Over the last couple weeks in my World Literature class we have been covering the idea of privacy and how it varies throughout different continents and cultures. While this is my first year teaching the course I have quickly seen that this unit caught the students interest, more than most, from day 1. Last Friday as we wrapping up a big project within the unit I had decided that I was not quite finished with picking my kids brains on this topic. That being the case less than an hour before class was to be in session I decided to completely revamp the lesson.
Crazy? Probably. Worth it? Completely.
But what to do? I had seen quite a bit of varying opinion throughout class discussion and assignments and decided to try to run with that. Then it hit me, a classroom debate on the topic of online privacy.
With any lesson comes pre-planning. I obviously had limited time, but I believe that was for the best by not allowing my Type A brain to overthink. So what did my prep look like?
- Decide number of students per group
- Develop topics for number of groups set
- Figure out timing of argument formation
- Calculate timing of each debate
- Organize a way to keep the students who were not debating involved
I have 26 students in this class, but assuming there would be some who were not in attendance I decided that we would go with groups of 3 to 4. Knowing each topic would have a side arguing “for and against” I developed 6 different topics to pull from. Since this class is separated by lunch it worked out well to give them their topics and sides prior to the time of dismissal to formulate their arguments. Then when they would come back “debate ready.” In an effort to keep things rolling and having only about 35 minutes after lunch each debate was set to run about 4-5 minutes per. Each side would have an initial 2 minutes to present their arguments followed by 30 second rebuttals. At the end of the last rebuttal the would decide which side won by holding up “I agree” or “I disagree” signs.
Ever get so excited for something and it doesn’t go necessarily as planned? Well, that is definitely how this started and I ended up leaving for lunch feeling a little disappointed. Breaking into groups was seemingly difficult, topics and sides handed out were complained about and timing for them to formulate their arguments was cut short because of the factors listed prior. Focus right before lunch always dwindles so I was not completely shocked, but typically group work has a better response rate. I did some groups working on their arguments during lunch which put a little smile on my face.
As we reassembled after lunch I tried to forget about the earlier snafus and was ready to move us through the mini-debates. Each group had a “group number,” but that did not dictate their order. I do things like this often because I like to incorporate ambiguity into the classroom when I can. When the kids came back in I had the front of the room set up with 4 chairs across from one another, handed out the decision cards and told them to take a seat with their teams.
The debate(s) went as I would have expected. Some groups were more prepared than others and some groups were more serious than others. One shocking factor that I did not expect was how into it the “spectators” would be. I saw constant head nods and facial changes throughout each round. I even found myself having to tell the class to “shhhh” often because they wanted to add their input, but…. it wasn’t their debate. I really enjoyed this because there is always a risk factor of distractions with only have portions of a class actively working at a time. Another thing that happened was students started to build off one another’s previous topics. What I mean is that they were thinking on their feet and pulling relevant arguments from the rounds prior and referencing back to them adding more depth to their side. Again something I did not imagine and or anticipate, but loved hearing occur.
With anything in life, there is always something to take away. While the lesson was seemingly successful for the intended purpose and learning target I definitely made notes for whenever I do an activity as such again.
- Make it a 2 day lesson. One full class to get into groups and to formulate ideas and one for debating.
- Allow a reflection period after each round giving students who weren’t involved in that specific debate time to verbalize their thoughts and opinions.
- Develop a better system to track student engagement in groups.
- Create a more real world setting.
- Involve other student roles beyond the argument sides; such as a moderator, a timer and even a judge.
Overall, the kids seemed to enjoy the activity, even the ones who grumbled about the side they had to argue. It gave them freedom of expression, got them away from their desks and even created an outlet to release some energy. It also gave students who do not usually speak up in class discussion a chance to have a voice. I would definitely say that it created a fun and lighthearted environment.
What are some “fun” classroom activities you enjoy?