Speed Date Debate: A Student Centered Movement in the Classroom

On Tuesday I tried something very new with my Freshman Comp classes based on one of Ryan Donovan, Hilarie Ashton and Richard Lissemore’s creative movement and embodiment activities. On Monday, after attempting to relax my students’ minds and inspire concentration and focus through a meditation practice, I asked my students to remain in their head space and respond to a prompt I wrote on the board. This prompt asked them to present an argument and take a side. The goal was to see if the meditation practice would help them focus and write while in a clear and peaceful state. The writing they completed returned to our classroom the next day for an activity called “Speed Date Debate.” In both classes, I shifted the desks to make one row face the other. On one side were the “yes” arguments¬† and across were the “no” arguments. We didn’t have enough yes arguments in my first class, but the second class had a pretty even number of conflicting viewpoints. Students had 2 minutes to read the person’s argument and then students had 5 minutes to discuss if the argument changed their mind and to explain why or why not. When time was up, I asked one row to move to the right and read and respond to a new argument.

In my first class, when a pair had conflicting viewpoints, the discussions were robust and energetic– but this class’ personality is pretty energetic most days. Some students had such strong arguments though, they were able to persuade the yes students to change their mind. Other students found they were more conflicted than before and many just stuck with their initial position. This may have have been the result of not having enough strong yes arguments to go around.

The most interesting part of this activity is what it did for my quieter class. This class had an almost even number of opposing viewpoints and all of them were eager to read and respond to their date.They were super energized, kept a positive energy and talked deeply about each others arguments. It seems my students needed this sort of movement, since the room has a beautifully serene view of the ocean and naturally encompasses a peaceful atmosphere. My students say it’s just the time of day, but I think it’s the way our classrooms are set up.

What I LOVED about this activity most was that it applied and tackled a few student centered techniques and objectives at once, in what seemed to be a fun activity centered around the art of the argument and it’s supportive companion, evidence and research.

Thank you for this! I’ll tweak the meditation next time, but I’m keeping this one as is.