Friday, March 13, 2015

Debating 18th century taxes

In Social Studies our 4th grade is learning about the Revolutionary War. We start by having them learn about what life was like in the mid-1700s in the American colonies, they are assigned a trade, which they research, and then we set up a town simulation with its own economy. So when the Stamp Act is announced and everything is now more expensive because of the Stamp Act tax, there is consternation amongst the colonists. At this point we stop our town simulation for a few class periods and work on a debate on the proposition "Parliament has the right to tax the colonies."

We do sort of a formal debate. We divide the students into pro and con sides, and then into an opening statement team and a rebuttal team. We provide them with points on both sides of the argument and give them class time to get ready for the debate.

Working in their groups, the students really learn the arguments that surrounded this issue back in 1766 as they discuss which to use, how to add details, and how to present them verbally. But, they also have an opportunity to learn to work productively on a time-sensitive project, to be focused listeners, and to express their ideas. Our 4th graders love to talk, so it's often difficult for them to work out how to take turns. When we have the actual debate, which last for 5 to 10 minutes, they get prompt feedback from the judges, who are administrators or teachers. The judges give thoughtful comments about all aspects of the debate, from how clearly and persuasively the arguments were presented, to how the non-speaking 4th graders, whose job it is to be silently supportive, behaved.

So today was our first work session and it was a typical noisy time. There were lots of questions about what to focus on, what the persuasive points meant, and how to keep team members calm and on task. Progress was made!
Hard at work on rebuttal planning

1 comment:

  1. I love the energy in not only your pictures but also in your post. I could see and feel EVERYONE's passion.