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Teacher in a Box – Middle School Big Questions Debate – Unit Overview


Overview of Lesson (General summary of what will be covered):
This set of Big Questions debate lessons for “Teacher in a Box” are designed for the novice coach and students. The lessons are sequential and should be presented in this order. Each BQ lesson begins with an essential question and a set of objectives. The lessons connect existing material, as well as introduce new material for Big Questions debate. There are links to webinars, handouts, and extended materials.


Detailed Step-by-Step Lessons:

Lesson # Lesson Overview
1 What is Debate? (Common Lesson) This is meant to be an introductory lesson to just get the kids talking in class and beginning to argue in public.
2 What is Argument? (Common Lesson)  During this lesson, students will learn the basic elements of argumentation. They will define claim, data, warrant, impact, then will watch a commercial to identify the various elements of an argument, and finally, will begin to create their own arguments using claim, data, warrant, and impact. 
3 Argument in Debate (Common Lesson)
*Introduce key concepts:  Claim, Data, and Warrants*Guided practice:
1.  Have students identify warrants in pre-written debate arguments
2.  Have students write simple claims, provide data, and explain/identify warrants. 
4 Introduction to the 2017-2018 Big Questions Resolution This lesson serves as an introduction to the resolution used in this year’s MS Big Questions Debate – Resolved: Humans are fundamentally different from other animals.  Students will work in small groups to explore the questions being asked by the resolution before beginning their debate research and construction of cases.
5 Classification and Different Points of View  In this lesson, students will experience a bit of the challenge of categorizing different items/objects as scientists do. After playing a game of classification (like Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral), and/or categorizing objects by common traits students should see some of the practical challenges that exist in distinguishing between items and how important point of view is when classifying.
6 How to Research (Common Lesson) In this lesson, students will begin by reviewing different types of research (Internet search engine and database) and then learn about the place of research in debate. Additionally, they will work through the process of researching using databases.
7 Cutting and Tagging (Common Lesson)  In this lesson, students will read, cut, and tag evidence. First, students will choose the best pieces of evidence from the samples given. Then, they will read and mark general cuts and then read for best cuts before doing a final cut. After cutting the articles they brought in, students will work to tag the evidence provided and then will tag the evidence they’ve cut.  Students will also learn how to properly cite evidence in a debate round.
8 Affirmative Arguments Students will use the discussions from the past lessons to begin brainstorming affirmative arguments. By the end of the class period they should have 3-5 affirmative arguments to use in their cases.
9 Negative Arguments Students will use the discussions from the past few lessons to begin brainstorming negative arguments. By the end of the class period they should have 3-5 negative arguments to use in their cases.
10 Writing Cases Most students have had an opportunity to write a five-part expository essay, beginning with the introduction which features a clear thesis, moving through three solid arguments with topic sentences and effectively cited evidence and examples, and ending with a conclusion. Writing a constructive case, whether it is affirming or negating a resolution, is really very similar. There are some conventions of Big Questions which will need to be incorporated.  There will be some language choices that will be dictated by the event. The mastery of case-writing will make the communication between the debater and the listeners (competitor AND judge) more effective and add clarity to the debate for all involved.

In this lesson the student will learn to:
      construct an effective argument
      use evidence effectively and honestly
      build a compelling and clear affirmative and negative case 

11 Recognizing Arguments Students will explore how arguments are constructed in news articles and how they are used to inform and persuade their target audiences.  They will read, find elements of argument structure, annotate their articles, and then share the information gained with peers in guided questioning.
12 Quick Casing Students will be presented with a series of topics and then generate complete cases (three arguments in a logical sequence) to defend their position in a short amount of time.
13 Questions and Answers Cross Examination skills are important in order to successfully answer and ask questions in debate to lead to clash, establish norms, and provide effective refutation from the questions/answers. Cross Examination is important in establishing tone, voice and presentation. This lesson will cover the purposes of cross examination as well as what cross-examination should and should not be. It will also cover tips for cross-examination for students when asking questions as well as when answering questions. Activities are included to help students practice effective cross-examination.
14 Thinking on Your Feet Students can practice impromptu speaking, a vital skill in debate rounds and in life. This lesson plan is best to be used after students have read through the topic analysis and have written affirmative and negative cases.  
15 Delivery (Common Lesson)  Judges often tune out speeches full of good ideas because the speaker failed to engage and hold their attention.  There are a variety of factors that constitute good delivery, especially in debate.  While there is no perfect recipe, let’s focus on a few key ideas that will get students started on the right foot.

In this unit, students will:
      Practice a few techniques to assist them in developing a presentation style.
      Become aware of their issues concerning their verbal delivery.
      Practice word economy and pre-planning as an alternative to speed.
      Become aware of their issues concerning non-verbal cues in their debates.
      Learn how to maintain control in cross-examination

16 Flowing (Common Lesson)  Students will listen to the webinar on flowing either in class or out of class, and then students will work together to flow their partner’s speech.  
17 Judges and Adaptation (Common Lesson) This lesson will explore how potential judges approach a debate round. This lesson helps the student debater become familiar with the principles of judge adaptation, and provides the student debater with some strategic points of successful adaptation. Judge adaptation is nothing more than determining what motivates the judge and speaking with him or her about that motivation. Although the student will encounter an infinite number of judging preferences or paradigms, there are some general categories that allow for better prediction of preferences.  
18 Etiquette (Common Lesson)  This lesson will be more discussion, rather than lecture, regarding overall expectations of judges and coaches for competitors. Depending on where coach/instructor lives, regional expectations may be different. Please feel free to include additional handouts applicable to your area.

You can cut this lesson short if you choose, or you can use the resources that come with this lesson to create rules for your team in a classroom-discussion environment.  

If you do not have access to WORD but do use Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides please see the following link: Instructions on how to download and open these files using Google. 

Thank you to Cynthia Timmons for this curriculum. Cynthia lives in Dallas and has been involved in debate for more than 40 years. Retired from 30 years in public schools where she coached dozens of national and state champions while winning numerous coaching awards, she has also served the speech and debate community in national and state leadership positions, in professional development training, and in summer institute work. In addition to coaching, Cynthia is also the Team Manager of the USA Debate Team. Cynthia is a member of the National Speech & Debate Association Hall of Fame as well as the Texas Forensic Association Hall of Fame. She is actively engaged in promoting the cause of women in debate and teacher professional development. Having previously hosted two National Speech & Debate Tournaments in Dallas, she is preparing to host the best of the United States again in 2019. In her spare time, she loves reading and writing. Most importantly, she is a wife and the mother of two.