Laura Faulk (elementary school teacher) details her fifth-graders’ recent language arts and social studies combination unit and how the high school debate team helped liven up the learning process.
As part of an integrated unit joining language arts and social studies, fifth-grade students recently took to debate, combining their argument and advocacy section of language arts with the global issues section in social studies. We linked each of the debate topics to a global issue: poverty, health and well-being, education, skills and jobs, a safe and fair world, or sustainability and environment. We gave students several inquiry questions in each area and then, after research, they selected assertions to debate. Some students took assignments to proposition teams and others to opposition teams.
In preparation for their debates, fifth-graders also received special visits, over the course of three days, from members of the high school debate team. The goal of the visits was to expose the students to “experts” on debate and allow them to learn from and engage with other members of the school community. As the high school debate team has experience and competition wins, fifth-grade students were very eager to listen and learn from their expertise. The high school students helped to strengthen their younger counterparts’ arguments, offered suggestions for rebuttal, and gave pointers on stance, use of a strong voice, and speaking passionately. On the visit, the fifth-graders said they really enjoyed having the high school debate students working with them and, after the first day, enthusiastically awaited the next two visits.
Angela Iagaru (high school teacher) writes that the high school debate team has many experienced debaters who enjoy sharing what they know, which made a cross-divisional exchange very easy. Nine high school students participated, excited about the idea of encouraging younger debaters as they worked through their unit. The meetings between the students were informal, but the goal was to encourage and influence younger kids who might continue to enjoy debate when they get to high school. “In general, the students had lot of fun having conversations with their teams and were impressed with the sophistication of some of the younger students’ assertions. They were completely smitten with how smart, kind and thoughtful Laura’s fifth-grade class was.”
The final debate took place on March 1 and 2 with principals and members of the curriculum office acting as judges. This year, the project and collaboration with high school students were limited to a single fifth-grade class on a trial-basis and with hopes to expand in the following years.