Whenever possible, I begin my lessons with silent, independent reading. During this time, I actively monitor their reading progress by checking their out-of-class reading logs and engaging in reading conferences that cover a variety of topics.
To find ways to enact this section, please see my strategy folder.
I remind kids of the topic at hand, "Can a Video Game Lead to Murder?" We finish reading this article as a class, with me reading aloud, and actively engaged in the reading process with hard copies in front of them. We continue reading the article in the same fashion as the previous day's lesson, slow and steady, pausing for discussion using probing questions. Another way to spark discussion would be to pause after a paragraph, and ask students to turn and talk with one another about the subject at hand.
What surprised you about this section?
Did anything seem unusual or confusing?
Once I finish reading the entire article aloud, and have multiple, in depth discussions, we are ready to move on to the formal debate.
Depending on the group of kids, I may spend more or less time talking about respectful debate practices. For starters, I have my room set up with debate corners.
Each corner holds a sign: agree, disagree, strongly agree, strongly disagree. These signs have been up since the start of the year, so kids are used to seeing them and curiosity has been building.
When we state a claim as a class, students will have to decide where they stand in relation to that claim. Once they get to their corners, I'll explain they'll have time to discuss with their group.
I think its important to relay to kids that they're more than welcome to disagree with one another, but they have to be mindful in the way they are doing this. I want them to care and believe in what they are saying, but they can't get so carried away that they're then yelling at eachother in an impassioned way.
I tell students upfront the format of their debate. They will have three different students presenting three different points. I usually say the side that disagrees with the original claim, whatever that might be, would go first.They will have about fifteen or twenty minutes to plan with their group a few arguments they would like to present, using evidence from the text. Then the presenter will come to the center of the classroom to face the other presenter. The first presenter will state their claim with evidence to a silent classroom. Then the other side will present.
I let the kids meet in their groups and figure out their strongest evidence and I allow them to choose who they would like to present. Sometimes this works really well and kids are cohesive and cooperative. Sometimes it doesn't pan out as well and I have to implement more strategies to break up larger groups, or have a "talking stick." See reflection.
I thin more than anything, it is important for me to allow kids to choose their side of the debate. I've seen teachers assign a side, and I think this is a find exercise, but maybe more developmentally appropriate for older kids. My sixth graders are really just learning how to debate, respectfully, and when they believe in what they are saying, I've seen better results.
Sometimes, the kids get really silly in their small groups, due to excitement. I think this is okay, as long as the reel it in for the actual debate. Here is a video of some excited kids.
As students debate, I take notes on their arguments and type them on the Promethean Board. Then I formally type up the notes, so students have an outline when sitting down to write a more formal argument.
I also have to act as an unofficial referee. Once or twice, when students have gotten extremely impassioned, I've had the entire group sit down and remind one another of respectful debate expectations.
Sometimes I pause between rounds to note that the strongest arguments have evidence from the article.