the art of arguing

April 25, 2008

(pro vs. con)

We started a couple minutes late for our videoconference today (always great to have a connection hiccup before a Friday afternoon videoconference! Thanks to the district folks who helped us get up and running). 

The Rockwood South Middle students have been spending the last few weeks working on their various arguments, and recognizing the difference between fact and opinion. They presented their cases to To Establish Justice authors Patricia McKissack and Arlene Zarembka over videoconference today. Topics ranged from racial profiling in airports to teens & driving.        

Authors, how did you think the session went? Students, how about you- what would you do differently?








 (Arlene & Pat listen to the  students present their cases)


2 Responses to “the art of arguing”

  1. Rebecca said

    I apologize about the technical difficulties! Yes, hats off to Rockwood’s Sherry Nuelle, who was able to troubleshoot for me! I have never missed my librarian, Janet Griffard, so much in my life! Janet would have normally held down the fort with the students while I troubleshot and vice versa.

    I think because it was a Friday, the students had Spring Fever, and we had technical difficulties, which put me at a stressed position, we had a rocky start.

    I provided an extra challenge to this assignment by setting up a Wikispace and grouping kids across classes so that I forced them to work in a digital environment in a non-face-to-face workspace, not only because that’s the way adults now and in the future work, but also to tone down their passion for the arguments.

    That proved to be a very frustrating task for the kids, and therefore, they had difficulty processing it by themselves. Gifted kids really do talk things through, and so I prevented them from processing it the way they normally should.

    They were a bit unruly and disorganized, but probably because we began this journey in February, then had to reschedule, then had MAP testing, and now, there’s 19 days of school left!

    Even then, they did do a great job pulling it off, especially when the night before I had difficulty realizing that they were going to actually do it.

    But they did care and did take pride in their work and the issue they argued for or against.

    Arlene cautioned me that sometimes kids would change their mind after doing this debate. That, indeed, was the case here as well. That made it difficult for some kids to put their heart and soul into the argument.

    But Arlene was right on when she found the “glittering generalities” and “non-sequitur” arguments in my students’ work. I have been trying to have them realize this for the entire year. Being gifted children, they learn deductively, and so, often they can’t detail the steps or the process by which they arrived at their conclusions.

    We’ve been trying to work on backing up and supporting our generalizations/conclusions, and some of them are just not developmentally at that level yet.

    However, I did see some of them use some great facts – albeit some of them lack connection, but I was proud of their learning, and hopefully, through reflection now, they will see where they might improve.

    We’re finishing up this Civil Rights unit with them preparing a graphic novel on a civil rights issue, not just facing America, but in many other countries, with a culmination field trip to St. Louis’ Holocaust Museum. I think they’ve become passionate about civil rights issues in the process; I just hope they have learned the difference between a fact and an opinion, and that critical thinking requires support and proof.


    Mrs. Jillian Proehl
    Team 7 Yellow Language Arts & Academic Stretch
    Rockwood South Middle School

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