutes to think about the chosen discussion starter.
  2. Organise students into pairs and give them 2–5 minutes to share their ideas and listen to their partner.
  3. Join each pair with another pair to create groups of 4 and give them another 2–5 minutes to discuss.
  4. Ask some students to share their thoughts with the whole class.
  5. You may like to return to the pairs after the whole class discussion to allow students to reflect on how their thinking may have changed.

Opinion continuum

  1. Present a discussion starter to students as a statement of opinion. For example, ‘slow reform is better than fast, reactive change.’
  2. Ask students to stand somewhere on an agree-disagree line that stretches from one side of the room to the other to show much they agree or disagree with the statement.
  3. Ask students to justify why they have chosen to stand where they have.
  4. Allow students to move their position on the continuum as they listen to each other’s answers.

Affinity mapping

  1. Provide students with a discussion starter and ask them to write their responses on post-it notes (one idea per note) and place them in no particular arrangement on a wall or whiteboard.
  2. Once lots of ideas have been generated, have students begin grouping them into similar categories. Label the categories and discuss why the ideas fit within them and how the categories relate to one another.

Speed debating

  1. Organise students into 2 circles, an inner circle and an outer circle. Each student on the inside is paired with a student on the outside, facing each other.
  2. Give the pairs 2–3 minutes to discuss the chosen question.
  3. Ask the students in the outer circle to rotate one place clockwise to a new partner.
  4. After a few rotations, ask the students to reflect on the impact speaking with different people had on their own views.

Socratic circles

  1. Arrange the class into a circle and provide a discussion starter, explaining the goal is to share ideas and build a shared understanding.
  2. Allow the discussion to flow, encouraging students to ask questions and reflect on the ideas of others.
  3. Guide the discussion by drawing students’ attention back to the topic or, where needed, introducing another discussion starter.
  4. If you have a larger class, organise 2 circles—an inner circle and an outer circle. Have the outer circle listen and take notes while the inner circle discusses, then have the students swap places and roles.