To Debate or Not to Debate…

This video of Superman vs. Batman by Hishe on YouTube reminded me of the joys of class debates:

The whole Superman vs. Batman is a HUGE debate in film circles and high schools at the moment, and a great entry point when it comes to engaging students in character studies – just ask them who (Superman or Batman) would win in a fight and why, and sit back!

During part of my volunteer work, I taught a Grade 12 English class on Hamlet. I had the students debating whether Hamlet had truly gone insane or if he was pretended, a topic debated amongst scholars of the play as well.

Fortunately, the students got into it – after some initial prodding.

Another class debate/discussion I conducted was with my Grade 10 students. It started around the character of Miss Strangeworth from the short story, “A Possibility of Evil,” by Shirley Jackson. The students tried to define and categorize what it means to be evil and whether or not Miss Strangeworth was evil, but found out that it was harder than they thought.

The reminder got me thinking of how well class debates can work, especially as a way for students to vocalize their thoughts on a topic or character as a prewriting exercise.

But, of course, debates can also go wrong – especially if there isn’t a clear topic or assigned sides. Plus, the quieter students may be reluctant to speak up in a large class debate setting (so you may have  to try smaller group debates).

Just some thoughts,

K. Heer


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