Caveat: Who Is the Ugliest Alien?

There has been an on-going debate about debate, at work.

I hold the position that it is possible, given the right sort of material, to teach debate at ALL levels – even the most elementary. Further, I feel it can generate a lot of great enthusiasm and interest in the students. My colleagues, for the most part, argue that teaching debate is something to be reserved for only the most advanced students, and that debate isn't appropriate for lower levels.

2013-12-11 18.24.52I suppose that's partly due to slightly varying interpretations of the word "debate" – are we talking public policy debate, as I teach to my TOEFL students? – then yes, debate belongs only with the most advanced students. But if by "debate" we can mean any kind of spirited dialog about opinion, then it can work at any level.

The last few weeks I have been putting together some lesson plans to teach debate to my lowest-level elementary class, a group of 3rd/4th grade boys whom I've mentioned before as "los crazy boys." This week, I put my plan into action, without really seeking approval (but we're at the end our curriculum, which will be renewed / changed in January, so I felt free to finish the assigned book a few weeks early in order to do this).

Yesterday, I drew some "aliens" on the white board. I gave them names, and genders (see picture at right). Then I asked the boys which alien was ugliest. This lesson is focused on two patterns, both of which are quite difficult for Korean learners of English: 1) gendered pronouns (he/she/it), since Korean doesn't have grammatical gender of any kind; 2) superlatives in "-est" (superlatives work very differently in Korean).

Los crazy boys did absolutely spectacularly. After only one practice run, we put the thing on video and I only had to cut two interruptions of maniacal laughter after mistakes.

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[daily log (1130 pm): walking, 5 km]