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In our TCI webinar on this topic, we discovered that engaging students in debate or whole-class discussions involves a few steps and some rich resources. Here are the guidelines we shared:
1. Challenge students to discuss controversial and complex issues in small groups.
2. Create heterogeneous groups and a suitable classroom arrangement.
3. Prepare students to answer provocative critical thinking questions.
4. Allow groups time to prepare their responses.
5. Facilitate a lively class discussion.
We also talked about some specific structures for debates:
Talk it Out: Divide class into pairs. Assign each one side of argument or a historical persona. Begin with a sentence starter for one person. Have everyone who represents that say it with you aloud and then give them 30 seconds to a minute to continue uninterrupted by their partner.
Fishbowl Discussion: After small groups discuss a debate item, send one representative from 3 to 4 groups into the middle of a ring surrounded by the class. Have the inner-ring of students discuss and while the outer-ring score the discussion based on a rubric.
Social Media Discussion: Use a site like Twitter (along with a custom hashtag #customhashtag) or another social media site and moderate a debate. Require everyone who participates to use the Rules for Presenters in a Class Discussion.
Graffiti Debate: Using websites like www.toondoo.com, www.glogster.com, or http://en.linoit.com/ have students make their debate/discussion points with images, video, or song. Conduct a class debrief on what were the major takeaways.
Download the Rules for Presenters in a Class Discussion.