To prep students for this activity, I asked them this question:
Should Shakespeare be required reading in school?
My students, in the throes of their second Shakespeare of the school year, had some strong opinions (on both sides.) The room was buzzing.
Then, I showed them a website where people write in with their opinions. There is a page dedicated to the very question that we are discussing, and -- oddly enough -- the count is at 50/50. I showed them the first two entries, which are pretty entertaining. (Beware, the language does not seem to be filtered; I didn't see anything "bad," but there were a few close calls.]
So, I had them brainstorm opinions on both sides of the issue AND I offered them extra credit to post a response on the site tonight (just a fun way to get their voice out there.)
I have hosted many debates in classrooms over the years, and it always sounds like great fun... but it can be very unpredictable. Sometimes, the kids get really competitive, loud and crazy, and sometimes nobody talks.
While preparing for this activity, I found a great resource on middle school debate. Everything I used for this lesson was from their site. They have lessons, handouts, and a great "cheat sheet" for Parliamentary debate.
To get used to the structure of a parliamentary debate, I had the students do an impromptu debate. For this debate, I explained, they would have a few minutes to prepare, and then we would use the structure and time limits of the "real" debate.
I did this with two different classes, with different topics for each. The topics were single sex education (arguing for and against the separation of boys and girls in school,) and the banning of violent video games.
In both cases, the students did a really good job with coming up with good ideas. However, in each class, there was someone who just invented "facts" and "statistics." So, I had to review the importance of logic and truth in a debate, not just following debate rules and standards.
Rather than drawing slips of paper or popsicle sticks, I use Class Dojo to randomize student names. That way, picking teams or students to call upon is totally fair. Also, it has the added bonus of breaking up "power units" in the classroom.
Here is a YouTube video that explains ClassDojo. I just use it for random drawing of student names, but it can do more.
After we do the practice debate, I have students huddle up in teams to prepare for tomorrow's Shakespeare debate. It is amazing how focused they can be when you leave them alone.