Note from Dave: I treat pop-up debate extensively in Chapter 4 of These 6 Things: How to Focus Your Teaching on What Matters Most. Teachers around the world tell me it's one of their favorite chapters on argument in any source. Pick up your copy today!
Pop-up Debate is a method for managing and facilitating in-class debates; it is easily modifiable for other speaking scenarios, such as discussions or toasts.
Here's Pop-Up Debate:
- Students use assigned text(s), logic, and/or course content to respond to a debatable prompt and their peers’ arguments using the rules below.
- Every student speaks 1+ times, depending on time constraints. These limits are set by the teacher.
- To speak, students simply “pop up” at their desks and talk. First person to speak has the floor. When multiple students pop up, teach them to politely yield the floor. Argument is a collaborative endeavor, and collaboration isn't a pointed finger and, “Sit down, I was up first.”
This is how simply I introduce it to my students once we've done about three weeks of Think-Pair-Share.
Why Use Pop-Up Debate?
Pop-up debates are a novice-friendly, replicable teaching strategy. They allow me to
- get all students talking about course content;
- explicitly teach students how to speak within an authentic context;
- teach students to argue, which Jerry Graff explains is critical for the democratization of postsecondary attainment (and this is why argument is one of the five things I recommend working on all year long); and
- build character, although I'm still studying exactly how through a national Teacher Innovation Grant (full explanation here).
- No cross talk. The person standing has the floor.
- You are the coach. Model, instruct, encourage, and correct. With discretion.
- Every kid needs to speak. Be proactive with shy kids.
- “Great debaters can debate all sides.” Assign sides once in awhile.
- “We all win with a great debate.” I don't choose winners.
- Teach and assess 1-2 skills at a time. Organize your speaking mini-lessons into three buckets: content, organization, and delivery.
- Explain Erik Palmer's PVLEGS early. Use it all year long.
- Include a reflection at the end. What went well? What didn't? How did we do as a class? What can we do to improve?
- Frequency: I aim to have a debate every 1.5 weeks.
Questions? Comments? Use the comments section below. Learn way more in the Pay-What-You-Want Pop-Up Debate Starter Kit.