Fifth graders take End of Grade tests in math, reading, and science. Since social studies is not tested, we rarely ever teach it. Last week was a shortened week so my team decided to teach social studies for two days instead of introducing our new science unit. My class learned about the causes of the American Revolution. The kids became rather interested in the topic so I made impromptu plans to prepare for a debate (Loyalists vs Patriots). The class divided in half and they worked together to brainstorm five arguments for their side.
The following class (this week), I gave each student an index card to prepare their key points. They took on roles as farmers, mothers, minutemen, slaves, and a variety of historical figures. I played the devil's advocate for each student so they could make their arguments stronger. I asked if students were interested in creating flags for their side during recess. Several students worked together on this project.
Upon students request, I videotaped each pair of debates the next day. One of the staff members brought in a bunch of wigs, but my kids chose not to use them. (Though they got a kick out of trying them on during recess!) The British flag wasn't quite finished. With the exception of two students, the class was very well prepared and considered both sides. In the end, the Patriots made a stronger case.
I love doing assignments like this. I'd love to say it was student led, but none of my kids had ever debated before; therefore, they needed a good bit of guidance. We spent a total of four class periods, from introducing the lesson (reading and watching video clips to learn the content) to conducting the debate. Now if I could just sneak in more social studies...