Continuum Activity

There are many ways of running continuum activities but in essence they involve learners sorting information according to a specified criterion.  For example, you might give learners different cards with statements such as "Owning a computer"; "Having lots of friends"; "Having lots of money"; "Being loved"; "Knowing a lot"; "Having a degree"; "Driving a big car"; "Wearing the latest trainers" etc.  The criterion is this case might be "What are the most important factors that contribute to a good quality of life?"

Learners then need to sort themselves according to this criterion, and hence justify their position on the continuum.  This generates a lot of discussion and - depending on the context - this can get quite heated!

As with so many of these discussion activities, the real value lies in how you as a teacher unpick the thinking that learners have engaged in.  If you eavesdrop on some particularly juicy debates along the line, draw this out in the plenary by inviting the learners to justify their positions.

For a "closed" version (i.e. with one right answer), you might use a time-line or fixed sequence as in the maths example pictured.


  1. Lisa13:30

    Continuum Activity Year 10 Drama
    Time taken to prepare (3 minutes)

    Class was beginning their GCSE Drama examination. The theme for the exam is Protest. I put the following on the IWB:

    What would you protest about?
    What makes a cause valid enough to protest about it?
    How strongly do you have to feel?
    What lengths would you go to to protest?
    Write your response to this on a piece of paper.
    Have a conversation with the person next to you and decide who has the most worthy reason to protest.
    This person then moves up the ladder.

    The strategy was intended to be used as a starter, as a tool for enabling the class to consider why we protest. The discussion that arose was so good and detailed, that I extended it. At the end of the time, the class feedback their protest idea to the rest of the class and even more discussion ensued.

    What was really interesting was that every girl felt very strongly about her chosen topic and was prepared to ‘fight’ to have hers be the most important.

    Tip: It is really simple to do and keep it simple for the pupils.

  2. Jane13:32

    Year 5
    Sorting statements about what happened to the Aborigines in Australia based on The Rabbits- Shaun Tan.

    4 min prep.

    Used in CC lesson. Class knew book really well and had discussed issues and historical background. This was used as a warm up starter activity to main lesson. Children went on to start writing their own version of The Rabbits.

    Excellent way to encourage debate and justification of ideas and also to remind them of what events they needed to write about in their stories.

  3. Alicia13:34

    Year 1 Continuum Activity
    Time taken to prepare (in minutes) – 15 mins

    Children read the book 'Terrible Tiger' during a guided reading session with the teacher. The story was about a girl who walked through the jungle meeting animals until she saw one that made her run away. Children retold the story and answered questions: Why did the girl run away when she saw the tiger? Why didn't she run away when she saw the other animals? What other animals might you see in the jungle? What would be the best animal to see? Why? What would be the worst animal to see? Why?Children were given 5 pictures (snake, toucan, monkey, elephant, lion) and a grid with 5 squares from best to worst and lines to write on below. Children recorded their answers from best to worst in the 5 grids. Children then wrote sentences below to explain their choices.

    This tool was used to as a follow up to a guided reading session. Children discussed questions related to the task with a teacher as a small group. Children individually completed the task unaided. Children enjoyed the activity and could all give valid reasons about their best and worst choices, 1 child could explain their middle choice

    The Continuum activity was first introduced to the children through a whole class activity. In the beginning this was used as a speaking and listening activity and children only explained their reasons orally. When I first asked children to write down their reasons they were only focussing on the best and worst, forgetting the 'in between'. By giving children a page with blank squares to enter their choices children can now show all their choices and are beginning to give reasons for their middle choices too.

  4. Babs13:36

    Tool used: Continuum
    Time taken to prepare (in minutes) 30 minutes
    Class: Yr 10

    I had read a specific story with the students the day before and I wanted to make them recall the plot and, to a certain extent, test how much they understood it. My intention was to give each student a card with a part of the story/a quotation on it. The students were then to stand in a line, finding their correct place according to their card. However, there were so many students absent/away on a visit, that I had far too many cards. I therefore got each student to place her card on the table in the order in which it appeared in the story.

    I used it as a starter. The students worked independently.

    Tip: If you wish to use it like this, then you need to make sure you have a matching number of students and cards. I had a lot of students out on a visit and I ended up having too many cards.

  5. Sophie13:37

    Class: Reception
    Lesson took 15 minutes to prepare

    The aim of this activity was to get the children to look at themselves, the past and the future. They looked at a range of people from different ages in our lives. They all got different pictures of different ages and stood in a line and arranged themselves according to the youngest to oldest person. We then discussed who and why the chose that particular order.

    This activity was used as an introduction to a maths lesson. We spent 15 minutes on the carpet as a whole group and then went back and repeated the activity in smaller groups to record their individual understandings.

    This was a fun easy and quick activity to organise and carry out.

  6. Will13:39

    ICT Year 7 – Continuum Activity
    Time taken to prepare (in minutes) – 10 mins

    This tool was used to help pupils think about the process of collecting data, and in what order things have to be done. I choose pupils who like to be centre of attention and got them to stand up clearly displaying their cards to the rest of the class. The cards were (in order) 1 Think up hypothesis; 2 Create Questionnaire; 3 Collect questionnaire results; 4 Check for rogue data; 5 Put data into database; 6 Create graph; 7 test hypothesis; 8 Make conclusions.

    I used this activity three times as a starter. It worked better than the ‘odd one out’ game in terms of pupil attention and enjoyment. I think this was because EVERY pupil with a card was actively involved in the process.

    Tip: Choose the disruptive pupils to stand up with the cards as this gives them their attention and they seemed to enjoy it.

  7. George13:41

    Year 9 Science

    Used this tool as a starter and plenary

    It was based on 2 questions at either end of the spectrum
    Human life is more important than animal life
    Animal life is more important than human life

    Girls lined up along the line and presented evidence then lined up again at the end of the lesson.

    Using string and clothes pegs would create more space rather than 30 girls lining up.


(Please post when you have tried this particular tool - thanks!)
How did you adapt this tool for your classroom?
What was the response from your learners?
What advice would you give other teachers about this tool?