presentation file (click here)

Better Writing
Big Debates
Professional Development Workshop
January 26-27, 2015
Why use debates in
the classroom?
Why use “big debates”?
 They’re fun, student-centered, engage all students in
critical thinking, lead to better evidence-based writing
 Common Core State Standards for Michigan, 6-12 Literacy in
ELA, History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects
 Writing CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.1
 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics
or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
 Redesigned SAT for 2016
 Command of Evidence: When students take the Evidence-Based Reading and
Writing and Essay sections of the redesigned SAT, they’ll be asked to demonstrate
their ability to interpret, synthesize, and use evidence found in a wide range of
sources. These include informational graphics and multi-paragraph passages
excerpted from literature and literary nonfiction; texts in the humanities, science,
history, and social studies.
What courses or subjects
would debates work well in?
Are there any that debates
would not work in? Why?
Who can use big debates?
 Teachers across all subjects and disciplines can implement
big debates around any of the following:
 inquiry-based learning;
 critical thinking tasks where there is more than one claim
(thesis) that can be supported with relevant evidence;
claim-evidence-reasoning based activities;
in-depth reading tasks using complex texts and sources;
persuasive, argumentative, or analytical writing tasks; and
student-centered learning that requires students to provide
relevant and sufficient evidence and valid reasoning to
support their viewpoints/assertions.
What is one example of
an inquiry, activity, topic,
task, or discussion from a
course that you teach that
requires students to defend
a claim or thesis with
Examples from social studies
 AP U.S. History (APUSH):
 To what extent is it justified to characterize the industrial leaders of
the era 1865-1900 as either “captains of industry” or “robber
barons”? (Ch. 19) [What’s the correct answer?]
 World History & Geography:
 Which was the best organized empire that connected across the
Silk Roads: the Roman empire or the Han Dynasty?
(Ch. 6 &7) [What’s the correct answer?]
 AP Macroeconomics:
 Support, refute or modify the following statement: “Government
spending should be reduced during normal business cycles (i.e.
except during emergencies).”
(Ch. 19&21) [What’s the correct answer?]
What things might make
us uncomfortable as
teachers in using this
approach in the
How might this approach
increase student
motivation, especially for
evidence-based writing?
Which reading and writing assignment would be
more interesting to you?
Read Chapter 12 on “Empires in East
Asia” and answer the questions at the
end of the chapter.
Read Chapter 12 and create an evidence
flowchart to defend your thesis on the
following: Which society had the most
effective governmental structure: the Tang
& Song Dynasty, the Mongol Empire, or
Feudal Japan?
Why evidence-based writing is
so important
 Traditional in-class tasks and homework (e.g. read textbook and
answer questions at end of chapter) are replaced by inquiry
tasks such as evidence flowcharts that require students to use
critical thinking, grapple with competing evidence, and construct
meaning and claims on their own.
 Students must articulate a clear thesis, explain and cite relevant
and sufficient evidence, and provide valid reasoning.
 In-class tasks and homework become much more meaningful,
challenging, and fun while strengthening essential writing skills
that are required for success in college and the workplace.
What is the most important
step to ensure a successful
debate and good evidencebased writing by all
Step 1: Pre-Writing/Planning
 Lots of pre-writing and planning:
 Evidence-flowcharts from textbook readings
 Primary sources, secondary sources, and other
Web-based sources (provided or researched)
 Written preparation prior to big debate
(can lead to formal essay):
 Opening Statements (Introduction)
 Claim-Evidence-Reasoning Paragraphs
(Body Paragraphs: Supporting Argument Paragraphs and
Refute Opposing Argument Paragraphs)
 Closing Statements (Conclusion)
Evidence Flowchart & Student Samples
Evidence Flowchart & Student Samples
Evidence Flowchart & Student Samples
Step 2: The Debate
 Setup classroom, divide into teams (2-4 teams depending on how
many theses/claims there are),
and divide whiteboard for written comments.
 Teacher manages time, issues “strikes” for rules broken, and
facilitates the following:
 Opening Statements (no questions)
 Each team given “the floor” to present evidence and to refute
opposing claims; switch every 5-8 minutes
Judges can fire off questions at any time
Closing Statements (no questions)
Judges vote on which team did a better job presenting relevant
and sufficient evidence and valid reasoning to support its thesis in
the debate
Teacher can also recognize individual students as “best debaters”
for that debate and post in-class
What challenges might
teachers face trying to
facilitate debates in the
Step 3: The Rules
 No interruptions: must “have the floor” or raise hand and
wait to be called on by teacher.
 No talking on sides (teams can whisper to share ideas).
 No rude comments
 “Three strikes” leads to loss of all participation points
 New voices always go first
 “Three-before-me” when team has floor
 Face judges when making all arguments (except during
 All students must participate: make an argument, ask
question, or write comment or question on board
Sample video clips from three
different classes & subjects
(played from iPhoto)
* Opening Statements: 552, 554, 573, 574, 594, 595
* Teams given “the floor”: 555, 558
* “Strikes” for breaking rules: 553, 580, 587
* Analysis of textbook evidence: 556, 541, 557, 576, 599, 607
* Comparing textbook claims to primary sources: 592
* Challenging the evidence of others: 542, 566, 584, 598, 606
* Face-offs: 543, 609
* Judges asking questions: 544, 586, 593, 608
* New voices first: 567, 579, 600
* In-class articles read & documentaries: 559, 591
* Linking to Web-based sources & current events: 561, 589, 601, 560
* Written comments on board: 562, 564, 569, 570, 597
* Analysis of primary documents: 575. 577, 580, 596, 604
What kinds of follow-up
and extended writing
tasks and assignments
could be used after a
Step 4: Follow-up Writing
 Follow-up written assignments can include:
 Revisions of written preparation based on debate
 Additional evidence-based writing tasks using additional
 Persuasive essay assigned that extends thesis
 Extended responses and essays on assessments
 Grading rubrics for evidence-based writing:
 Common Core State Standards for Michigan
 Smarter Balanced assessment rubrics
 Additional rubrics at
Student samples of follow up
Grading Rubrics
Common Core State Standards & Smarter Balanced; AP College Board
The Results?
 Stronger evidence-based writing skills
 Improved willingness and enthusiasm in students for
evidence-based writing and revising based on debates
 More in-depth analysis of complex texts and sources
 Students feel more challenged and are more engaged
in their courses
 Increased student growth in Common Core State
Standards for Writing in History/Social Studies, and in all
 Students are better prepared for the demands of college
and the workplace
Big Debate in Teams
(with workshop teachers)
Support, Refute, or Modify the
following statement:
“Extra credit should not be offered in
any high school courses.”