Debates - the ultimate in interpersonal interaction

Debates - the ultimate in interpersonal interaction

November 26, 2022

You guys. 

YOU GUYS.  So, the principal walked in the other day and was FLOORED by our second year students having a debate.  Like, a REAL one.  Honestly, it wasn't until I saw her reaction that I truly realized how amazing these kids are, but also how amazing their language is when they are in a communicative classroom where input is king and nitpicking is not.

But back to the debate.  No matter the theme, as long as your students have had enough input, they can have a debate.  That is critical, so I'll say it again.  As long as your students have HAD ENOUGH INPUT, they can have a debate. Through our units, we set them up for that interpersonal interaction with lots of great input.  We start small, using strips of paper with opposing viewpoints written on them, where they will categorize the statement as being for or against. We can reinforce that with fun games like Quizizz, reinforcing that input.  We then move to asking students to answer a question in a virtual discussion (discussion boards, blogs, Google Classroom questions, etc), all in preparation for the Big One.

On debate days, we progress in "team size" through the levels and progress through the process:

In Novice mid levels, our debate would be based on choosing a side and selecting points that support it, or creating a list that supports your side. They can then share that in small groups (think four students) in what looks more like an interpersonal activity than a debate. Another option is that discussion board that we described above with TONS of sentences starters and tips for elaboration.

The details: Our Novice high students debate in groups of three or four students against three or four students on topics that are highly supported with their input.  We usually loosen the reigns a bit as our students move through the proficiency levels. So, in our later courses, they will have groups of 6-8 debating against each other and in AP, the whole class. No matter the level, we prep them early in the year with a fun debates.  Here are some great ones to get started:

  • Chocolate or Vanilla Ice Cream
  • In 'n' Out or Chick Fila' <-- clearly in Southern California, but this one got heated!
  • Should we plan a trip to Spain, Peru or Costa Rica (three groups on that one)
  • Which is better: Tacos or Pizza?

When we use debates to assess, it makes evaluating SO. EASY.  

That means NO WORK TO TAKE HOME. You just sit there, assess output and smile.  Of course there may be the occasional "according to the rubric, you'll need to maintain the conversation, so be careful of just spouting information".  

Some extra tips:

  • Give students conversational gambits and connectors to agree and disagree appropriately.
  • Stress the importance of listening before answering.
  • Provide a few minutes for groups to plan before debating.
  • Encourage students to brainstorm what the other side will say, so they can argue against it.


Virtual Learning UPDATE:

This has been my saving grace in virtual teaching.  I find that I have to run the show more than ever in video chats, since it's not as easy to brainstorm or do a quick Think-Pair-Share in the distance learning environment.  With a debate, it's super easy to assign a thematic topic to your students in small groups.  They don't even have to work together to investigate it!  Then, the day of their debate, the groups will argue for their side of their argument!

This way, your students are in control of the communication in your video chat.  

Need some ideas?  Check out our units that we have available.  Each one has multiple debates included.

Not ready to make a purchase?  No big deal!  Look at your theme and decide...what can my students argue about in this topic?  

Now the real important question...Do we go to Ecuador next or Puerto Rico??? 


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