Raging Debates

As we near the end of the school year, tempers are hot and everyone is stressed. As students complete final assignments and tests, you may be searching for a constructive classroom activity that doesn’t require a high level of planning. Consider a debate! Tackle a current event or a legal battle and you’re sure to start a conversation. Before you jump in though, consider these tips from some of our T2T contributors.

“My student teacher taught me something about class debates this spring. She did the standard thing, dividing the class into groups and assigning them a side to support for the topic they were debating–but then she introduced a new concept. The student statements had to alternate–pro/con, pro/con–on the issue, and the way you got to talk was to gain possession of a little stuffed dog (like a beanie baby) that the teacher brought with her that day. When you had the dog, you had the floor. The kids were wonderful! They didn’t interrupt each other, they waited until the dog was tossed to them before they spoke, and they had time to develop the points they wanted to make before they signaled to have the dog tossed to them. They had to stand while they spoke, and could talk as long as they held the dog. In the course of a 15-minute debate, every student in the class spoke, even the ones who normally are silent in class discussion. It was a terrific idea–and the kids loved it. The physical movement involved in tossing the dog, the occasional giggles that resulted from a poor or mis-aimed toss–all combined to make this a delightful, substantive debate. I plan to use this technique next year. I’ll be using a duck–but I think it will work equally well.” -Karen

“Maybe you could just split the group and assign them roles to play. (On the topic of “Violence in Films”) One group could be actors, the other a group of concerned parents. One group could be directors, the other teens who want tighter regs; one group could be industry execs, the other a group of movie critics. Or………try any combination of the above. Once the groups have been assigned, you could just propose a resolution that you create. Then, the debate could start from there.” -Wade

“You might have them write out their thoughts from both points of view. In that way they have 1. thought of counter arguments and 2. they are ready when you randomly assign them a side to defend. I’ve done it with my 5th graders and it works out ok.” -firedancer”