A lot of my favorite teaching strategies are like the box of building blocks that my children have. When the box gets dumped out, it's amazing how many things my kids can make. The blocks provide a set of very basic constraints — how many there are, their shapes, their colors — but mostly there's freedom for my kids to experiment and create and make.
Pop-up debate is a box of blocks. There are really just two rules:
- Every kid speaks.
- To speak, you stand up and speak.
From there, the beauty and power is up to you.
At first, the goal of pop-up debate is just getting every kid to participate — to get over their fear of public speaking (more here, or pp. 218-221 in These 6 Things for a more polished treatment). Then you teach them how to explain themselves and require that as the new goal. Then you ask them how they think the class can do better — and so you end up teaching and requiring Paraphrase Plus (here or p. 126 in These 6 Things), or Palmer's PVLEGS (here, or p. 224 in These 6 Things, or Palmer's Well Spoken). Eventually, you can get as complicated as Les Lynn's Refutation Two-Chance (here, or pp. 127-128) or mandatory tracking (here, or pp. 122-124).
I met a science teacher in Kansas last week who is excited to introduce students to logical fallacies and how not to commit them.
Yes. That's what I mean by building blocks. The blocks are pop-up debate. What can you do with this structure? All kinds of beautiful and creative things.
Gallagher's article of the week is the same kind of thing. An article each Monday, a couple basic requirements, and the response is due Friday. You can make it more complicated if you'd like (I used to — full story here), or keep it simple. You can select articles on all kinds of topics, or aim at topical immersion like I do with Burning Questions of the Year (described on pp. 85-86 of These 6 Things).
These are simple, simple strategies, but so rife with potential.
“But Dave, doesn't it make your class boring, using the same basic strategies again and again?”
Well, I don't know — I guess you'd have to ask my students.
Or, better yet, ask my children the next time they're playing with the box of blocks.
(New and snazzy isn't the thing at the root of student engagement. The five key beliefs are.)