Debate in the Expression-Driven Classroom

My high school didn’t have a debate team, but if they would have I would definitely have been a member. I enjoy the process of formulating informed decisions and challenging the thinking of others. Such exchanges are healthy and quite useful in learning. 

Debate is a practice that can be employed in an expression-driven classroom. In the book, Amplify Student Voices: Equitable Practices to Build Confidence in the Classroom, authors AnnMarie Baines, Diana Medina, and Caitlin Healy share the following suggestions for bringing debate into the classroom (pp. 104-110):

  1. Schedule debate to advance learning. Plan ahead to include debate when it is appropriate within the overall context of teaching. Always be looking ahead for topics that would be advanced or enhanced from such an activity. 
  2. Use debate across subject levels. Many topics that are suitable for debate span a number of content areas. Collaborate with other classroom professionals to allow for a rich, cross-curricular examination of the topic at hand. 
  3. Develop literacy skills across grade levels. Debates require preparation, and preparation often requires the ability to read and understand a number of source materials. Build literacy support systems into place, so that students can be successful. 
  4. Craft topics that promote a stance. The authors note topics that promote a stance often involve facts, values, or policies. Always keep in mind the age and maturity of your students when crafting topics. 
  5. Differentiate for learners. Use words that all students understand. Keep the struggle-familiarity balance in check. Offer glossaries to support language development. Provide opportunities for multiple means of expression within the debate structure. 

As you prepare for next week, think about how and where debate might enrich classroom learning. You and your students will be glad you did!

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