Spotlight on Learning: Debates and Persuasive Writing
Students in Ms. Leonard’s 5th grade class have been pondering the question: should college tuition be free? Students spent weeks breaking into teams, conducting research, developing strong arguments and counterarguments in order to prepare for the debate.
Ms. Leonard makes a point of having at least one debate with each class as a part of their persuasive writing unit. “We missed out on it last year due to our virtual environment, but this year, there was no stopping us,” reflects Ms. Leonard. Many students had never participated in a standard debate before entering Ms. Leonard’s class but they made it look easy. Students followed a standard debate format and provided affirmatives and rebuttals for both sides of the debate issue. Through their research, students developed strong persuasive arguments and were able to work with their team members to practice many Portrait of a Graduate skills. For example, the students watched some famous speeches in preparation for the debate to identify the persuasive techniques and public speaking skills of effective communicators.
Many of Ms. Leonard’s students even researched and argued against the side of the issue in which they didn’t agree. One student shared that one of the hardest and best things they did during the debate was to put passion into something they didn’t believe in. “It’s hard to do,” says Ms. Leonard, “but the best debaters can do it.”