Our First Debate!! Should Kids Get Paid To Go To School?

If you want to get your kids thinking and talking, 
you need to give them something to think and talk about! 
Yesterday, my sweet friend Julie from First Grade Critter Cafe came to observe me in my classroom and hang out with us! We had so much fun talking, reflecting, and sharing our passion for teaching with one another. (I think some of my kids were showing off for her. They were just hilarious!) 
How short do I look in this picture?! 
I really want to blame it on the fact that I was wearing my super comfy flats.
In reality, I am barely 5 feet tall. 

Anyways, as most of you know, we are working hard on writing opinion pieces in my classroom. They are doing a phenomenal job. When Julie visited yesterday, I had given my kids a writing prompt:

Do you think kids should get paid to go to school?

Well, you can imagine how THAT prompt went down in my classroom! 🙂  We completed an oral writing and then they got to work on their opinion writing pieces. Today, we finished them up and I asked if anyone would like to share their piece.

Of course, they were ecstatic to tell me why they should get paid to go to school.  But not all of my students believed they should get paid – I had 8 out of 21 students tell me that kids should not get paid to go to school.  

“ARE YOU CRAZY?!” one little boy asked a child who, clearly, did not share his opinion. 
“No, I’m just right! Teachers work harder than students.” – other little boy.

Most of you know that I am focusing on getting my students to communicate their thoughts and thinking aloud in complete sentences. So of course, an idea popped into my head that I just had to try.

I threw my afternoon plans out the window, and we had a debate. 
A real, “first grade” debate.  

I told the kids on the right and the left of the room to turn their desks so that they were facing one another. I had the kids who had written opinion papers with the belief that kids should get paid sit on one side, and kids who did not believe kids should get paid to go to school sit on the other side. 

I explained the rules of our courtroom:
1) When someone is talking, the rest of the courtroom is silent.
2) We respect everyone’s opinion in a kind, caring manner.
3) Only I can give someone permission to talk. 
      “So you’re like Judge Judy?” asked one little firstie. lol
4) When you share a thought, it needs to come from your paper and be a solid reason. 
5) If you disagree, you need to “respectfully disagree” when you give your opinion. 

I asked one little guy to start the debate by sharing his opinion.  I was able to video tape it and it is oh-so-funny! Since I cannot share that with you, I am just going to take quotes right out of the video to share with you:

Since many of you know that I require complete sentences in my room, here are some of the lines that came straight out of my first graders’ mouths:

“I believe that kids should get paid to go to school because we work hard.”
“I respectfully disagree because teachers do more work than kids.”
“I agree with _____ because teachers come to school early to set things up.”
“I respectfully disagree with you because teachers don’t have to play dodgeball in gym, so we should get paid.”
“I agree with _____. Teachers don’t have to go through the AGONY of dodgeball!”
“I respectfully disagree with ____ because kids have to do homework, math problems, and tests! Teachers don’t have to take tests.”

…and so it went. We debated our little opinion prompt until the kids could no longer think of any other reasons to back up their opinion.  Well, that and the bell was about to go off to pack up. 😉 

This little impromptu exercise was amazing! My kids were not only passionate about what they were discussing with one another, but they were 100% engaged and motivated to share their ideas with their peers. The best part? They were using complete sentences to communicate their thoughts and doing all of this in a respectful, healthy, and productive discussion-based environment.  Were their reasons profound? No, they are first graders. But they were learning how to engage in discussion and use the reasons in their writing to defend their opinions. 

Talk about bringing opinion writing to life!  This was an exercise that was soaked with oral language, helped to develop their reasoning skills, and directly connected to their writing ability.

I can’t wait to repeat this activity next week.  

Tomorrow’s prompt?  “Should our school get a swimming pool?” 

🙂 Thanks for visiting! 
I’ll be back later this week for a very random Five for Friday post! 

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One Comment

  1. Christina, I am laughing out loud because I remember some of these responses as they were writing them down yesterday! It was amazing to see 100% engagement with a topic that was so simple and clear to debate. Your Whole Brain Teaching techniques incorporating oral writing knocked my socks off! That is the key piece I have been missing in my own instruction and to be able to have the tools to enhance that piece in my classroom is going to change my writers into whole brain thinkers too! And it's all because of you my friend! I am so grateful for our time together yesterday! I will treasure it always! You are a gift to the teaching profession Christina. I know in my heart you are going to do great things with your career! The world is your oyster! Xoxoxo

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