Debates: Introduction to Unit
Lesson 1 of 3
Objective: Students will learn about the basics of debate in order to begin the process of preparing to participate in one.
When students enter the classroom, there is a prompt written on the board for them to respond to in a quick write. I give them five minutes to write, and I expect them to write for the entire time given. The prompt provided was:
What does it mean to "play devil's advocate"? When is it helpful to do so? If you are not at all sure what the statement means, and/or have never heard it before, please make an educated guess as to what you think it might mean. (Hint: Start by defining each term and see if you can make an overall connection)
After the timer goes off, I ask them to read their writing aloud to a table mate. I also let the class know that I will be calling on random students to share the key points made by their partner. I typically call on 3-4 students to share, and I am somewhat selective in who I choose. As they were writing, I went around the room, reading over their shoulders. The students who were really on-point are the perspectives I selected to get to the whole-group, so I picked these students' partners to share.
There were roughly 5-10 students in each class who were entirely or mostly unfamiliar with the phrase, based on their own self analysis. Informally evaluating their understanding after the full lesson was complete, I found that nearly all of them felt very confident in their understand of the phrase and its potential applications. For those who still lacked that level of confidence, we continue using the phrase in class as we move forward to reinforce it for them.
I then pass out an example ArgumentCard and walk the students through the process, step-by-step. We talk about perspectives and approaches, and I ask the students leading questions to model the thinking and planning process.
The topic we review is the story of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. We talk about whether or not Goldilocks was wrong in her decisions. I use the questions on the document to guide the discussion. The kids bring a great variety of perspectives to the chat, and really end up getting into playing devil's advocate for their peers' ideas and opinions, which really raises the bar. At times when they struggle to do so, I assist and play devil's advocate for them. I make it very clear to the classes why this skill is so effective and important when creating an argument, spoken and/or written, in nearly any context, because it helps to develop a better understanding of alternate perspectives and opinions. When creating an argument, we must consider and address the various perspectives in order to make it clear why the position we have taken is the accurate, correct, or most effective one. I also share with the students that it is an incredibly helpful process to utilize when making decisions in life as well.
We do not do the actual debate at this time for this card's concept, but we do talk through both sides of the argument and what the process "looks" like when put into action formally in order to help the students begin to develop an overall concept of this process. They will be enacting it soon enough, and I want them to have familiarity with each aspect of the process before taking on one themselves.