A while back, I taught a lesson on expressing one’s opinion. I gave students a nice ‘lil handout that included words and phrases to use when giving one’s opinion, making a point, and agreeing/disagreeing with someone else. To reinforce this, I decided to do a class debate. I first split the class into two groups, then I handed out a scenario to each pair within the group. In partners, they had to come up with reasons to defend themselves and then I had them lump together with the rest of their group members. This way, they would be able to generate more ideas.
In case you were wondering what kind of scenarios I gave them, here they are (and yes, I made these up myself!):
You are a parent of a teenager and you have given them a curfew to be home no later than 10 pm on a school night. You’ve told them that if they break their curfew, there will be consequences. One night, they come home at midnight. You’ve been anxiously waiting for two hours and you are furious especially because they didn’t answer their phone when you called. You decide to punish them by not letting them see their friends outside of school for two weeks – no excuses, no exceptions. They need to learn to be responsible and should be disciplined.
You have a curfew to be home no later than 10 pm and you’ve always obeyed this rule. One night while you are studying at your friend’s house, you lose track of time and see that it is past 11 pm! You quickly leave and drive home, but on your way home, you realize that you forgot your cell phone at your friend’s house, so you go back. By the time you get home, it is midnight. Your parents are furious and decide to punish you by not letting you see your friends outside of school for two weeks! They won’t even hear your side of the story. You believe this is unfair, especially because you always obey your curfew. You don’t think you should be grounded, because you did nothing wrong – it was just a mistake.
I had considered using controversial topics but in the end decided not to as I didn’t want the argument to become too heated. The “parent” vs “teen” scenario keeps it light and even humorous. I was so impressed with how students got so into it and actually came up with some really clever rebuttals. It was hilarious to watch and students got a lot of speaking time out of it. The only downside was that the quieter students didn’t really join in as much since the more out-spoken students dominated the debate. If I were to do this activity again, I would have each person required to express at least one point, that way everyone gets a chance to speak. Other than that, it was great to see so much enthusiasm and use of new vocabulary!