Mini to Whole Class Debates in 6th-Grade Social Studies


One of the struggles that I have in my current position is my third-period class. Every day during third period I have difficulty connecting with our 6th-grade team in the same way I do with 7th and 8th grade because I teach during their prep time. I teach one section of 6th grade applied digital studies which often takes me away from being able to coach during these time slots. My principal, Mr. Schwarz has done an amazing job at covering my class when I need to work with these teachers, and without him, I don’t believe the following project would have developed. 

Despite this restriction, however, I was super excited to work with Ms. Wynne this year. Ms. Wynne is our amazing 6th-grade social studies teacher. In the past, she hasn’t had access to Chromebooks as many of the other teachers have. But this year, she now has her own Chromebook cart in her classroom and she has begun to think of new ways to integrate technology into her lessons. She also reached out to me to come up with new ideas to engage her students in debate. 

Ms. Wynne was beginning her unit on the House and the Senate and was looking for a way to freshen up her instruction. We were able to have students explore different pending bills, form committees, engage in committee debate, and even bring their bills before the entire “House,” then forwarding legislation on to the “Senate.” Our time together on this project ended abruptly with the announcement of school closures, and I am certain that as their project expanded it would have developed into something special. This project not only brought the teacher out of her comfort zone but also brought students out of their comfort zone. It was amazing to see them select sides and develop research-based arguments, something I don’t think they had done before. The structure we developed from this project I believe will feed other types of debates in the future. The close connection Ms. Wynne has with our science teacher will prove to be valuable as well, as together they will be able to develop debate norms for their classes making them both successful. 

Lastly, Ms. Wynne has a son working in Washington DC for Senator Grassley. We were able to set up a Skype chat with her son so that students could get to see first hand the political landscape of DC from here in rural Warren County Illinois. It was simply amazing. 




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