December is a fun month to teach if you know how to use the inevitable energy that the students bring in. While I may long for my fireplace and a good book, my students are eagerly awaiting snow, break, and perhaps even Christmas. To say that our classroom is loud in the afternoon is an understatement. Knowing the energy level of the kids, my smart colleague Reidun, therefore, proposed doing debate during the month of December, and boy was she right. The energy is infectious, the kids are committed, and the engagement is high.
While the students have successfully completed their practice unit, we are now gearing up for the big one; the summative debate where they must find their own articles, research reliability and also try to prep for whatever their opposing team will throw at them. This is why thinking on their feet is so important, as well as being able to listen to what is actually being said and then formulating a response.
Enter debate boxing. Not my idea, nor the idea of my colleague, but definitely an idea that needs to be shared (If you know where it came from please let me know so I can link it!).
The concept is simple:
Pick something for the students to debate. We used this podcast from NPR’s More Perfect because it does not give a black and white answer. We use the podcast to discuss how our perspective changes as we uncover more facts. This took us about two days as the students took notes throughout and we stopped and discussed.
Then, using their notes, have students draft an opening statement. I only gave them ten minutes to do so, because I don’t want them to get hung up on this. They know they need to have an opinion, evidence for it as well as explain why their evidence proves their claim.
Then, split the class into two teams based on their opinion. Have each team select a team member to start off their match.
Either, create a ring in your classroom or have the two students debating stand on a table or a chair. Either way; have where they are stand out. Then with their notes in hand, one team reads their opening statement. Their opponent then gets 45 seconds to give their rebuttals based on what they heard and what they know and off they go. The rebuttals go back and forth at a fast pace.
At any point, the member can “tap out” and have someone else take over or we also said that the team can switch them out.
After a few minutes, the round is over, the team members both switch and the other team reads their opening statement.
You can go for as long as the kids have something valuable to say.
For a twist toward the end, I had the teams switch opinions and argue opposite of what they had. This was amazing as they had gotten rather intense about their opinion and now had to debate for the opposing claim.
Today we debrief, we discuss what they learned from the experience, and also why thinking on your feet and listening is so vital when we discuss. While our classroom may have been loud yesterday and just a tad bit crazy, it was the best kind of crazy there is.