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TeachNet NYC: Lesson Plans

The Great Debate

Project URL: http://teachersnetwork.org/teachnet-lab/berkowitz/debate/

How it works:
The Great Debate incorporates the persuasive genre that is so important on the junior high/high school levels. It trains students to research, organize, prepare, present, analyze, and question in cooperative peer groups. Students research the Internet for necessary information to prove their stance on a specific topic and apply the information to the arguments that they face in the debate arena. They actually learn how to “listen” to an opposing point of view and verbally react in a well- thought-out, incremental fashion. This project was used while teaching "A Raisin in the Sun" by Lorraine Hansberry because of the feminism, racism, and other explosive issues that are presented in the play.

Standards addressed:  
The Great Debate is designed to attend to the speaking, listening, and viewing educational standards, as it teaches students how to function in the debate format. It addresses the persuasive genre of information processing.

Materials used:
Computers with Internet access and printers are necessary for document retrieval for debate preparation. Additionally, a computer projector and screen are appropriate in order to show videos of actual debates that are available on the Web.

The students:
The target populations for this project are grades 6-12. The students should be comfortable writing a “point” paper (persuasive essay) and equally skilled in Internet research before attempting the debate process. General education students, English language learners, and special education students will benefit from the heterogeneous, cooperative learning groups as well as the speaking/listening/viewing skills that are incrementally developed.

Overall value:
The Great Debate has many ”‘best” features. It trains students to be receptive and tolerant of opposing ideas and to respond to them in a well-thought-out fashion. The cooperative learning groups, coupled with the necessity for a consensus among team members, is a skill for life. Internet research, interpretation of research, and organization of a response are “mandatory” skills that are used in all phases and levels of academia as well as business and trade. Teachers will find the materials user-friendly and easy to implement.
Teachers should create heterogeneous groups so that all students will want to work to capacity. Make sure that all students have a role or job within their groups. Discourage team members from monopolizing the debate arena.

About the teacher:
As a literacy teacher and coach in Ditmas IS 62 in Brooklyn, NY, Elissa Berkowitz composes projects and curriculum that are used throughout the school. Because she teaches through the grades (grades four through college) her expertise in content as well as writing strategies helps her students and fellow teachers. She only wishes that she would be able to type faster.


Subject Areas:  
Language Arts
Social Studies                  

Grade Levels: 



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