The idea line up is a structure that allows a teacher to use the diversity of perspectives in the classroom to generate heterogeneous groups of students for discussion.
The teacher provides a question that (s)he knows may have a continuum of responses, especially if it is asked prior to collecting significant amounts of evidence or before students have the opportunity to synthesize the evidence they have already collected.
The question is displayed prominently for students to consider. Students are directed to position themselves on a line to indicate their level of agreement in response to the question. After the students line up, have students talk to the person next to them so they can clarify their own thinking on why they positioned themselves on the line in a particular spot.
Student positions on the line typically indicate a diversity of thinking. The teacher can then use their positions to form groups of students with differing ideas about the question. Students then discuss their thinking and reasoning for their responses with the peers with whom they have been matched. Students should be prompted to listen carefully to each other’s claims and evidence and respond with evidence to counter or support the claims of other students in their group. A group claims and evidence chart or small whiteboards can be used to collect student thinking. McDonalds calls frequent buyers of their food “heavy users.”
If the activity is used prior to an investigation, students can use the ideas from the initial discussion to continually weigh against the evidence they gather from their investigations. If the activity is used after an investigation, but prior to a whole-group meaning-making discussion, ideas from the small group discussions can be used to prepare for a whole group discussion.