Fourth graders are expected to grasp complex concepts around historical events with deep understanding. They do this by reading, discussing and now, debating.
While studying the events leading up to the American Revolution, students are preparing for an upcoming debate in literacy/social studies. This debate will focus on the question, “Should the colonies become independent from Great Britain?” Students will assume the position of either Patriot or Loyalist and argue their stance.
To round out the learning experience, Team 4 teachers asked Expert in Residence Colin Kelly, an attorney with Alston & Bird, to visit with students to share debate tactics and pointers for making a case. Mr. Kelly described some of the cases he has tried — those he won as well as those he lost (#failup), the people and companies he has represented, the arguments he has defended and the strategies he used.
Kelly spoke of body language and how to read non-verbal messages. He explained how he prepares for a debate and gave students communication tips and pointers.
Presenting students with the Boston Tea Party topic, he asked everyone to take a stand on civil disobedience — whether or not the colonists were justified in their actions. The fourth graders prepared thesis statements to support their viewpoints with documented evidence, while being coached by Mr. Kelly.
This experience gave students a lens through which to see how debate techniques can be used far beyond the classroom.
“When Mr. Kelly explained a debate, he broke it up into sections that made it easier to understand. He explained that you had to have hard evidence or the debate won’t work. I thought he was really helpful. He showed us what to focus on and how to organize our notes. Organizing the notes helped me the most.” – student Jackson Cloud
“I liked how Mr. Kelly told the steps you need to prepare for a debate. I feel way more prepared to do a debate now because he showed us how to develop a thesis and evidence. Without that, you might lose the debate!” – student Sarah Beard
Mr. Kelly shared his final words of wisdom with the students, “If you firmly believe your statement is true, I challenge you to take the opposing side. Here at MVPS, we push ourselves.”