Sunday, January 27, 2013


We're finally beginning to thaw out around here- Hallelujah!!  Just in time, too.  I was going all sorts of crazy just sitting in my classroom, with my kiddos, 24/7... Okay, maybe not 24/7, but definitely 9/4 (9 hours a day... 4 days a week).  And my kids were prettty sick of me too.  So to spice it up around our classroom, we held a debate! 
To start off telling you about our debate, I need to share what I've learned about debates.  And not just what, but whoooo I've learned about them from... Lucy.  Yup, the fabulous Ms. Lucy Calkins.  A few months ago some teacher friends and I went to a Lucy Calkins conference in Denver.  That.  Was. FUN!  And not just "teacher" fun (well, maybe a lot of "teacher" fun).  But we had a great time.  We even got to the conference early and scoped out seats in the front row.  And in the middle.  {Nerd alert, nerd alert}  It was amazing.  But basically Lucy said we need to vamp up our teaching.  (YIKES)  She gave us help with how to do that and one of the things I walked away feeling like "Oh, I could totally try that in my classroom" was holding a debate.  She told us that we should constantly be debating in content areas and read alouds; collecting evidence for both positions, using professional language- "I take the position that...", and taking notes while others are speaking in order to remember how to fight the opposition.  If you haven't been to a Lucy conference- GO!  It was mega empowering. 

So we started out small this week, with hopes that we can build up to smaller debates, over things we're learning or things we're reading.  I had great intentions of printing out articles for our learners to read in their library time, but the printer wasn't working {story of my life} and so I didn't have anything for them to read. 
All lined up
Before library, I told the class we would be holding a debate over whether we should have 1 hour of P.E. a week, or 2 hours of P.E. a week.  I gave half the class 1 hour of P.E. and the other half 2 hours of P.E. and told them to make the most of their library time by thinking about their side, looking through books that may help them, and looking online on the library computers.  I'm pretty sure nobody did any of those suggested items, except for some who talked it over with their peers.  But when we got back to the classroom, we separated into our two sides and lined up their seats into two rows.  The student in the first seat got to share their position and then everyone moved down.  Each speaker got 30 seconds to share their viewpoint.  Every 5 people, we would caucus, regroup, and continue.  This way students would have the chance to hear the thinking of others in their group. 
 As they debated, it got pretty heated!  Students would learn from those who went before them, sometimes walking up and down the row as they talked (WOAH!) or using professional language (that I had charted up on the wall).  They sounded like little lawyers. :)  It definitely got better as they went.
Pushing themselves to say MORE!
All in all, this is definitely something I plan to incorporate into my classroom on a weekly, if not daily, basis!  I hope that by doing this, learners will get comfortable using evidence to support their claims, not only in their speech but in their writing and thinking.  It's such an important life skill and one I hope they can take with them when they leave our room.

Happy Sunday!  Let me know if anyone is also a fan of holding debates or tries this in their own classroom!

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