In my first year teaching, I had my grade 8 class participate in a debate.
Not because they didn’t try but because it didn’t seem real. The topic was decided by me, their stance was decided by me, I was the judge and the format was created by me. Needless to say… not authentic enough for a positive learning experience. Plus, it was my first year teaching and didn’t really understand how to do this type of thing.
Over the last several years, I’ve thought about having my students participate in a debate. Working with at-risk learners means I need to make things extremely relevant and meaningful for them. Debating always seems like a good idea but I can’t find a topic to commit to or a format that I think will work.
I came across Debate.org in my travels on the internet. Upon exploring, I became excited about the opportunity to debate with people from all over the world.
The format is perfect. Create a debate or enter into a debate with someone else. Once you get started their are numerous rounds to engage in a debate. In addition, you can comment on a debate going on. Before sending me students to do this by themselves, I would model how it can be done by starting a debate with someone, somewhere in the world.
These small tidbits of writing are great for my reluctant writers – especially as they can debate each other. Before starting the debate and during each round, I would have them write out their main argument with their proofs. In addition, I would have the rest of the class include their feedback in the comment section as a form of peer assessment.
My only concern with this site is that it is not really intended for elementary level students but instead as an open debate site for all. I can imagine what might happen if you get linked up with someone who was not taking the debate seriously. My suggestion is to stick with pairing up students.