Last minute instructions were given to the class as they fidgeted with their notes. Remember to listen to the speaker without interrupting. A student was so excited she couldn’t sit still and knocked her pencil box to the floor with a crash! Several students helped her pick up all of the contents. Clearly state your claim, your reason, and evidence when presenting your argument. Whispers such as “I don’t think I have enough evidence,” and “I think one of my reasons is lame” started to circle around the room like an undercurrent. If you are having a difficult time of creating a counter argument or rebuttal, you may confer with your team to get ideas. A student tripped on the way to the drinking fountain, his arms going like a windmill until he regained his balance. Any questions? You have worked hard. You are prepared. Good luck!
The fifth graders took their positions in five groups to debate five different issues. The affirmative side started, beginning with their strongest reason. At first, the speakers were soft-spoken, a bit unsure of themselves, as they carefully started sharing their opinions. Counter arguments slowly followed and then rebuttals took the floor. As the students continued through each round, they started to gain confidence. Their voices grew stronger, there was less fidgeting, and the conversations gained momentum. A few students needed gentle reminders that raising your voice does not make your argument stronger (they must have gotten that from current-day politics!) The room was charged with electricity as students increased their engagement and argued their side of the issue with all their might.
When it was all over, the class reflected on what went well and what they would do differently next time. They all agreed that they would research more…more deeply and with more breadth. Many said that they would be more organized with their notetaking. Then the students began to ask questions. “Can we do this again?” “Can we pick our own issues this time?” “Can we pick which side of the issue we want?” Admittedly, I felt like this was an indication of a successful learning experience. I do think we should repeat the debating activity, but next time I will invite a few politicians in to have my students demonstrate the right way to hold a conversation around an issue.