Starter activities for exploring controversial issues in Citizenship

Ideas and approaches for making use of material contained in the Tide~ publication Building new citizenship

Using the photographs

Photographs offer a flexible and versatile stimulus to support discussion about a range of citizenship issues. Students of all ages and abilities are able to contribute their views and personal experiences making this material an excellent resource for ensuring inclusive and relevant teaching and learning.

Selection activities

Students are asked to choose an image and justify their choice to others in a group. Criteria for this choice might include: an image that surprises them; raises an important citizenship issue; makes them want to ask a question etc


Students are asked to write a caption for an image given a context for image use. For example an image is to be used in a local newspaper, city marketing material or a political web site etc.


Supporting students to question source material is a vital skill for citizenship. See page 15 of Building new citizenship for an example of a frame to question the mural photographs. More information about the development compass rose here.

Using the City Vision cards

These postcards offer a visual resource to think about the process of building citizenship and participation in any community. Each image relates to a key vision or challenge for citizenship in the future, identified by people in Derry.


What ideas do students have about the ‘citizenship vision’ in a chosen image? How do their ideas compare to those of others?


Students are given a set of vision statements [see page 21 of the Building new citizenship pack] and they are asked to match a statement with an image. The aim of the exercise is to support discussion about these visions and how apt students feel they would be for their own town or city.

Creating our own visions

What visions would students have for their locality? How would they represent these visually?  Addressing the citizenship curriculum at key stage 3

Sample activities

Marching activity [pg 24, background information pg 9]

This activity enables students to explore the controversial issue of marching in Derry. As an issue it touches on themes of human rights, democracy, inclusion etc. The focus for the activity is to enable students to consider perspectives from a range of different community groups and to explore the role of the media in covering such an issue.

Citizenship curriculum KS3

• 1b the diversity of national, regional, religious and ethnic identities in the United Kingdom and the need for mutual respect and understanding

• 1g the importance of resolving conflict fairly

• 1h the significance of the media in society

Who should be Mayor of Derry? [Pg 34]

This activity enables students to explore an example of a local democratic structure. They are given some background information about the make up of the local Council including the representation of different parties and have to consider a variety of options about how to choose a mayor bearing in mind principles of fairness, inclusion and practicality.

Citizenship curriculum KS3

• 1c central and local government, the public services they offer and how they are financed and opportunities to contribute

• 1d the key characteristics of parliamentary and other forms of government

• 1g the importance of resolving conflict fairly

Exploring participation in the community [Pg 42]

This activity enables students to explore some case study material of community projects run by local voluntary organisations. The activity aims to draw out potential barriers to community participation and to explore ways that voluntary organisations. can contribute to addressing these barriers and building citizenship.

Citizenship curriculum KS3

• 1b the diversity of national, regional, religious and ethnic identities in the United Kingdom and the need for mutual respect and understanding

• 1f the work of community-based, national and international voluntary groups

“Topical and controversial issues are part of life. Students are aware of and want to talk about and understand such issues. To shelter students from them is to leave them ignorant about some of the major issues of the day and unprepared to deal with them.”  ~ Making sense of citizenship, Ted Huddleston and David Kerr