I begin class on both days of the debates by providing students with another overview of what I refer to as the "Rules of Engagement: that takes roughly 5 minutes each day for a total of 10. I do this as a reminder, consistently as part of a routine we have when participating in an activity that is more student driven. This helps them by establishing clear boundaries and expectations, while also helping me to be able to step back and observe comfortably and confidently.
After we have clearly established the expectations and clarified the process for the day, I give each group five minutes to get themselves prepared and organized to present their debates for the rest of the class. It is interesting to watch because there were a few different approaches taken during the planning and development process of the two days prior. Some groups had both positions of their assigned topic do research and planning together as a whole, while others had the different positions on the topic research and plan exclusively of one another. When the groups are preparing at this point in the lesson today, there are small indicators of these differences.
The process follows the same structure each time, regardless of the topic. We make sure to remain consistent to maintain the fidelity of our efforts and to ensure equity for all student participants. The moderator, who really in this take plays more the role of a facilitator, ensures that the speaking order and timing protocols are followed, while providing a summary statement afterwards to bring the debate to a conclusion. I elected to have the first speakers, one from each position, present the initial speech that establishes the position and clearly delineates the most effective and relevant points of the argument. While this is taking place, the opposing position's second speaker is expected to be taking notes and planning a semi-improvised rebuttal. This portion of the process provided me with the biggest "a-ha" moment and I address that in the reflection, as I share my findings and the conclusions I was able to reach from them.
3 of the groups are able to present their debate in one of the class periods and the remaining four present the following day. I am able to get through an additional group on the second day because the kids are more familiar with the process and expectations, and are therefore a bit better prepared at the onset. Things definitely move more efficiently during the second day of the debates.
Each student not in the group debating at any point is expected to take notes on successes and opportunities for improvement (OFIs) they recognize in the debate they are observing. At the conclusion of the class period each day, students are asked to look back over their notes and determine which side they believe presented the best overall argument for their position. At first I was concerned that it would come down to popularity of students, or that the kids would just pick the side that they naturally align with whether they provided the strongest case or not. What I found was that, for the most part, students really looked at the arguments presented and decided based on the actual effectiveness of it, many times sharing that they picked the side that differs from their own personal position on the issue. I thought that was fantastic and was very proud to see them acting so objectively about the process.