Boost Opinion and Persuasive Writing with a Debate

By
Beth Orticelli

Editor's note: We know that kids tend to get very passionate about our debates, and superstar 2nd grade teacher Beth O's students really took it to a whole new level! We love Beth's simple two-day approach to the debate in the March/April issue of Storyworks Jr. It's one that students have strong feelings about: Should You Always Get a Trophy? We hope it will work well in your classroom!

My class loves to debate. After all, who doesn’t love trying to prove their point or get their way, kids and adults alike!  My second graders have been working on Opinion Writing, and I thought that the article, "Should You Always Get a Trophy," would be a subject that they had a lot of background knowledge about and also some strong opinions.

This was a two-day project. On the first day, and before previewing the article, I had students sit (on top of their desks for more exciting and active engagement) and have a whole-class discussion about their experiences with trophies. What kind of sports are you in? Who has received a trophy before? How do you feel when someone else gets a trophy but you don’t? How do you feel when everyone gets a “participation” trophy? Do you think you should get a trophy, even if you’re in last place? Students were encouraged to support their answers using the word "because" to add their thoughts. They even used language like “I respectfully disagree with ____, because...!”  Since most kids have had experience with this, their feelings were so strong about this topic!

Next, students were given a large copy of the article, so that they could take notes that support both sides. Excitement was building, because most students already knew which side they would want to be on for our big debate! They read the article independently, and then shared what they thought they should highlight together.

Next, students wrote their ideas on the Storyworks Jr. printable, What Do You Think, that utilized both text evidence and ideas from their own schema, proving their point for tomorrow’s big debate.

They chose what side they would be on, and we even had a team huddle and cheer as we prepared for Day 2.

After we practiced our debate strategies, we sat on opposite sides of the room. I stressed to the kids that they should not be a “conversation stealer” and try letting all teammates get a chance to share their point of view. They did a great job of using text evidence and their own personal thoughts. I even had class leaders emerge and ask others to step down to let a quiet classmate get a chance to speak!

The team who debated on the side of “everyone gets a trophy” even had nice, shiny trophy props to try to persuade the other side!

Needless to say, these kids had a blast with this debate! Storyworks Jr. debates are a great way to get kids excited about sharing their opinions while also building speaking and listening skills. My kids are so excited to see what the next Storyworks Jr. debate will be!

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