Fall SAVY 2022–The Great Debate for Grades 5 & 6
Day 3: Saturday, November 5
Hello families and great debaters! Today we started out our day by preparing our arguments for our final mace/presentation debate. This style debate more closely resembles a persuasive appeal to the audience and the moderators and allows the students a chance to practice their individual skills in persuasive writing and persuasive delivery.
In order to prepare, we watched a few videos about different debate styles, we prepared a sample mace debate where Ms. Ellie and myself faced off about student letter grades, and we did a fishbowl activity where we practiced ignoring distractions while thinking on our feet. We then prepared for our final, formal debate of the course!
For this style of debate, students chose roles in their teams and each were responsible for preparing their own arguments and examples. Each team chose a researcher to gather data for the team, and the team worked together to make sure their arguments were cohesive and flowed well together. One student on each team was responsible for the rebuttals, and the debate itself had a slightly more formal structure than the Australasia and Extemp debates we did before.
Once the parents and family members joined us in the afternoon, our final debate proceeded like so: The moderators introduced the topic at hand and explained their rubric for assessment. The affirmative team began with their opening statement and then each team member presented their argument. Once the arguments had been presented, the opposing team was given a brief chance for rebuttal before the affirmative team delivered their closing statement. Next, the opposing team gave their opening and presented their arguments. The affirmative team gave a rebuttal, and the opposing team finished their closing statement. There was time for the moderators to ask clarifying questions and for the team members to address the other team’s points briefly in an open rebuttal. Finally, the moderators conferred with each other, evaluated both teams and compared notes, and selected the team that they found most convincing across 10 categories.
Although we did have a winning team, both teams did an excellent job and presented wonderful facts and arguments and used logos, ethos, and pathos very intelligently and thoughtfully throughout the entire debate! I was very impressed with each student and with how well our teams worked together and supported one another.
If your student is interested in learning more about debate, there are some excellent resources online to watch formal debates and learn about different debate tactics and structures. In class, we watched a few short clips on Australasia debating from Speaking Schools. If your student would like to watch some more of their videos they can be found here on their Conquering Debate playlist.
Day 2: Saturday, October 29
Hello families and great debaters! Today we learned about evaluating the effectiveness of a debate and providing feedback during post-debate assessments. We practiced evaluation by creating our own critical assessment rubrics that we then used to evaluate examples of differently structured debates, some that were low-stakes and a bit silly (should Phoebe be allowed to get a cell phone?) and some that were on important educational issues (should uniforms be worn in school? Should students be allowed to wear hoodies?). After each evaluation, we discussed what strategies the debaters could have used to strengthen their position and how those strategies could also be rebutted.
We then learned about the art of a good rebuttal and the three steps that every rebuttal should follow. In the afternoon, we practiced rebuttals in small groups with rebuttal puppets that we created to help us remember that a rebuttal attacks someone’s argument, NOT their person/character. We used our puppets to present topics of our choice and listen to others try to rebut our arguments. Our moderators provided feedback on what we did well and how we could improve. In this exercise, students had to practice a short, quick debate style that doesn’t allow for much preparation and requires students to think on their feet!
Finally, we voted on a debate topic and the class settled on whether colors such as blue and pink should be associated with gender or not. Most of our students agreed on the topic, which meant some of them had to volunteer to argue the opposite side! This is a very challenging task but an excellent way to learn how to debate when you are on the opposing side of an issue!
Next Saturday, we will prepare our final, formal class team debate on a higher stake topic that we will have during parent observation! If your student wants to dress up for pictures/presentation purposes, that is wonderful, but it is not required. The important thing is that they are feeling comfortable and confident and ready to debate with their teammates in front of an audience!
Day 1: Saturday, October 22
Hello families and great debaters! Today was our introduction to the ancient philosophical tradition that brings us the art of debate! In the morning session, we learned a bit about each other and discussed what we already know and want to learn about how to debate well. We also brainstormed together about what successful and unsuccessful practices and strategies of debate might look like and learned about low-stakes and high-stakes debate topics. We created debate rules and learned about the difference between logos, pathos, and ethos and how we can use reason, logic, and authority and presentation to build convincing arguments.
We also learned new vocabulary words, such as rhetoric, diplomacy, and vernacular. Towards the end of the day, we prepped for a very quick “flash” debate in order to practice assigning debate roles and working together in a team. Our flash debate was a bit rushed, but it helped us prepare t work together on higher-stakes debates later in the course where we will need to have a researcher, an opening statement writer, three “arguers,” a closing statement writer, a team leader, and a person prepping rebuttals for the team.
Next week, we will watch a few training videos about formal debate strategies, and we will practice all these skills in a few mini group debates in the morning. After lunch, we will prepare for our first formal debate and our moderators will prepare rubrics for judging the debate and providing feedback.