Recently, my students and I just finished learning about the Middle East, but more specifically, we studied the Iraq War from the U.S., the Iraqi, and the world’s vantage point. It turned out to be a fascinating unit, and my students worked really hard and seemed to really enjoy themselves. I was so impressed and proud of how hard they worked and how much they chose to learn about the war that I had to share it with all of you.
During the unit, we spent a lot of time preparing for a debate on the Iraq War. Should we or should we not go to war? The debate was staged in late 2002, and the students had the opportunity to make the biggest decision in world history. Should we declare war on Iraq? However, they were not allowed to choose which side of the argument they were on…
I assigned students to their debate argument: For the War or Against the War. I did not let them choose which side with hopes it would challenge a few of them to critically analyze the debate from a different point of view…you know challenge their brains a bit. As individuals, each student had to create 5 arguments supported with facts from creditable sources, an opening argument, a closing argument, and prepare for 3 possible retorts during the argument. I used a prep sheet to guide them through this process. We worked on the research part for 3 days in the media center. At the end of the research, the 2 argument sides worked together to craft 5 of their strongest arguments using all of their individual research, create a dynamic opening and closing statement, and prepare for any possible retorts from the other side of the argument. Then things got really interesting…
The debate was divided into 3 parts:
1) Real-time Debate: Each debate team consisted of 5-8 debaters. These students participated in a regular debate that was filmed. The students took turns speaking and delivering their arguments in a normal debate format. Due to school regulations and permission issues, you have to visit my website (http://miles.onfizz.org) to view the debate videos. Click the video tab at the top and the first 4 will be the debates.
2) Voicethread Debate: 4 students from each class were selected to do their debate through voicethread. I created a basic voicethread using text to guide the students with prompts through the debate process. Unlike the real-time debate, these students were responsible for all parts of their argument and the debated against each other 1 on 1, which resulted in 2 complete debates on voicethread. Below are examples of a voicethread debate completed by 4 of my students:
3) BackChannel: The remaining students were given a laptop and put into a backchannel (edmodo) to discuss the real-time debate as it happened right in front of them. The students critiqued arguments, gave their personal opinions, critiqued delivery, and decided on the winner. They used their research to judge the students in the debate and used the research to explain their opinion. Each class tackled this part of the project very differently. Periodically, I would interject into the discussion with questions to refocus the conversation or get them thinking in a different way. Unfortunately, due to the lack of my expertise with edmodo, I am not sure how to make a conversation public quite yet, but check back soon and hopefully, I will have it figured out.
Prior to the debate, none of the students knew they were going to be assigned to a voicethread or the backchannel. I was afraid if I told them about the backchannel or voicethread ahead of time then they might not have worked as hard to prep for the real debate. However, every student worked very hard and seemed to enjoy the project no matter what role they had in it. Obviously, once students found out about the other options some wished they could have had a different role, but I gave them the chance to tell me that for next time in their reflection. Overall, the experience was awesome, and I have never been so proud of how much my students learned through me and their own efforts.