Friendly Controversy

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SWBAT state opinions, cite supportive evidence, and persuade others to believe their side of a friendly argument.

Big Idea

How do I convince others to understand my side of the story? Second grade students conducted shared research activities and participated in a Socratic Seminar practicing the techniques of persuasive reasoning.

Introduction to Socratic Seminar

20 minutes

     The culmination of our FINDS research process and Persuasive Writing lessons,  leads to a "friendly debate" called a "Socratic Seminar".  We begin by reviewing what we have learned from each step of this process leading to our debate.  I review my Socratic Seminar flip chart which includes embedded videos of students summarizing the process as they completed them. 

     I ask students review the FINDS research project they have completed.  Two cooperative groups selected to research the rights of Pet Owners who lost their pets and create an argument with supports that defends the claim that lost pets should always be returned to their owners.  The other two cooperative groups used the FINDS research process to research and defend the claim that lost pets should not be returned to their owners, using supports to validate their opinion.  Students had written persuasive essays supported by their research prior to this lesson and shared their findings with their teams. I decided to introduce students to the Word Processing document and assisted them in typing their essays.  We save them onto a jump drive.

    Common Core opinion writing is involves stating an opinion and providing reasons that support it. Students use a multi-step process to write an effective opinion piece, and we use this to then engage in a Socratic Seminar. The first step was a shared research to find sufficient, relevant evidence that supports students' claim.  Then, students wrote arguments to support claims using valid reasoning as well as the supportive evidence gathered from sources during research.  Students no longer rely solely on prior knowledge, but extract supportive evidence from text to write and orally present clear, well-analyzed defenses towards their claims. Now it is time to make our claims in front of an audience in our Socratic Seminar.

Persuasive Techniques

10 minutes

       Using the PERSUASIVE FLIPCHART, students review the persuasive techniques (Ethos, Pathos, Logos, Kairos, Big Names, Research) discussed in our previous unit.  I present student videos of their past presentations using these techniques as a reminder of what was learned.  Then, students discussed how they used examples of each technique to support their claim.   Students are asked to write a script that they can use for the debate, using these persuasive techniques.  We decided to use the typed essays from every team that we saved on our jump drive to create a script.  Since this is their first Socratic Seminar, students felt that it would be easier using a script because the flow of the conversation will require less effort.  The script functions as our scaffold for our very first seminar.  As students progress to more seminars, the scaffold will no longer be necessary and students should be able to conduct Socratic Seminars without requiring a script.  We discuss how each team developed their research into presentation.  Collaborative teaming give ownership of the lesson to students. Students learn to problem solve and gain interpersonal skills in the process that impacts real world applications.

Socratic Seminar

20 minutes

    Each team selects two representatives to participate in a friendly debate regarding whether lost pets should or should not be returned to their owners.  One person sits in an inner circle, while the other member of the team sits at an outer circle and serves as advisors or "wing men".  Two teams argue that lost pets should be returned to their owners, while the other two teams argue not to return lost pets to their owners.  Only members of the inner circle can debate.  The wing men serve as silent partners and advisors when it is time to deliberate.  Common Core speaking and listening skills involve taking turns talking and "linking comments on the remark of others."  This friendly controversy was inspired by the plot in the novel: Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. The protagonist, Marty, has to decide whether he wants to keep a stray dog, Shiloh, or return him to his owner, who he suspects is abusing the dog.

     I decided to keep this activity very structured, since this is students' first debate.  Second graders need more guidance in this process due to their level of maturity.  I selected a moderator to guide the discussion and allow students to write what they want to say so they can refer to their script and notes during the discussion. My students consist of mostly visual learners and having visual cues for the debaters facilitated this process.


20 minutes

    At the end of the debate, team members conduct a self assessment of their team's performance during the friendly debate.  A rubric to measure progression towards the goals serves as the assessment tool (see resources).