Tag Archive for Room for Debate

Weekend Culture: Room for Debate

Yesterday’s post focused on The New York Times’ Room for Debate.  This past Wednesday, the topic of focus included 15 experts, a large number for any NYT debate.  The difference?  They were all high school seniors. Titled How the Future looks from High School, the Times asked these students how they saw their future.

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Since this is a topic that directly relates to our students, consider using this “debate” in the same manner as yesterday but with some tweaks.  This is their opportunity to work on personal narratives and opening lines/hooks.

  • Have them read, annotate and create a list of observations from the Times post.
  • Discuss in small groups and/or discuss as a class.
  • Have students take the role of an expert and construct their own short response to the topic.
    • Ask them to come up with an engaging first line.  This is never as easy as it seems.  Try some of the following first:
      • List your top three favorite food memories.
      • Describe a reoccurring dream.
      • What is you most vivid memory from kindergarten?
      • Describe a guilty (and appropriate) pleasure.

The hardest thing will be for them to take this “snippets” and understand that everything/anything they see as important is largely reflective of their personalities and their future plans.

Once responses have been created, add one final step.  Have students “respond” to the “responses.”  You’ll notice that on the actual Room for Debate page it asks, “We hope readers, from high school seniors to senior citizens, will respond in comments: What are the pressures on students at your high school? What are 18-year-olds in your hometown expecting from their careers?”  If you choose to, have students respond to one of the teens who posted their future plan.

If this is too impractical, consider having them post their original response for your class in Schoology or Edmodo.  See our Favorites page for help with these applications.

  • Create a thread for this discussion and have students post their responses.
  • Require students to read and comment on two of the original posts.
  • Ask that they respond, not with simple “thumbs up” language.  Instead they should consider their response as a reflection that demonstrates understanding and thoughtful evaluation without critique.

Weekend Culture: Room for Debate


The New York Times
Room for Debate is a wonderful resource that advances critical thinking and writing.  Each week they cover several topics and invite “experts” to discuss their opinions in regards to a specific area of focus.  You can follow their RSS feed or their tweets.  Topics range from technology to education to government.

Instead of simply pitting experts against each other these pieces help show complexity of argument.  These topics are current and also of high interest to students and teachers.

Some favorites from the recent past include:

For each organizing question multiple voices in the form of doctors, lawyers, journalists, authors, students, parents, etc. weigh in forming a textual dialogue.  These “debaters” do not shout or wildly point fingers.  The thoughtfully engage in the topic based on their own experience and observations.

As a result they offer a strong foundation for helping students form their own perspectives.  It would be unreasonable and too time consuming to weigh an entire class of students down with only one topic.  Instead consider the following:

  • Create a list of past topics from which they can choose and then organize students into small groups based on topic/question.
  • Have them read, annotate, and create a list of observations.
  • Discuss in small groups and/or discuss as a class.
  • Have students take the role of an expert and construct their own short response to the topic.
    • Ask them to defend, challenge or qualify the topic.
    • Ask them to concede other points of view before beginning with their own.
    • Ask that they use their own reading, observation, experience etc. to inform their writing.

This type of exercise requires them to practice argumentation, concession, critical thinking, marshalling of evidence and organization.  It also requires them to read experts before “jumping” to conclusions that they cannot prove.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss how to use Room for Debate as a means by which students can respond to their peers.  Here’s a preview of the debate topic: How the Future Looks from High School