Curricular Materials and Classroom Resources

Socially-based Curriculum Units · Debating: Building Productive Talk on Social Issues


Resource Centre

Debating: Building Productive Talk on Social Issues

Socially-based Curriculum Unit

The learning outcomes for this unit for the grade 10 Learning Strategies course (GLE2O) are to develop oral communication skills as a way to support reading, writing, and positive interactions with others, and to apply interpersonal and positive teamwork skills in a debate. Students will gain knowledge about and have opportunities to refine the different ways to offer constructive criticism, to communicate a difference of opinion with a peer, and to improve their own communication style.

This unit was originally developed for special education students in Learning Strategies. The debate format and balloting have been modified to suit this class, but may be adapted as needed. The activities are built around a daily social issue or a news event specifically chosen for discussion, which is scaffolded throughout the unit from personal reflection, then to partner sharing, then to small group discussion, and finally to whole class debate. The performance tasks are both formative (fun, daily debate exercises on “lighter” topics) and summative (a formal Debate with rules, judged by an objective audience (i.e., fellow teacher, a group of older students, administrator in the school) on current social issues.

The “big idea” that students will gain from this unit is that we are all responsible for each other in a community, in which every person’s success or failure does impact on that community, and thus ourselves. This unit allows students with learning disabilities (often the students in Learning Strategies classes) to focus on and become more involved in current social issues. Debating has inherent value as a student-centered activity. Students must learn to think quickly, speak succinctly, and listen actively. Thus, debating provides students opportunities to move from passive listening to active listening. Students gain newfound respect for their peers, understand the value of solid research and presentation skills, and develop a greater respect for the strength of a team-approach to problem solving. Teachers may select any current social issue for debate, as dictated by the knowledge and needs of their class. Ultimately, students will begin to see where their individual strengths lay in debating, and in the bigger social picture, that they have a voice and valuable opinions to contribute to their own society.

Related Attachments