💡 How to Host a Multi-Class Debate

By Rosemary Barbera
May 17, 2022

Rosemary Barbera is a 3rd-grade teacher advisor at St. Pius X School, in Ontario, Canada. 

The debate feature in Storyworks 3 is a great way to inspire kids to write and formulate their thoughts on paper. Each debate is so engaging, relevant, and timely that students are always bursting with their opinions. Debates also serve as a helpful way for students to use the information and structure of the article as a model for their own writing.

Knowing that students were interested in taking our debate lessons to the next level, I joined forces with the other 3rd grade teachers in my school to use the debate “Should Kids Have Later Bedtimes in Summer?” to plan a large, in-person, live debate with all of our students. Here's how we did it:

1. Prepare Your Students

Each of the three 3rd grade classes chose two students to present one side of the debate. Those students prepared their arguments based on details in the article, personal experience, and additional research. 


2. Host the Live Debate

We brought all of the students to the gym for the live debate. Everyone listened to the students carefully present their arguments. 

3. Highlight a Key Writing Strategy

After each student finished arguing, I highlighted a key writing strategy they used. For example, some students hooked their audience with an engaging first line. Others added personal anecdotes to enhance their arguments. Some used transition words effectively, and others used passion to help the listener feel the emotions in their point of view. Most impressively, students listened to the opposing argument and offered counter opinions.


4. Assign the Opinion Writing Kit

After everyone was done presenting, all of the students went back to their classrooms. They each completed the Opinion Writing Kit Skill Builder independently. Then, we held a secret ballot! Students chose which side of the debate they agreed with, based on their own opinions and the presentations they just watched. For some students, this was their first time in a secret voting experience. It really brought the magazine to life, and sparked a lot of interest in holding more live debates in the future. In case you're curious, we finished with 8 "No's" and 41 "Yes's!"

Above all, the experience enabled students to come together for a friendly debate where we could discuss issues in a positive and respectful manner. This was one of the few times where every student was engaged because the topic was so personal and relevant to them. Even the students who are typically reluctant to write were able to use the downloadable Skill Builder to easily get their thoughts onto the page. We can’t wait for the next debate!

All my best,

Rosemary Barbera