Congratulations to Anna J. Small Roseboro, the California Association of Teachers of English 2009 Distinguished Service Award winner. In our profession, so much is required in order to be everything our students deserve. The demands are great; this is no career for the uncommitted. Teaching well takes diligence, knowledge, passion, energy, flexibility, and skill. More »
Practice Debates ⇒Argumentative Essays
Meeting Common Core State Standards is not the only reason to have students learn to think about claims, reasons, counter-aguments, and evidence. The four major assessments students will face in the near future ask them to show they know to read deeply and write an organized persuasive essay. Start now for success later.
Consider having students practice oral arguments before writing argumentative or persuasive essays. During debates, remind students that it is information and reasoning, rather than volume and unsupported opinions that make for convincing speeches and compelling essays.
One way for students to understand this concept better is to prepare for, participate in, and then debrief experiencing debates.
(1) Let students choose three or four topics that interest them. You may find connecting topics to recently read literature helps shyer students become eager debaters. You could ask students to assume the persona of a character from the reading and then choose and debate issues that character would be passionate about, one on which the character would want to have his/her position articulated.
(2) Take the time to hold a discussion on possible topics important or of interest to your students. A good start comes from exploring the topics at these mentioned on ProCon.org or at these websites with recent topics used in middle school or high school competitive debate. Narrow list of topics to four or five.
(3) Next, invite students to draw for a topic from the list decided by the class. After drawing, allow students who wish to do so, one minute to exchange with classmates. When exchange time ends, each must keep the topic held.
(4) Then, show students structure for their oral presentation using this format “Outline for Simple Classroom Debate“ if the whole class will be debating one topic or SPARring, if pairs of students will be debating different topics.
(5) Most important, allot in-class time for small groups to research and develop plans or positions on their topics.
*** If it is a policy issue: What is the problem? Why is it BAD? Says who? What needs to be changed to solve the problem? Why is solution preferable to the status quo/current situation? Says who? Is the solution DESIRABLE, AFFORDABLE, ENFORCEABLE, CONSTITUTIONAL?
*** If it is a value issue: What is the problem? What are criteria for evaluating it? What is the solution? How does the solution meet the evaluation criteria?
(6) On debate days, have students NOT debating that day, serve as anonymous peer responders. On the top left corner of their feed-back sheet, indicate with a plus or minus whether they agree or disagree with the proposition. At the end of the debate, in the upper right corner, indicate whether their opinion remains the same (+), changed (√) or is opposed (-). (See ideas on this Evaluation – PERSUASIVE SPEECH form to adapt for your purposes). Read first, and then share feedback with speakers.
(7) Finally, repeat the round of debates, this time each student must debate the opposite side! Adjust times for speeches as needed. Just be consistent.
This is where the most learning takes place. When student see the reasons one on the opposite side may believe the status quo is fine, or the solutions offered either do not solve the problem or create new ones, they have a better sense of why controversy continues. Or when students see that ones values and attitudes influence ones behavior, the students understand why people they respect may hold completely different views.
Department chairs regularly seek for ways to use meeting time more efficiently and to keep up the spirits of their department members. Attached are ideas planned for the “Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn: Leading New Initiatives with Love, Agency, and Energy”session at the National Council of Teachers of English held November 19-25 in Minneapolis, MN Please feel free to adapt, adopt or just pass them along.
Plan to attend the Conference on English Leadership meetings November 22-24, 2015 “A Leaders’s Legacy”
Looking for ways to stay up to date on English leadership matters? Join the Conference on English Leadership.
Now is a good time to plan on
releasing more responsibility for learning
to your students.
The first quarter/semester is when you model reading and writing strategies, making, connections, incorporating a wide variety of examples in your own instruction, and also informing the students that you’ll be sharing the teaching opportunities with them to reach the COMMON CORE STANDARDS or AP Standards or those specifically for your course. Thus, more students will be paying more attention and thinking about what they will be able to do. This pedagogical practice works well with students of all ages and abilities from those in upper elementary grades to middle school to graduate school in college.
When I’ve given this assignment, I’ve left the details pretty wide open because students always come up with appropriate things I’d never have thought of suggesting.
Of course, the students will want to know how much it’s worth. I’d say about 5% of the quarter grade. Enough to make a difference, but not enough to make them apprehensive. Kinds of connections? See HOW? below. Leave it as open as possible in your teaching situation. Trust them to do the right thing,
Most students are interested in the 5W and H?
- Who? You
- What? Whatever seems appropriate to you that shows some connection to what we’re studied in the past week. See HOW?
- When? On the date you’ve signed up during the first 5-7 minutes of class.
- Where? Here in our classroom.
- Why? Because what you have to say can help us learn. This is a way for you to practice your presentation skills and earn full credit for an on time, within time, and appropriate presentation.
- How? Your choice of what’s appropriate. Could be a dramatic reading from the text; a poem, song, or video clip (previewed by teacher) that
- relates to, explains, explores and expands the topic we’re studying;
- makes a relevant connection to something studied in another course;
- is something experienced, observed, or viewed on TV or on-line.
If administrators or parents ask what’s going on, you can direct them to Pearson and Gallagher’s pedagogical theory of Gradual Release of Responsibility
Check out this discussion thread on English Companion Ning which includes Carol S’s distinction, as well as a list of quality resources to teach this key kind of writing and meet Common Core Standards for English Language Arts.
Reply by Carol S
Argue = change what the readers THINK
Persuade = change what the readers DOYou can argue that a film is insipid, that the president’s economic plan will improve our nation, that smoking ought to be allowed in bars, that teenagers are obnoxious twits. They might change their thinking after reading your paper.You can try to persuade people to shop at Macy’s, vote for this candidate, travel to Maui, shave their heads. Your goal is to get them to do something.
Thanks, everyone for your great suggestions. Help spread the word to others who may be struggling with this distinction as they work to design lessons to meet Common Core Standards for ELA.
For those following this thread…I hope you’re including public speaking in your lessons about argumentation and persuasion. Our students also need to know how to articulate their arguments verbally, and to be critical listeners as well. You can add simple pre-writing activities that include SPAR (spontaneous arguments) on some of the topics your students are considering for their writing. Hearing opposing arguments can help them see (hear) reasons others hold different views on topics the students think have only one credible side. See Link with an introduction to SPAR. Feel free to adapt to fit your situation.
On June 20, I launched my new novel
ON ZION’S HILL
Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Michigan
If you’d like a copy, use this link.
Angie and Ken, college sophomores committed to earning their degrees, meet at church camp in August, 1963 and experience a strong attraction. Should they listen to their hearts or avoid one another till later? Can they trust God to lead them now? By the end of the week, each must make a decision. What will it be?