Continuum lines are a simple but effective technique for providing a sophisticated breakdown of a complex question. For example, when considering the question “Did Napoleon betray the spirit of the French Revolution?“, for example, we debate each key policy area using a Beat the Teacher format, and then conclude by organising the policies along a continuum line containing a number of gradated possibilities to end up with something like this:

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 16.11.26

The completed diagram can then be used as the basis of an essay plan, with each of the policies being dealt with from left to right (most revolutionary > least revolutionary).

The technique can also be used with much younger students. When considering the question “Was Henry VIII a hero or a villain?“, they could on the most simple level organise themselves along a continuum line where “Yes” represents one end and “No” the other, using a Wheel of Life template to help them:

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 18.56.59


Taking it further

In the Napoleon example given here, I provided the students with the key terms by which he could be measured (revolutionary, reformer, consolidator, underminer, betrayer). In this way the opening paragraph topic sentences of their essays were focused and meaningful. However, it is even better to get the students themselves to come up with these words. For example, what three key words could we use in-between “hero” and “villain” for the assessment of Henry VIII shown above?