Friday, February 19, 2016

The Great Debate

As we came to the close of our argumentative writing unit, 5th graders were provided with the opportunity to engage in the material further than ever before. Throughout this unit, the students worked on a piece where they had to make a claim for or against the following statement: “Should schools allow chocolate milk to be served in lunch rooms?”. With this prompt in mind, students had to seek out reliable evidence that supported their claim. As the enthusiasm surrounding this topic grew, we decided to expose the students to a new way to express their ideas and host an actual debate.

The engagement throughout this activity was mind-boggling. As teachers, we had no idea just how excited the students would be. The students were grouped based upon their claim; either pro chocolate milk in schools or con chocolate milk in schools. Within their groups, we created sub groups. The use of talking chips allowed for each student’s voice to be heard. Once each team had three valid reasons, the debate began.

We were stunned at how many students took interest in having their voice be heard by their classmates. Their passion for the topic was obvious as we went back and forth between arguments and rebuttals. This activity allowed for students to really ponder the validity of their arguments. We saw many minds racing throughout the debate. Additionally we were pleased to see how many students were able to implement appropriate speaking skills when rebutting the arguments of the opposing team.

Despite ending in a tie, after this activity we saw a dramatic difference in the quality of the arguments referenced in the students’ writing. Each student came back with something to add, adjust, or completely change as a result.

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