This post includes 2 debates between Berwick Lodge Primary School and Bellaire Primary School. The students were in grade 5 & 6 and this was part of our inaugural debate rounds.
“We loved it, so much better than normal school! :)”
This is the student response to inter-school debating online. I thought it was a fantastic experience all round – for teachers and students. Admittedly it was fairly nerve racking at first and I think the teachers were more nervous than the students for the first couple of debates but by the time we had completed three or four it became more routine and quite easy to manage.
The success was due to a number of key factors not the least being a very cooperative and keen partner school. Special thanks to @rakt for his help and organisation. It certainly did help to work with a school who had had debating experience and we learnt a lot throughout the whole competition. Our students were novices with no experience or training in the art of debating.
How does it Work?
Create a draw with the debate statements. It is best if you have an affirmative and negative for each debate and then they can practise against each other and it helps prepare for rebuttal statements. In other words if you have 3 Debates you need 6 teams at each school.
Preparing the Arguments
Each team worked together on a shared Google Document that I prepared as a template with some indicators of what would be expected from each speaker. The teams had an “in school” practise debate against each other. They also practised their speeches against the clock to make sure they had the right amount of material.
Each team had 3 speakers who had 90 seconds to present their arguments and rebut the opposing teams arguments. We allowed half an hour for each debate but this gave us plenty of time between debates. Older or more experienced students could have longer. The chairperson was provided by the affirmative team and each school was responsible for their own time keeper. We adjudicated our own students solely on their manner according to agreed criteria and compared scores on the screen while the students turned away or while the projectors were blanked out.
We were fortunate to have a great Skype connection which we had tested well before hand. I had purchased a microphone especially for Skype calls that made it even easier. It allowed the students more freedom to present as it was much more effective in picking up their voices and easier to mute than using the internal microphone on the laptops.
Debating is one of those authentic learning experiences where students develop higher order thinking skills. They work together as a team and it is clear which students are team players able to support and encourage others. They develop confidence in speaking and listening skills. There are so many teaching and learning opportunities within such a rich learning environment.
Skype enhances the experience by allowing inter-school debating without the restriction of cost or location. It brings a whole new level of excitement and engagement when the students debate against another school. Our next debating exercise will be international with a school in New Zealand and I can see that Skpe Debating will be a continuing part of my school program afterall it is “so much better than normal school”!