A PMI discussion is a short speaking task in which participants discuss a topic after having taken on one of three viewpoints: P, for Plus; M, for Minus; and I, for Interesting. The discussions are particularly useful for practising the functions of giving opinions, agreeing and disagreeing in classes where there is a lack of difference in opinion, and are also useful for developing fluency skills. It is also an activity which prepares students for the two-way discussion in (part three of) Cambridge oral exams.
- On the board, the class brainstorm a list of problems which society is facing - any current affairs which are controversial enough for discussion e.g. the war on drugs, any recent protests, global warming etc.
- The teacher checks the topics then groups students into threes.
- Each member of a group is assigned (or chooses) a role:
- Plus: this person has nothing bad to say about the topic; they are a true optimist and although they may not support the situation directly, they believe something good will come out of it in the end.
- Minus: this person is the pessimist who sees dread and downfall resulting from the situation and anything connected to it.
- Interesting: this person doesn`t have an opinion as they are interested in exploring both sides of the argument and listening to their partners` opinions.
- The teacher then chooses a topic from the list and instructs students to discuss it for a set time (3-10 minutes depending on ages & dispositions).
- The groups hold discussions, each member playing their role, while the teacher circulates and notes down errors.
- When the time is up, delayed error correction takes place with a focus on errors which are likely to reoccur in the next discussion.
- The next topic is chosen, the roles of PMI switch round and the groups hold a new discussion playing their new roles.