5-Day Debate Plan: Halloween Edition!

Ellen Weiner, a 3rd-grade teacher from New York, wrote this great post last year. In it, she details exactly how she incorporates the Debate quiz into her lesson plans, and we think you'll get a lot out of her approach. And by the way, whether you're a new subscriber or you've been with us since last year, you have access to our debate from last fall: Should You Give Up Your Halloween Candy? We bet your students will have a great time hashing this one out!

The first thing I use when I begin a new issue of Storyworks, and now Storyworks Jr., is the Debate, because it's a quick and short reading passage. It gives me a great overview of my students: I can see where they are as readers, as writers, and as children learning opinion-writing skills. Here are the key steps for my 5-day lesson using Storyworks Jr.'s October/November 2016 Debate: Should You Give Up Your Halloween Candy?

Day 1:

We look at the text features of the Debate.

We discuss the aspects of the article (i.e. fact vs. opinion, prior knowledge), creating connections to further develop meaning while reading.

 

 

Days 2 & 3:

We discuss the focus question of the Debate, and determine what it's asking us. (This is NOT always obvious to 3rd graders at this point in the year. For example, with the September Debate, my students initially thought the question focused on whether they should get/have a trampoline, but the question asked whether trampolines are too dangerous, which is a completely different question. I loved that!)

One session is spent on locating the "yes" reasons within the reading passage, and then the students write a "yes" paragraph. Every paragraph must begin with a topic sentence. In this case, it restates the question: "Children should give up their Halloween candy." They must give 3 details from the text to support the topic sentence, each written as their own individual sentences. Then they must write a concluding sentence that revisits the topic sentence/statement (i.e. "These are just a few reasons why children should give up their Halloween candy.")

We share and discuss our paragraphs, and students are given the opportunity to learn and grow in their writing. All year, I reinforce that they need to avoid using the words you, me, and I. I emphasize that they need to use appropriate substitute words, such as "children" in this case.

 

 

Day 4:

We spend a second session locating the "no" reasons, and then the students write a "no" paragraph. Just as with the "yes" paragraph, every paragraph must begin with a topic sentence—again, one that restates the question (this time, "Children should not give up their Halloween candy.") They must give 3 details from the reading passage that support the topic sentence, each written as their own individual sentences. Then they must conclude with a sentence that revisits the topic sentence/statement (i.e. "These are just a few reasons why children should not give up their Halloween candy.")  We then share and discuss our "no" paragraphs, and children are given another opportunity to learn and grow in their writing. 

 

 

Day 5:

The quiz is given as a final activity for the Debate. This gives me an overview of how well the children have understood the various aspects of the reading passage, as well as their ability to eliminate answers that are not appropriate choices for the questions. After the quizzes are scored, I review them with the students: We carefully break down each question, locating the answers in the text, and eliminating answers that do not makes sense for that particular question.

 

 

The catchphrase in my classroom, all year long, is: 

"Just look back in the reading,

because that's not cheating!"

 

BONUS ASSESSMENT TOOL: 

The Debate Quiz answer key provided by Storyworks and now Storyworks Jr. tells me what skill each question represents (i.e. main idea, locating details, etc.). I always create a spreadsheet with the children's answers, and analyze the information to see whether there are patterns. I use this to inform my instruction in small group work. I might group students who may need more practice with a specific skill, such as locating details. You can do this too, and see after a quiz or two, if analyzing missed answers is just as helpful as seeing what's done well. I find that a careful analysis of the mistakes that were made will often result in my being able to address the specific areas where my students are struggling. Then my students are better able to approach these tasks differently the next time they see them. You can see an example of my spreadsheet below, and you can download it here. Give it a try with your students and let me know in the comments below if you use my 5-day plan.

 

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