ACADEMIC ELECTIVE: DEBATE WITH RACHEL!
5th – 8th graders have a variety of Academic Elective classes to choose from, a key component of the upper school experience at High Meadow School that distinguishes High Meadow from other middle schools. Debate with Rachel was a popular choice for upper schoolers this year!
High Meadow School, as part of our mission, prepares our students to be compassionate, curious global citizens. The ability to consider a big issue from all sides, gather information, and use reasoning skills (as well as writing and speaking skills) to present those findings is a vital skill in expanding one’s own understanding of the world as well as in educating others in an accessible way.
What is Debate?
Debate emphasizes A.R.E. (Assertion, Reasoning, Evidence) and avoiding logical fallacies. It follows a structure where each team (opposition vs. proposition) has two 5-minute opportunities to present their argument in a constructive format (building up their ideas, providing sources) and then one 3-minute opportunity for rebuttal (to “poke holes” in the other teams’ argument). At the beginning of the class series, the students looked into these details, and they watched an example debate to see how this plays out in a real-life debate. Students then brainstormed ideas for topics they would like to debate on, and Rachel assigned teams and topics.
What were the topics?
The two topics (with two students on each team) were “Voting should be mandatory for every US citizen over 18” and “Animal testing should be illegal”.
What did the teacher think?
Rachel: “Previously I have taught persuasive writing and so I’m familiar with teaching how to go about finding evidence to back up assertions and how to balance a variety of types of arguments and the importance of staying objective.
I get so excited when I come upon an opportunity for students to work on anything they genuinely connect with and where the process supports their learning in so many different ways. Here, they honed their skills and knowledge in the areas of teamwork, critical thinking, social-political awareness, organization, time management, writing, speaking and listening, evaluating the quality of sources and evidence, and reflecting on personal bias. I was joyfully surprised and how well the mixed age groups worked together (the class had three 5th graders, four 7th graders, and one 8th grader).”
What did the students think?
“This class challenged me to think in different ways that I wasn’t sure the other FLEX options would.” – Isa, 7th grade
“It was real world stuff…if you ever want to get your views across in something, instead of being like ‘yes – no – yes – no’ you could find a point and then use debate and actually have evidence.” – Menena, 7th grade
“I was surprised that it was possible to think strategically about what the opposition would say and plan for that. I also was surprised how fun it was to work with a 5th grader.” – Rylie, 8th grade