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Debating tips from Year 5

Heated discussion followed last Tuesday morning’s episode of ‘Newsround’, in which Year 5 pupils were intrigued by the Lord Mayor of London’s proposal that fast-food adverts be banned from public transport to minimise children’s exposure to them.  Running with this interest, Year 5’s English lessons have since focused on progressing children’s debating skills and their ability to write a balanced argument. 

In lessons, pupils have identified issues from various media sources and became familiar with the terms bias, balance, impersonal and personal; they are now able to identify these when analysing different texts and to write in these particular styles, too.   

To hone debating skills still further, appropriate use of words and phrases such as ‘on the other hand…’, ‘many people believe…’, ‘contrastingly’ and ‘moreover…’ were taught and have been put into practice via discussion and debate in pairs and small groups. Reflection on such practical activities was productive too, with children collaboratively deciding the key aspects they felt enhanced the effectiveness of debate:

Year 5’s ‘Rules of Debate’

  • Be respectful: No interrupting!
  • Listen to each other, give eye contact and signs that you are listening such as ‘Uh-huh, I see, mmm, nodding, saying, ‘Do go on’ and ‘I’m listening’
  • Stay on point – try not to waffle (use your notes if you need to)
  • Remain calm.
  • Never take the opposing view personally!
  • Speak clearly to all – look around at your audience as you speak.

Confidence and communication culminated in a grand finale: ‘The Big Debate!’ in which the issue ‘Should junk food be banned?’ was posited to the whole of Year 5. Mr Siman chaired the debate brilliantly; all children enjoyed debating this issue and wholeheartedly contributing their points!